Best credit cards for bills and utility payments

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One of the most lucrative credit card rewards strategies for many consumers is to purchase everyday items with a card that earns points or cash back in common purchase categories.

You don’t have to overspend on large purchases or wait to book a vacation in order to earn. Instead, you can rack up rewards at a slow pace on everything from your grocery haul to your utility bills and gas tank fill-ups. Using your cards for lots of these regular purchases each month can help steadily increase your point haul over the course of weeks and months.

If you’re looking to maximize your regular bills and utilities, choosing the right credit card can depend on where you spend most, but there are some standouts to consider based on rewards rates and other benefits.

Bankrate’s picks for the best cards to use for bill and utility payments in 2020:

  • Best overall: Citi® Double Cash Card
  • Best for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • Best for cell phone bill payments: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
  • Best for business expenses: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
  • Best for flexibility: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • Earn 2 percent back on all spending — 1 percent when you make a purchase and another 1 percent as you pay it off
  • No annual fee
  • Zero percent APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 to 23.99 percent

Why it’s the best overall

The Citi® Double Cash Card is the best credit card for paying all your bills and regular expenses due to its 2 percent back on each dollar you spend — 1 percent when you make a purchase and another 1 percent as you pay it off.

If your utility service providers or even your landlord allows online payment via credit card for your monthly bills (especially if you’re not charged a fee), this is a great card for earning on regular expenses that don’t fall easily into common rewards categories.

This rate is higher than many cash back credit cards with no annual fee, which often offer 1.5 percent back for each dollar you spend. You also won’t have to keep track of bonus categories or limits on what you can earn and you can cash in rewards for statement credits, direct deposit or a check.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Earn 6 percent back on up to $6,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 percent) and on select streaming services, 3 percent back on U.S. gas stations and transit and 1 percent back on other purchases
  • Earn $250 when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening
  • $95 annual fee
  • Zero percent APR on purchases for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 to 23.99 percent

Why it’s the best for groceries

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the best credit card for groceries based on the simple fact you earn 6 percent back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets per year (then 1 percent). If you can max this category out with $500 in supermarket spending per month, you’ll earn $360 annually on your groceries alone.

To maximize even more everyday spending, you also get 6 percent back on select streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, plus 3 percent back on gas and transit. And that’s on top of the $250 welcome bonus you can earn when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening.

As a final bonus, this card comes with a zero percent APR offer on purchases for 12 months (13.99 – 23.99 percent variable APR thereafter), which could lead to big savings if you need to pay off a large purchase over time.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

  • Earn 3X points on dining, gas station purchases, ridesharing, transit, flights, hotels, homestays including Airbnb, car rentals and popular streaming services, plus 1X points on other purchases
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points (worth $200) when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening
  • No annual fee
  • Zero percent APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 to 25.99 percent

Why it’s the best for paying your cell phone bill

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is an excellent credit card to use for your cell phone bill since you get cell phone protection when you pay your bill with your card. This coverage is good for up to $600 in protection against damage or theft per claim, but a $25 deductible does apply.

You’ll earn 3X points in categories that cover many common everyday expenses, including takeout or dining out, gas stations, ridesharing, transit, flights, hotels, homestays including Airbnb, car rentals and popular streaming services. The 20,000 point welcome bonus can also help boost the value of your regular spending.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • Earn 100,000 bonus points (worth $1,250 in travel redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards) when you spend $15,000 within three months of account opening
  • Earn 3X points on up to $150,000 spent each year in combined travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services and select advertising spending (then 1X points); plus 1X points on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

Why it’s the best for business expenses

There are several reasons the Ink Business Preferred credit card is a good option for the bills your business may incur, including its 3X points rewards on up to $150,000 in combined spending in categories such as shipping, internet, cable and phone services. If your business incurs large expenses in these categories, you could rack up rewards rather fast.

And if your business spending is enough to reach the $15,000 minimum spend within three months to qualify for the 100,000 bonus points welcome offer, you can gain even more value.

The Ink Business Preferred also offers consumer protections that can be useful. You’ll get trip cancellation and interruption insurance, roadside dispatch, primary auto rental coverage when you rent a car for business purposes, purchase protection against damage or theft and extended warranties. Cell phone protection is also provided when you pay your cell phone bill with your credit card.

The information about the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature Card

  • Earn 5 percent back on up to $2,000 in combined spending each quarter in two categories of your choosing, 2 percent cash back on gas stations, grocery stores or restaurants and 1 percent back on all other purchases
  • Earn a $150 rewards bonus when you spend $500 on your card within the first 90 days of account opening
  • No annual fee
  • Zero percent APR for first 12 billing cycles, followed by variable APR of 13.99 to 23.99 percent

Why it’s the best for flexibility

With the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, you actually get to choose the categories you earn 5 percent back in, and many common utility and bill payments are among the options.

While this bonus rate only applies to the first $2,000 you spend in the two categories you select each quarter, that’s more than enough to cover many common utility bills. Categories range from fast food and department stores to cell phone coverage, home utility bills, gyms and fitness centers and ground transportation.

You also earn 2 percent back in one category of your choosing among grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants, which covers even more everyday spending categories, all for no annual fee.

The information about the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Should you use a credit card to pay your bills?

Paying your regular bills with a credit card is convenient, and features like autopay can help ensure no utility bill or monthly gym membership fee ever goes unpaid, all while you earn rewards for each dollar you spend.

However, you shouldn’t pay your bills with a credit card if you don’t plan to pay your balance off in full each month. Credit cards charge high interest rates even to those with the best credit scores, so you should never charge bills to your card you can’t afford to pay off at the end of the month.

Credit score impact

Provided you use credit in a responsible manner, paying your bills with a credit card will not hurt your credit score.

Your payment history makes up 35 percent of your FICO Score, so you can use your credit card to help build credit over time just by paying your bill early or on time each month. Since your credit utilization makes up another 30 percent of your FICO Score, limiting your total balances to under 30 percent of your available credit can also help your credit score stay in great shape.

Whether you’re building credit from scratch or looking for ways to maximize rewards, making everyday purchases with a card that you’re able to pay in full is a smart way to build credit without overspending, while earning rewards along the way.