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Using a top credit card that rewards on groceries, gas and streaming entertainment can help you save hundreds every year, whether you're stocking up for a staycation or preparing for an old-fashioned family road trip.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express are two cards that offer strong rewards programs in these key categories. Both cards also come with the same noteworthy privileges that all Amex cardmembers enjoy, such as car rental loss and damage insurance and free two-day shipping with ShopRunner.
Both credit cards top a few of CNBC Select's best-of lists: The Blue Cash Everyday ranks at No. 1 on our list of the best no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards and its counterpart, the Blue Cash Preferred ranks as the best grocery rewards credit card and the best credit card for streaming services.
But how much can you really stand to save? CNBC Select crunched the numbers, and below we break down just how much you can earn in competitive rewards with both cards over a five year period based on an average budget.
When comparing both Amex Blue Cash cards, our sample annual budget, based on the average American's annual spending (see our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards). Our breakdown includes six main spending categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953).
Below, we share how much cash back you can earn and compare the perks and benefits of each.
Blue Cash Everyday
The Blue Cash Everyday card offers a competitive 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). You also earn 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
New cardholders can also benefit from a $200 statement credit after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases on their new card within the first three months from account opening.
Here's a breakdown of how much cash back you could earn in each category annually if you optimize your use of this card:
- Groceries: $155
- Gas: $44
- Dining out: $37
- Travel: $22
- Utilities: $49
- General purchases: $40
- Total: $347
Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated $547 in the first year of card membership (if you earn the welcome bonus) and $1,935 over five years, when earning the welcome bonus.
Blue Cash Preferred
The Blue Cash Preferred card offers the highest cash-back rate at U.S. supermarkets at 6% (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). You also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and transit and 1% cash back on other purchases.
The Blue Cash Preferred comes with a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first six months from account opening.
Here's a breakdown of how much cash back you can earn in each category, annually:
- Groceries: $310
- Gas: $67
- Dining out: $37
- Travel: $22
- Utilities: $49
- General purchases: $40
- Total: $524
Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated $679 in the first year of card membership (if you earn the welcome bonus) and $2,397 over five years, taking into account the $95 annual fee (waived the first year).
How you redeem rewards
Cash back comes in the form of Blue Cash Reward Dollars. These can be redeemed for a statement credit once your reward dollar balance is $25 or more. From time to time, Amex may offer other ways to redeem reward dollars, such as for gift cards or merchandise.
Card issuers define spending categories according to their own specifications, so you should know what's considered eligible before you sign up.
Here's how Amex defines eligible spending in each category:
- U.S. supermarkets: Establishments offering a wide variety of food and household products such as meat, fresh produce, dairy, canned and packaged goods, household cleaners, pharmacy products and pet supplies
- U.S. gas stations: Merchants in the primary business of selling gasoline to consumers (excludes gas stations that are part of supermarkets or warehouse clubs)
- Streaming services: Must be on Amex's list of select U.S. streaming subscriptions, which includes popular services like Apple Music, Apple TV+, Audible, Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Netflix, Peacock, Prime Video and more (excludes subscriptions bundled with another product or service or billed by a third party such as a digital platform, a cable provider or a car manufacturer)
- U.S. department stores: Those included on Amex's list of select stores (includes popular retail locations like Bloomingdales, Kohl's, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and more)
The Blue Cash Everyday and the Blue Cash Preferred cards come with a variety of perks and benefits, including:
- Amex Offers: Get discounts at participating merchants, such as restaurants, clothing stores and hotels, when you meet spending requirements and other terms. Offers vary by location and change frequently.
- ShopRunner: Free two-day shipping on eligible items at over 100 online stores.
- Entertainment access: Trying to score tickets to your favorite band or a Broadway show? Amex provides exclusive pre-sale access and preferred seating for concerts, plays, sporting events and more.
- Travel insurance and protections: When cardholders pay for travel expenses with their card, they can benefit from car rental loss and damage insurance and a global assist hotline.
- Purchase protection: Merchandise purchased with your card may receive return protection, which helps if you try to return an eligible item within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won't take it back.
- Instant card number: Eligible applicants can request a temporary card number upon approval, which allows them use the new card before it arrives in the mail.
Terms apply for all benefits.
Below are the fees for each. We include the purchase APR for both cards, but recommend always paying on time and in full to avoid paying interest charges on your balance.
Blue Cash Everyday fees
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express has no annual fee, but there is a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, making this not the best card for frequent travelers. The APR is 13.99% to 23.99% variable (see rates and fees).
Blue Cash Preferred fees
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), but by spending a minimum of $1,584 annually at U.S. supermarkets, you could easily recoup it. (see rates and fees). Cardholders also have to pay 2.7% foreign transaction fee if you use your card abroad.
The APR is at 13.99% to 23.99% variable.
To save money on groceries and gas without paying an annual fee, consider the no-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (see rates and fees). But to double your earnings on groceries and earn 6% cash back while streaming your favorite Netflix shows, consider the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express instead. The annual fee can easily be recouped by taking advantage of the first-class rewards and additional perks (see rates and fees).
To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.
CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.
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