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Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express review: Maximize cash back on groceries and streaming services

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If you spend a lot of time and money at your local supermarket, a cash-back card offering a high rewards rate for groceries is essential if you want to get more bang for your buck.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a versatile card that tops our lists for the best grocery rewards credit cards. It's also a good choice for those who've cut cable in favor of watching their favorite shows online, as this card also tops CNBC Select's list of the best credit cards for streaming services.

Cardholders can also benefit from many of the perks Amex cards are known for, such as shopping discounts, exclusive entertainment access and free two-day shipping with ShopRunner.

When CNBC Select crunched the numbers and analyzed over 200 credit cards, we found that consumers can earn competitive rewards with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express over a five year period. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

Below, we break down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to help you decide if it's the right card for you.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review

  • Rewards
  • Additional benefits
  • Fees
  • Bottom line

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 25.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • High 6% cash back at U.S. supermarket spending (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%)
  • Unlimited 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • Unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit
  • A year of no interest on new purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • 2.7% fee on purchases made abroad
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $680
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,401

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

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On American Express's Secure Site

Rewards

This 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, 3% cash back on transit and 1% cash back on other purchases.

Eligible streaming subscriptions currently include Disney+, Prime Video and Spotify. Transit purchases include taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

New cardholders can also benefit from a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first three months from account opening.

CNBC Select calculated how many rewards the average American can earn if they optimize the way they use their Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $21,852.

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961).

Here's a breakdown of how much cash back you can earn in each category, annually:

  • Groceries: $301
  • Gas: $72
  • Dining out: $34
  • Travel: $22
  • Utilities: $50
  • General purchases: $46
  • Total: $525

Cash back is received in the form of Blue Cash Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed for a statement credit (when your reward dollar balance is $25 or more), gift cards or merchandise.

Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated $680 in the first year of card membership, assuming you earn the welcome bonus, and $2,401 over five years, net the $95 annual fee. This assumes that cardholders are redeeming cash back for a typical value of 1 cent per Blue Cash Reward Dollar. Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value, and you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

Additional benefits

The Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express offers a variety of benefits that can save you money on merchandise, shipping and travel. Here are some ways you can save:

  • Finance new purchases or pay off debt: You can benefit from a 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (then 14.49% to 25.49% variable APR). This can help you pay for large purchases over a year without accruing interest or get out of debt. There is a 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum). (See rates and fees.)
  • Amex Offers: Receive discounts at participating merchants, such as restaurants, clothing stores and hotels, when you meet spending requirements and other terms. These limited-time offers vary by location and change frequently.
  • ShopRunner: Get free two-day shipping on eligible items at over 100 online stores.
  • Entertainment access: Trying to score tickets to your favorite band or play? 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.

Terms apply for all benefits.

Fees

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees). This fee isn't as high as other cards, such as the American Express® Gold Card's $250 annual fee, but you may question whether it's worthwhile to pay a fee when there are no annual fee credit cards that offer strong rewards programs (see rates and fees).

You could recoup the $95 annual fee by spending as little as $1,584 annually at U.S. supermarkets.

The APR is typical at 14.49% to 25.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers. We recommend always paying on time and in full to avoid interest charges (see rates and fees).

Bottom line

If you frequently spend money on groceries and streaming services, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express can earn you the best rewards compared to other credit cards. The $95 annual fee can easily be recouped by taking advantage of the first-class rewards and added perks (see rates and fees).

If you want a similar credit card, but don't want to pay $95 annually, consider the no annual fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (see rates and fees).

Our methodology

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 2018 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 $21,852 in retail spending. This budget is comprised of the most common spending categories, including groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961). 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 Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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