How to Maximize the Amex Blue Cash Preferred: Rewards on Groceries, Streaming, and More Everyday Spending

A photo to accompany a story about the American Express Blue Cash Preferred credit card Illustration/NextAdvisor

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The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is ideal for some of the essentials in your budget: groceries, gas or transit, and select U.S. streaming subscriptions. It comes with a $95 annual fee, but has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year. (See rates & fees)

This card excels in everyday spending. You’ll get 6% back on the first $6,000 you spend at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1% back), 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back on at U.S. gas stations and on transit and 1% back on other purchases. 

You can earn $150 in cash back right off the bat after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening, as well as 20% back on Amazon.com purchases (up to $200 back) for the first six months. To round out its benefits, the Blue Cash Preferred offers 0% APR on purchases for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%. (See rates & fees)

These Blue Cash Preferred Card benefits and rewards make it a great option for getting maximum value from the everyday spending already in your budget.

Earn Rewards

Maximizing rewards with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred should come easy — especially for on-the-go families. We estimate the Blue Cash Preferred’s first year value at $547.96, followed by an ongoing annual value of $302.96 (after accounting for the annual fee).

But the most important thing to keep in mind is that, despite this card’s great rewards, no amount of cash back is going to be worth overspending on items you can’t afford. Make sure you track your purchases so they stay in line with your budget. Once your spending plan is in place, here’s how to best take advantage of each rewards category:

At the grocery store

Since the Amex Blue Cash Preferred lets you rack up 6% back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1% back), the most powerful thing you can do to maximize rewards is make sure you use your card for at least $500 in grocery purchases each month. 

Though superstores like Walmart or Target and warehouse clubs like Costco don’t apply, even local grocery chains carry much more than just food. Consider stocking up on toiletries, cosmetics, household supplies, cleaning products, and seasonal items. Think beyond everyday items, too: when it’s time to shop for the holidays or birthdays, for example, you can earn 6% rewards on any gift cards you purchase at the supermarket.

At gas stations

There’s no spending limit to the 3% rewards rate at U.S. gas stations, so make sure to use your Amex Blue Cash Preferred each time you fill up your tank.

This rate applies to transit, too — which is a broad-ranging category. According to American Express, transit includes taxis, ridesharing with Uber or Lyft, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. 

Not only is this lucrative for city dwellers or people who don’t drive often, but it can save you a lot of money on your next trip. If you drive, you can earn on your fuel-ups as well as any parking passes, and if you fly, your rideshares to and from the airport or public transportation tickets throughout your trip are all covered.

On streaming services

The Blue Cash Preferred also offers a great 6% cash back rate on select U.S. streaming services, which includes pretty much every streaming service you can think of. Amex has a complete list of services that count toward the category on its site, which includes many of the most popular services available today, such as Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify.

Make sure to set up your Amex Blue Cash Preferred as your preferred method of payment for these purchases — especially if your monthly payments are withdrawn via autopay — so you don’t miss out on any rewards.

Other purchases

It’s not a long-term rewards strategy, but at least for the first six months from account opening, make sure to set your Blue Cash Preferred as your preferred payment method on Amazon.com. You’ll earn 20% cash back on each purchase, until you reach the $200 cash back maximum. 

When it comes to making the most of your rewards on other purchases, use your Amex Blue Cash Preferred for any other everyday spending already in your budget (if you don’t have another card with rewards in those categories). For example, you can use it to pay any utility bills or insurance premiums that accept payment by credit card, or other miscellaneous purchases you can charge. 

You’ll only earn 1% back on non-bonus spending, but your rewards can add up fast if you use your card often.

Pro Tip

While the Amex Blue Cash Preferred gives you 0% APR on purchases for 12 months, make sure you have to plan to repay all your charges before that time is up. The regular variable rate (13.99% to 23.99%) will apply to remaining balances after 12 months are up, which could lead to interest charges that wipe out your rewards in a hurry.

Other Card Benefits

The Amex Blue Cash Preferred doesn’t come with too many benefits beyond cash back rewards, but it does come with a unique protection for returns. If you make a purchase with your card and the seller won’t take it back within 90 days of the date of purchase, you can return it to American Express. This benefit is worth up to $300 per item (excluding shipping and handling) and up to $1,000 per calendar year — for purchases made in the United States or U.S. territories only.

Other benefits include car rental loss and damage insurance, purchase protection against damage or theft, and extended warranties on purchases that already come with a manufacturer’s warranty. 

Finally, you’ll get a $120 credit toward Equinox+ membership (the gym’s fitness-focused mobile app) when you pay with your credit card. This credit is given out in increments of $10 per month (meaning annual subscriptions won’t be eligible), and you’ll need to sign up for your Equinox+ membership through your Amex online account, not within the Equinox+ app.

Maximize Blue Cash Preferred Rewards

The Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers cash back instead of, like many other Amex cards, points American Express Membership Rewards points. You can redeem your rewards for statement credits after you reach at least $25 in rewards.

Cash back is great for simplicity, but it does limit your redemption options. Other cards from American Express that earn Membership Rewards points may offer more redemption flexibility, including options for travel, transfers to airline and hotel partners, gift cards, merchandise and more. 

Pair with other cards

While the Amex Blue Cash Preferred is hard to beat in its bonus categories, it doesn’t cover every purchase. You may have to be a bit more diligent in tracking your spending, but you can maximize your spending further by pairing cards with different and complementary earning categories. 

Since this card only earns 1% back on regular spending, for example, you may want to pair it with a card that offers a higher rate on non-bonus spending. The Citi® Double Cash Card, for example, earns 2% back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. If you’d rather stick with American Express credit cards, a similar option is the American Express Cash Magnet® Card, which offers a flat 1.5% back on every purchase. 

Take time to determine which categories you spend in most and which cards can help you maximize that regular spending. The Amex Blue Cash Preferred is one of the best rewards credit cards for groceries, streaming services, gas, and transit, but smartly pairing it with another cash back or rewards credit card can help you maximize rewards even further. 

For rates and fees of Blue Cash Preferred, please click here