To determine which cards offer the best return on grocery shopping, CNBC Make It vetted highly rated cards based on their reward offers, introductory and eventual APRs, annual fees, bonuses, recommended credit scores, late fees, balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, redemption options and customer reviews. The rate of return on grocery purchases was the most heavily weighted consideration.
We then estimated how much money each card would save the typical American after one year, two years and five years. Our assessment heavily weighs the five-year return to avoid a large sign-up bonus skewing the results. We also assume that most people want a great card that they can stick with for years, since bouncing from card to card can be bad for your credit score.
To estimate the return, we used 2017 expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to make a sample budget broken down by average annual spending in categories like gas ($1,968), groceries ($4,363), dining out ($3,365) and general purchases ($13,876). The general spending category includes shopping, entertainment, public transit, vehicle expenses other than gas, some household costs and travel expenses.
The estimates incorporate bonuses and assume you have a high credit limit and that you use your card for 90 percent of the purchases you make in these categories, accounting for instances where you have to use cash or shop somewhere that doesn't accept your card. They also assume you don't carry a balance. For the Amazon Prime Rewards card, the estimate does not account for the cost of Prime membership, and it assumes you do 50 percent of your grocery shopping at Whole Foods.
It's worth noting that the estimates are derived from this single sample budget but, if you use a card strategically and take advantage of its rewards, your five-year return could be higher.
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