Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review
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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express Overview
With one of the highest reward rates for U.S. supermarkets, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express remains one of the best cards for groceries.
The $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year) might make you hesitate, but unlimited cash back on essential categories like U.S. gas station purchases, transit and select U.S. streaming subscriptions makes this a top-shelf cash back card for commuters and family shoppers.
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What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Not currently offering balance transfers
- 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 $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months.
- Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
- Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for 12 months
- Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
- Regular APR: 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable
Current welcome bonus
New Blue Cash Preferred cardholders can earn a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 within the first six months of card membership. This is a slight drop from the up to $350 in statement credits you could earn with the card’s previous offer, which gave you a $150 statement credit after a $3,000 spend in your first six months and a chance to earn up to $200 via 20 percent cash back on Amazon.com purchases for your first six months. That said, the new bonus offers a bit more flexibility, as it does not require you to spend on at any specific retailer to earn the welcome bonus.
The card’s $300 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.
The Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers tiered cash back, which means you’ll earn different reward 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.
Earning cash back
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, just spending at least $132 each month on groceries will reimburse your annual fee.
You can then take advantage of your categories’ flexibility and create more opportunities to maximize your cash rewards. Groceries and gas are two categories that most cardholders spend heavily in, so the Blue Cash Preferred card may help you earn bonus rewards on top of your current categories 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.
Redeeming cash back
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. Your rewards are still worth $1 per Reward Dollar whether you redeem for a statement credit, gift card or other merchandise.
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 plenty useful.
Shopping and travel protections
Your Blue Cash Preferred card comes with several protections that nearly all American Express cards provide, except you also receive return protection. Although it’s a temperamental feature (and less helpful for grocery shopping), return protection may at least give you another layer of comfort while you shop.
- Return protection: As long as you’re under the $1,000 in returns per year limit, eligible purchases under $300 may be returned—even when the merchant doesn’t offer returns.
- Purchase protection: Covers the cost up to $1,000 per eligible incident (up to $50,000 per year total) if you need to be reimbursed for your purchased item or it needs to be repaired or replaced.
- Extended warranty: You get an extra year of coverage (up to $10,000 per eligible item, $50,000 per card) on items with an existing warranty of up to five years.
- Car rental loss and damage insurance: In case your rental vehicle is damaged or stolen in an eligible country, you get secondary insurance coverage by paying with your card.
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.
Rates and Fees
On the chance that 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 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable.
If you’re looking to transfer your balance to the Blue Cash Preferred card, we’re sorry to say that Amex currently isn’t accepting balance transfers to this card.
There is also a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee if you’re traveling outside the U.S.
The $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year) 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’ll also save big on card costs. Zero-interest intro purchase APR offers aren’t common among cards with annual fees, and to boot, the intro bonus’ total cash back ranks among the biggest bounties in the premium cash back card world. Plus, the annual fee is $0 introductory your first year, so you don’t have a $95-sized bite taken from your first full year of cash back.
These are all excellent welcome offers, but the Blue Cash Preferred can nearly support itself once the annual fee returns. As we previously mentioned, 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 a price for admission, 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||+$300 (after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.||—|
|Perks (of monetary value)||N/A||N/A|
|Annual fee||-$0 ($0 intro annual fee for the first year)||-$95|
|Total value of intro purchase APR**||
*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).
**Intro and ongoing APR card data based on a $1,000 unexpected expense, average credit card interest rate (at time of writing), minimum ongoing variable APR and the minimum monthly payment to pay off the balance within the card’s intro APR period factored into Bankrate’s credit card payoff calculator for comparison.
Bankrate staff experience
The Blue Cash Preferred card’s unique everyday value has certainly impressed several credit card and personal finance experts here at Bankrate. Resident senior credit card analyst Ted Rossman has written at length about why he loves the Blue Cash Preferred, especially since its focus on grocery cash back is the perfect fit for his family: “For my money, there’s no topping the Blue Cash Preferred, the OG of grocery rewards cards.”
Emily Sherman, one of our Bankrate credit card experts, said that the Blue Cash Preferred was one of her favorite cards from the get-go, and it’s been one of her most valuable cards well after its first year:
COVID-19 and the transition to work from home turned my budget upside down. I was spending nothing on travel but much more on groceries than I used to. Easy to say, my Blue Cash Preferred went from having an already reverent space in my wallet to being my favorite card of the pandemic. I earned $500 in cash back last year alone—on food I would have bought anyway.
— Emily Sherman, Senior Editor 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.
|Card||Rewards rate||Annual fee||Welcome bonus|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||
|Citi® Double Cash Card||
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card||
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card last updated on May 3, 2021
Best cards to pair with Amex Blue Cash Preferred
In case you surpass $6,000 each year in groceries, 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: 2 percent cash back at select U.S. department stores.
The Citi® Double Cash Card could be an excellent partner card if you also do a lot of shopping at superstores like Walmart or Target that aren’t covered by the Blue Cash Preferred card’s U.S. supermarket category. The Double Cash earns up to a 2 percent flat-rate cash back on any purchase—1 percent upon purchase, then 1 percent upon payment.
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 the Amex Blue Cash Preferred worth it?