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Why I love the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

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My family of four spends a lot on groceries. The bigger the family, the higher the spending.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a great fit for us because it gives 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in annual spending, then 1 percent after that). If you maximize that limit as we do, that’s $360 in cash back each year. The net benefit is $265 even after subtracting the $95 annual fee with $0 introductory annual fee for the first year.

And that’s not all. This card also gives 6 percent cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 3 percent cash back on transit purchases and at U.S. gas stations. Other categories earn 1 percent. You can save even more via Amex Offers, which are digital coupons you load onto your card. New cardholders earn $300 back after you spend $3,000 on purchases on the card within the first six months. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits.

Additional Blue Cash Preferred Benefits

What also makes this card, as well as others, so valuable are the many levels of protection provided for you. With the Blue Cash Preferred, I receive perks that protect my online and in-store purchases, including:

  • Purchase protection that covers eligible damages for up to 90 days (capped at $1,000 per incident and $50,000 per calendar year).
  • An extended warranty clause that adds a year to the original manufacturer’s warranties of five years or less (up to $10,000 per covered purchase and $50,000 per calendar year).
  • A free ShopRunner membership (valued at $79 annually) unlocks free two-day shipping and free returns from more than 100 popular retailers.
  • Return protection if it has been 90 days or less and a retailer won’t take an item back, Amex will refund you up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year. This is an additional reward most American Express cards don’t offer.
  • Top-notch customer service. American Express has topped J.D. Power’s U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study 10 times in the study’s 14-year history.

Alternatives I’ve considered

At times, I’ve been tempted to switch to the American Express® Gold Card. It gives 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in annual spending, then 1X points) and on restaurants. My family spends about $12,000 on groceries each year, so the higher cap is attractive. However, I’m much more interested in cash back than free travel, and the Gold Card would only yield 2.4 percent cash back on groceries and dining.

That’s because Membership Rewards points are worth 1 cent apiece when used to offset plane tickets. Even higher valuations are possible via airline and hotel transfer partners. Each Membership Rewards point is worth 0.6 cents if it’s exchanged for cash back.

The Gold Card also has a much higher annual fee ($250). It’s offset by various credits, for example, up to $120 in annual Uber Cash ($10 per month in Uber Cash, expiring at the end of the month) toward U.S. rides and U.S. Eats orders. Just make sure that your Amex Gold card is linked to the Uber app to automatically receive your monthly Uber Cash.

You’ll also receive a $120 dining credit at eligible establishments. When you dine at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations you can earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card. This can become an annual savings of up to $120 (enrollment required).

The bottom line

The best credit card is a very individual decision, and the Blue Cash Preferred has earned a prominent place in my wallet since 2019. For five years prior to that, I had its sibling, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. The Blue Cash Everyday does not charge an annual fee. The drawback is that it only gives 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets with the same $6,000 yearly cap, then 1 percent. I upgraded as my family grew, ensuring I’d spend enough on groceries to come out ahead even after factoring in the annual fee. That was soon after the Blue Cash Preferred expanded its streaming and transit perks, which sweetened the pot even further.

While many other credit cards have piled on grocery rewards during the COVID-19 pandemic, for my money, there’s no topping the Blue Cash Preferred, the OG of grocery rewards cards.

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.

Have a question about credit cards? Email me at ted.rossman@bankrate.com and I’d be happy to help.