Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review: The everyday card for households
Top-tier rewards at U.S. supermarkets make this card well worth the annual fee
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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review: The everyday card for households
Boasting one of the highest rewards rates available at U.S. supermarkets, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express remains one of the best cards for groceries.
But the Blue Cash Preferred isn’t a one-trick pony. With a generous welcome offer and unlimited cash back on essential categories like U.S. gas station purchases, transit and select U.S. streaming subscriptions, this is a top-shelf cash back card that can help you maximize your rewards on everyday spending.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- The high-earning U.S. supermarket category excludes low-cost options like big-box stores and warehouse clubs
- Limited rewards redemption options
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 6 percent cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 per year, then 1 percent); 6 percent back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3 percent cash back on transit; 3 percent back on U.S. gas station purchases; 1 percent back on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months.
- Annual fee: $95
- Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for 12 months
- Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent for 12 months
- Regular APR: 16.99 percent to 27.99 percent variable
Current welcome bonus
New Blue Cash Preferred cardholders can earn a $350 statement credit after spending $3,000 within the first six months of card membership. This is a slight increase from the card’s previous offer of just $300 in statement credits after the same spend in the same timeframe. The card’s $350 welcome bonus also beats out the bonus you’ll find on a number of competing cash back cards and offers double the typical timeframe for reaching the bonus spending threshold—six months versus the usual three months.
However, the new offer comes no longer includes a waived annual fee in the first year (previously, the card charged a $0 annual fee in the first year, followed by an ongoing $95 annual fee).
The Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers tiered cash back, which means you’ll earn rewards at different rates across multiple categories.
Some tiered rewards cards impose spending caps on your high-earning bonus categories, reverting your rewards rate to 1 percent after spending a certain amount. The typical cap is $1,500 per quarter, but the Blue Cash Preferred card’s 6 percent U.S. supermarket category’s limit is $6,000 per year in purchases.
How you earn
You’ll earn cash back on category purchases at the following rates:
- 6 percent: U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1 percent) and select U.S. streaming subscriptions (such as Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Spotify, etc.)
- 3 percent: U.S. gas stations and transit (including taxis or ride-shares, parking, tolls, public transit, etc.)
- 1 percent: All other purchases
These high-earning categories have the potential to reap significant rewards since they’re diverse enough to cover a sizable portion of your day-to-day expenses. In fact, if you spend at least $132 each month at U.S. supermarkets, you should earn enough rewards to cover your annual fee.
You can then take advantage of your categories’ flexibility and create more opportunities to maximize your cash rewards. Along with its rewards at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations, two categories that most cardholders spend heavily in, the Blue Cash Preferred card may help you earn bonus rewards with the Amex Offers program. Amex Offers are limited-time deals you can activate in your account to earn extra cash back or Membership Rewards points on purchases from participating retailers, such as Hulu or Uber.
How to redeem
Unfortunately, the Blue Cash Reward Dollars you earn don’t provide many redemption options. You can redeem rewards for a statement credit, gift cards ($25 minimum) or merchandise.
Although your cash back can’t be a direct deposit or a check, earning statement credits with your Amex Blue Cash Preferred is a great way to save money on grocery purchases. Redeeming for a statement credit is the most versatile rewards option since it can cover anything a gift card can and beyond, so make sure you get identical buying power if you sink the same rewards value into a gift card or merchandise purchase.
How much are rewards worth?
Since the Blue Cash Preferred is a cash back card, the Blue Cash Reward Dollars you earn are equivalent to actual dollars. Whether you redeem for a statement credit, gift card or other merchandise, your rewards are still worth $1 per Reward Dollar.
Other cardholder perks
The Blue Cash Preferred doesn’t carry nearly as many benefits as other American Express rewards cards. However, standard Amex perks like shopping and travel protections, Pay It Plan It and the complimentary ShopRunner membership (enrollment required) are still rather useful.
Up to $84 back on streaming
If you’re a fan of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, you can get a ton of unexpected value out of the Blue Cash Preferred. Along with its top-tier rewards rate on streaming services, the card earns $7 back each month if you use it to spend $13.99 or more each month on an eligible subscription to The Disney Bundle, which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ (enrollment required). That essentially gets you all three services for the price of one and adds up to $84 in savings if you squeeze the full value out of the offer. That’s almost as much as the card’s annual fee.
Shopping and travel protections
Your Blue Cash Preferred card comes with several protections that nearly all American Express cards provide, as well as the less-common return protection.
- Return protection: You can return eligible purchases of under $300 even when the merchant doesn’t offer returns (a limit of up to $1,000 in returns per year applies).
- Purchase protection: If an item you purchased with the card needs to be repaired or replaced, you can get reimbursed up to $1,000 per eligible incident (up to $50,000 per year total).
- Extended warranty: You get an extra year of coverage on items with an existing warranty of up to five years (up to $10,000 in coverage per eligible item and $50,000 per card).
- Car rental loss and damage insurance: If a vehicle you’ve rented with your card is damaged or stolen in an eligible country, you can take advantage of secondary insurance coverage.
Complimentary ShopRunner membership
Since the Blue Cash Preferred is a personal U.S. Amex card (unlike typical cards, the card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all), you’ll have a complimentary ShopRunner membership (enrollment required) while your card is active. ShopRunner gives you free two-day shipping at checkout when you shop with over 100 online merchants.
Pay It Plan It
If you’re trying to whittle down your balance, the Amex Pay It Plan It feature provides alternative payment strategies. You can use Pay It to immediately take care of purchases under $100. Meanwhile, Plan It allows you to slowly pay off larger qualifying purchases over $100 and pay them over a set period on up to 10 different payment plans.
Plan It can be useful for earning cash back on small purchases because using your card essentially becomes as easy as using a debit card. However, your mileage might vary with Plan It. In lieu of interest payments, you’ll still owe a fixed monthly plan fee, which could be more expensive in some cases.
Fortunately, you can enjoy $0 intro plan fees when you use Plan It monthly installment plans during your first 12 months. After that, your plans will have a monthly plan fee of up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into the plan based on its duration (the APR would otherwise apply to the purchase and other factors).
Rates and Fees
If you’re not sure whether the Blue Cash Preferred card fits your spending habits, the 12-month 0 percent introductory APR on purchases will buy you some time to decide. After that, the ongoing APR is 16.99 percent to 27.99 percent variable. You’ll may also be able to transfer your balance to the Blue Cash Preferred card, as Amex is currently accepting balance transfers to this card. You can get 12 months of 0 percent APR to chip away at your debt, after which you’ll face the card’s 16.99 percent to 27.99 percent variable APR.
There is also a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee if you’re traveling outside the U.S.
The $95 annual fee might be something some cardholders would avoid, but as mentioned earlier in the review, it takes only modest grocery spending to offset that cost. Nevertheless, fee-averse cardholders can opt for the Blue Cash Preferred’s sister card — the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
First-year card value vs. ongoing value
Not only will your first year with the Blue Cash Preferred bring bonus cash back, but you can also save big on interest. Intro purchase APR offers aren’t common among cards with annual fees, and the intro bonus’ total cash back ranks among the biggest bounties in the premium cash back card world. And while the annual fee is no longer waived in your first year, it should be easy to offset even beyond year one if you do a lot of shopping at U.S. supermarkets.
It only takes spending $132 at U.S. supermarkets each month to pay for the annual fee — any rewards beyond that go straight into your pocket. Just maximizing your U.S. supermarket category alone will earn you $360 back. Although there’s an admission price, opening the floodgate to these potential grocery and gas reward paydays is well worth it.
|Benefits and Costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Welcome offers||+$350 (after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months)||—|
|Perks (of monetary value)||N/A||N/A|
*Based on the following estimates for annual expenditures by category: groceries ($6,000); dining ($2,100); household utilities, fuels and public services ($4,000); household supplies, furnishings and home improvement ($2,800); apparel and services and department stores ($1,800); gas and gas stations ($2,000); transit and ride-shares ($800); entertainment ($3,000); personal care products and services, household operations and other miscellaneous spending ($3,300); travel ($2,000); pharmacies and drugstores ($1,300); online shopping ($1,800).
Bankrate staff experience
The Blue Cash Preferred card’s unique everyday value has impressed several credit card and personal finance experts here at Bankrate, including resident senior credit card analyst Ted Rossman.
Rossman has written at length about why he loves the Blue Cash Preferred, believing its focus on grocery cash back is the perfect fit for his family. But it’s not just the $360 he earns in cash back every year that keeps him happy. Rossman makes sure to take full advantage of the card, earning cash back rewards in all its bonus categories while also taking advantage of the many “perks that protect my online and in-store purchases.” These include purchase and return protections, as well as an extended warranty clause.
“For my money, there’s no topping the Blue Cash Preferred.”
— Ted RossmanSenior Credit Card Analyst at Bankrate
How the Amex Blue Cash Preferred compares to other cash back cards
The Blue Cash Preferred is hard to beat in the cash back world when it comes to consistent, high-earning grocery and gas rewards. Unless you feel earning 5 percent cash back on other types of purchases with a rotating category card is a better match, alternative rewards card choices come down to the rewards structure and categories that better fit where you shop.
Blue Cash Preferred Card vs. Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
The battle of the Blue Cash cards isn’t much of a fight. The Blue Cash Preferred Card provides the most value over the long term, which can more than make up for the $95 annual fee. You get not only a bigger welcome offer, but also twice as much cash back on your U.S. supermarket spending, not to mention the higher bonus rewards for spending at U.S. gas stations and on transit.
The Blue Cash Everyday Card may be a better fit for people who don’t like paying annual fees and who would like 3% cash back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card vs. Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
In most cases, the Blue Cash Preferred tops the Citi Custom Cash Card. For example, you’ll have to spend more to get the Blue Cash Preferred’s welcome offer, but it’s worth $100 more than the Custom Cash Card.
The Blue Cash Preferred is also far more flexible. You can spend as much as you want each month at U.S. supermarkets until you hit your $6,000 spending limit for the year. After that, you’ll earn 1 percent cash back for the rest of the year. But your Blue Cash Preferred Card will still pack a lot of value because you earn bonus rewards in multiple categories. And the other spending categories don’t have spending limits.
Unfortunately, the Citi Custom Cash Card is only good for spending in one category, on up to $500 each billing cycle. You earn a high 5 percent cash back rate in one of its fixed categories (restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment). All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back. Once you spend $500 in your top category each billing cycle, the Custom Cash Card only earns 1 percent cash back in that category for the rest of the billing cycle.
Since it has no annual fee, the Citi Custom Cash Card is a great choice for someone who will use it to make purchases in one (and only one) category. For example, make it your credit card that earns 5 percent cash back on gas. Or use it as a high-earning grocery rewards alternative if you max out your yearly spend with the Blue Cash Preferred’s U.S. supermarket category. But for all your other purchases, the Blue Cash Preferred will more than make up for its $95 annual fee with its welcome offer, rewards and additional benefits.
Best cards to pair with Amex Blue Cash Preferred
The Citi® Double Cash Card makes an excellent partner card. It’s a no-frills, flat-rate credit card that offers 2 percent on every purchase: 1 percent when you buy and 1 percent when you pay. It has no annual fee and is a fantastic complement to the tiered rewards structure of the Blue Cash Preferred Card. Use your Amex card for all of your spending that falls in the bonus categories, and then pull out your Double Cash Card for any purchase that would normally only earn 1 percent.
What if you surpass $6,000 each year in groceries? In that case, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express is an excellent backup card for another 3 percent U.S. supermarket cash back category (also capped at $6,000 annually, then 1 percent). On top of no annual fee, you’ll also get another bonus category: 3% cash back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
While the Blue Cash Preferred covers quite a few bonus categories, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card can cover a lot of extra ground as well. Its 3 percent cash back category can be switched monthly for upcoming expenses like online shopping, travel and even home improvement. Plus, its 2 percent grocery store category also works at wholesale clubs if you’re a bulk buyer. Just keep in mind that this card’s 3 percent and 2 percent cash back categories share a $2,500 quarterly cap in combined spending, then 1 percent back.
Bankrate’s Take — Is the Amex Blue Cash Preferred worth it?
The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers consistently high-earning cash back rates on everyday essentials like groceries, gas, transit and streaming subscriptions, which are a step above many other cash back cards’ reward offerings. Family shoppers, home cooks, heavy commuters and busy professionals will have a tough time finding one rewards credit card that delivers similar opportunities for rewards.
Read more: Is the Amex Blue Cash Preferred worth it?
Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.