Key takeaways

  • Inflation continues to pick up, with the U.S. seeing price increases across consumer goods and services.
  • These price increases mean nearly everything we buy now costs more than it did a few years ago, including groceries, travel, fuel and services.
  • Having a range of credit cards in your wallet lets you earn cash back on your regular purchases and bills, which you can redeem to offset these higher prices.
  • Remember that credit card interest rates are sky high, and you’ll only “get ahead” with rewards if you pay your credit card bill in full each month.

Overall inflation of consumer prices increased 3.4 percent over the 12 months leading up to December 2023, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. the largest increase in over 40 years. After that, regular inflation numbers finally slowed, with the most recent figure coming in at 4.0 percent during the 12 months leading up to May of 2023.

Consumers are bearing the brunt of rising prices and interest rates, unfortunately. And while this isn’t great news, Americans have weathered these storms before. From coupon clipping to discount shopping, we know there are ways to soften the blow of inflation.

By using your credit cards strategically, you may be able to earn discounts in common spending categories where prices are rising. Here are tips on how you can use your credit card rewards to save on food and fuel spending.

Inflation’s impact on food and fuel

How much are you spending on groceries and gas nowadays? The average family of four with two adults and two kids ages 8 and 10 is now spending $1,306.30 per month on a moderate food spending plan, according to November 2023 data from the USDA.

However, recent stats show inflation has likely increased these averages quite a bit. The cost of food increased an average of 4.9 percent from July 2022 to July 2023, according to the latest BLS statistics, while energy prices appear to have decreased 12.5 percent in the same period.

Choose the right credit card to offset rising prices

Although price increases are unsettling, the good news is that credit cards can help you out. Plenty of cards offer rewards on groceries and food delivery, dining out, gas at the pump and other common spending categories.

In some cases, you can find a credit card that covers multiple categories— such as a flat-rate cash back card that rewards you with the same rate of cash back on all spending. No matter which credit card you choose, you’re able to earn rewards on the food and fuel spending you would’ve done anyway.

Top credit cards to consider for grocery, grocery delivery, dining and gas spending

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Citi Custom Cash Card

Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Other money-saving strategies

Consider a rotating bonus category card

If you aren’t particularly sold on any of the cards above, you might be interested in a rotating bonus category card like the Discover it® Cash Back, which offers 5 percent cash back on activated rotating bonus categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1 percent). This card usually includes gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants as quarterly bonus categories; however, to receive 5 percent back in any quarter, you must activate the category.

If you’re interested in applying, review our guide to Discover’s cash back calendar to plan ahead for future categories.

Double dip with cash back apps

This is somewhat of an advanced strategy — not because it’s complicated, but because it requires an extra step and some planning ahead.

You’ll find a number of cash back apps you can use to deepen your grocery and gas discounts. Ibotta and Fetch Rewards are just two that allow you to save money on groceries while still earning credit card rewards on those purchases. For gas, there are plenty of loyalty programs, usually paired with your local grocer, to help you save at the pump while still earning credit card rewards on your fuel spending.

Put together a solid budget (if you haven’t already)

One way to minimize the impact of rising prices on your finances is to set up a spending plan — and that doesn’t always require you to cut something out. You may be able to move expenses around or find ways to earn extra money to make up for the shortfall. The point is to take stock of your spending and figure out what you can change to fare better in the prevailing circumstances.

Avoid credit card interest at all costs

You won’t benefit from rewards if you’re carrying a balance on your card from month to month, so you should only try out the rewards strategies on this list if you can pay your balance in full every billing cycle. If you have credit card debt to consolidate, on the other hand, consider transferring your high-interest debt to a card that offers 0 percent interest for a limited time. The best balance transfer credit cards offer 0 percent introductory periods of 15 months or longer.

By consolidating debt on a balance transfer credit card, you can pay down debt faster and save money on interest — as long as you’re serious about the process.

The bottom line

Rising prices have long been a part of our lives. However, with some planning and creativity, there’s a good chance you won’t feel the impact as much as you initially anticipated. Taking advantage of the best credit cards for cash back rewards or points on groceries, dining and gas spending, along with other financial strategies, is a good step in the right direction.

*Issuer-required disclosure statements
Information about the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer. Information about the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card was last updated on January 18, 2024.