Earn more cash back or rewards on your groceries with these credit cards

Jennifer Yellin, CNN Underscored
Updated Tue May 12, 2020

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

Although my overall credit card spending has decreased, my grocery expenses are higher than ever. We're now cooking three meals a day, eating snacks as if they will be gone tomorrow and spending more time baking and trying new recipes.

With people cooking at home more than ever, now's the time to make sure you're getting as many rewards on your supermarket purchases as you can. And with many American Express and Chase credit cards now featuring limited-time bonuses on groceries, it's a great time to earn more cash back that goes directly into your pocket, or to start fantasizing about that future trip you'll take with all the extra travel points and miles you can earn.

But which credit card is best for groceries? With so many great options, we've picked out our current favorite credit cards to use at the supermarket. The right card truly depends on your needs and shopping habits, but rest assured — there's a card for everyone.

The best credit cards for groceries

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for cash back at US supermarkets
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for flexible travel rewards
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for airline flights
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Best for hotel points
World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for hotel elite status
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature: Best for Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi: Best for groceries at Costco
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express: Best for travel rewards with no annual fee
American Express® Gold Card: Best for food perks
United Club Infinite Card: Best sign-up bonus

Let's dive into the details of each of these cards and see how they compare to one another.

Best for cash back at US supermarkets: Blue Cash Preferred from American Express

If you spend more money at grocery stores than anywhere else, then the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express is the card for you. Although many other cards are currently offering increased bonuses on groceries for a limited time, this card will always give you a good return on your supermarket purchases 365 days a year.

The Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back at US supermarkets for up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1% cash back after that). There's no other card that offers this high of a cash back return on groceries, so this is truly the best card when it comes to getting cash into your pocket.

Aside from the 6% cash back, the Blue Cash Preferred also offers a strong 6% cash back on select US streaming subscriptions. While being stuck at home, there's a good chance you've upped these subscription services, so this is one way to save some money in that department.

You'll also receive 3% cash back at US gas stations and on transit with the Blue Cash Preferred. Although those are probably a smaller portion of your budget right now, when life goes back to normal, this is an ideal card to use on those categories as well.

Keep in mind that the Blue Cash Preferred does carry a $95 annual fee, but if you're maxing out the 6% cash back at US supermarkets — $360 per year on $6,000 in purchases — then the annual fee pays for itself quite quickly.

Depending on how much you spend on groceries, paying an annual fee for the Blue Cash Preferred card could make sense.

However, if your grocery expenses aren't that high, you might consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express instead. The no-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday earns 3% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1% cash back). That means if you spend less than about $3,166 in grocery purchases annually, you're better off with the Blue Cash Everyday instead of the Blue Cash Preferred.

Learn more about the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express.

Best for flexible travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you're looking to stash away some travel rewards for when planes return to the skies and hotels reopen, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is hands-down the absolute best card to use for your grocery store purchases right now.

With Chase's current limited-time offer, you'll earn a whopping 5 points per dollar spent on groceries with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card. There's no cap to the number of points you can earn, but this temporary increase is only set to last through June 30.

According to CNN Underscored's partner The Points Guy, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents apiece. That means you're currently getting a 10% return on your grocery store purchases with the Sapphire Reserve. This is the highest return you'll see compared to other cards on our list, so this should be your go-to card for groceries through the end of June if you want to collect travel rewards.

But at $550 per year, this card doesn't come cheap. Fortunately, there are many other benefits that come with having a Chase Sapphire Reserve, a number of which you can even use sitting at home. Chief among them is the card's partnership with DoorDash, the food delivery service. Card holders get up to $60 in statement credits in 2020 on DoorDash purchases, and another $60 in statement credits in 2021.

Related: Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

You'll also get access to a complimentary DashPass membership, which gets you free delivery at qualifying restaurants. And for a limited time through May 31, you'll earn 5 points for every dollar you spend on DoorDash with the Sapphire Reserve, up to a maximum of $500 in purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a number of perks that can save money on DoorDash food delivery orders.

Now, if the annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is more than you want to pay for a credit card right now, there's a less-expensive option. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — which also earns Ultimate Rewards points — has a much-lower $95 annual fee, but you'll only earn 3 points per dollar at grocery stores through June 30, and there are no DoorDash credits (though you do get a DashPass membership and 5x points on up to $500 in DoorDash purchases through May 31).

Decide if the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve is best for you.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Best for airline flights: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Chase has actually temporarily added bonus points on groceries to a number of its credit cards, including all three Southwest personal credit cards — the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. But the Southwest Premier card might be the best choice of the group right now.

With the Southwest Premier card, you'll earn 3 points per dollar spent on groceries through June 30. Although this might not give you the most bang for your buck compared to other cards, there's one big reason to put your charges on this card: the Southwest Companion Pass. With the Southwest Companion Pass, another individual can fly with you for free (plus taxes) on every single flight you take on Southwest from now through the end of 2021.

Since travel is taking a hiatus at the moment, Southwest recently made earning the Companion Pass much easier. Typically, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to earn the pass, but Southwest is giving its members who already had a Southwest frequent flyer account open as of April 1 a 25,000-point head start. This means you need to earn just 100,000 qualifying points within the year to earn the pass, including points earned with a Southwest credit card.

Earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass with the help of the Southwest Premier card.

You also might want to focus your spending on the Southwest Premier card to help you earn Southwest A-List or A-List Preferred elite status. Southwest is upping the number of Tier Qualifying Points you can earn with your credit card for the rest of the year, and also won't have a cap on earning them for 2020.

Best of all, the 40,000 bonus points you'll earn from the sign-up bonus on the Southwest Premier card after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open also count toward the Companion Pass requirement, getting you 40% of the way to 100,000 qualifying points right off the bat.

Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card.

Best for hotel points: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

American Express is also offering a boost on many of their cards for purchases at U.S. supermarkets. Although we don't typically recommend Hilton cards for everyday spending, our tune has changed a bit with this current boost if you're looking to earn hotel points.

With the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, you'd normally earn 6 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets. But from now through July 31, that amount has been doubled to 12 points for every dollar you spend. With Hilton Honors points worth 0.6 cents apiece according to CNN Underscored's partner The Points Guy, that's equivalent to a 7.2% return.

The Hilton Honors Surpass card comes with a relatively low $95 annual fee, and comes with complimentary Hilton Gold elite status. Although Gold is a mid-tier status, you'll get complimentary breakfast and the possibility of an upgrade and lounge access during your Hilton stay. And if you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year, you'll be upgraded to Hilton Diamond elite status.

You also have the opportunity with the Hilton Honors Surpass card to earn a Weekend Night Reward, which, despite its name, has been temporarily improved and can be redeemed for any night of the week — not just weekends — for certificates issued on or before Dec. 31, 2020. You'll get one of these rewards after you spend $15,000 on purchases with your Hilton Surpass card in a calendar year.

Learn more about the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.

Best for hotel elite status: World of Hyatt Credit Card

Similar to many other Chase credit cards, the World of Hyatt Credit Card has also upped its game in the grocery department. From now through June 30, you'll earn 3x points on grocery purchases with your card. Hyatt points are one of the more valuable hotel currencies — The Points Guy values them at 1.7 cents apiece, equivalent to a 5.1% return on groceries right now.

One of the best benefits of the World of Hyatt Credit Card is that you receive a complimentary reward night, valid at any category 1-4 property, every year starting at your card's first anniversary. Although the card comes with a $95 annual fee, this yearly certificate can be worth much more and should easily outweigh that cost. You can even earn a second reward night certificate each year by spending $15,000 on your card within your card holder year.

Use your annual World of Hyatt Credit Card reward night at hotels like the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf and Resort.

Another reason to put your grocery purchases on this card is that it could help you earn a higher Hyatt elite status and milestone benefits. Typically, with the World of Hyatt Credit Card, you earn 2 elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card. However, for purchases between April 15 and June 30, you'll instead receive 3 elite qualifying nights, a 50% increase.

Related: Earn extra nights toward Hyatt hotel elite status while you're sitting at home.

Also, those who apply for the World of Hyatt Credit Card between now and June 30 will receive 10 qualifying nights toward Hyatt elite status in 2020, instead of the 5 nights all other card holders receive. This comes on top of the card's current 50,000-point sign-up bonus, which is broken up into 25,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, and 25,000 additional bonus points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.

Learn more about the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Best for Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

If you're shopping solely through a delivery service right now, there's a good chance that Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh are your go-to apps. Although the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card requires you to be an Amazon Prime member, this is a no-annual-fee card that earns 5% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods, and that includes Amazon Fresh deliveries.

If you buy groceries at Whole Foods, you'll earn 5% cash back on them with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card.

Aside from the 5% cash back you'll receive on all of your Amazon and Whole Food purchases — both in-store and through the apps — you'll earn 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. Also, unlike some other cards on our list, there's no cap to the amount of cash back you can receive for grocery shopping at Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh.

Related: Are you using the best credit card to buy on Amazon?

The Amazon Prime Visa card also offers purchase protection, which covers you against damage or theft within the first 120 days of your purchase, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account. Although this benefit doesn't matter much for groceries, it could come in handy for your other Amazon purchases. Just keep in mind that if you're making a purchase larger than $500, you might want to consider another card that offers higher protection limits.

Best for groceries at Costco: Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

If you like to buy in bulk — and save money along the way — there's a good chance that you're frequently at Costco. And with stay-at-home-orders in place right now, bulk shopping is useful more than ever. If you fall into this bucket, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi might be a good option for your grocery needs.

With this card, you'll earn 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases (for the first $7,000 per year, then 1% thereafter), 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases and 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and costco.com. This is a no-annual fee card, but it does require you to have a Costco membership, which starts at $60 per year.

Related: Read CNN Underscored's complete review of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card.

You'll notice that the strong suit for this card is actually on gas purchases. Yes, you'll earn 2% cash back on groceries, but that only matches what you'd earn on the Citi Double Cash Card. However, Costco only takes Visa cards at its stores, and since the Citi Double Cash is a Mastercard, it's not an option for your in-store Costco purchases (though you can use it at costco.com, which accepts credit cards other than Visa).

Costco only accepts Visa credit cards in its stores, making the Costco Anywhere Visa card a solid choice.

Outside of your grocery purchases, you might also find that purchase protection is another reason to use the Costco Anywhere Visa. With this benefit, you'll be covered if any item you buy with the card is damaged or stolen within 120 days of purchase (90 days for New York residents). The coverage is good for up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 annually — a high cap for a credit card with no annual fee.

Learn more about the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi.

Best for travel rewards with no annual fee: Amex EveryDay Credit Card

Although travel is restricted at the moment, it's not a bad idea to accrue points and miles now to redeem for travel in the future. The Amex EveryDay Credit Card earns 2 points for every dollar you spend at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (1x thereafter). You'll also earn an extra 20% bonus on all points earned after you use your card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period.

The points earned on the Amex EveryDay are Membership Rewards points, which can be redeemed for up to 1 cent apiece via Amex Travel, or for potentially even more value when you transfer them to any of Amex's 21 airline and hotel partners. That's why CNN Underscored's partner The Points Guy values Amex points at 2 cents apiece. Assuming you use your card 20 or more times each billing cycle, you'll earn 2.2 points per dollar at US supermarkets, giving you an effective 4.4% return on those purchases.

Aside from the points earned, another strong benefit of the Amex EveryDay card is an introductory offer of 0% interest for 15 months on balance transfers made within the first 60 days after you open the card, and with no balance transfer fee. But make sure to pay off any debt in full during those 15 months, as the rate jumps to a variable 12.99% to 23.99% afterward.

Related: Pay off your debt faster with these balance transfer credit cards.

Now, if you buy a lot of groceries, you might find that having the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express is a better option. Although the EveryDay Preferred card comes with a $95 annual fee, you'll earn a higher 3 points for every dollar you spend at US supermarkets (again up to the same $6,000 per year cap, then 1x point thereafter).

You'll also receive a 50% bonus on all points earned after you use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period, which means you'd get 4.5 points per dollar on those US supermarket purchases. And another benefit to the Amex EveryDay Preferred is that you'll earn 2 points per dollar at US gas stations.

Whether the Amex EveryDay or Amex EveryDay Preferred is right for you ultimately comes down to your monthly budget in these two categories. If it's high enough, paying an annual fee could be worth it. But if not, stick with the no-annual-fee version of the card.

Best for food perks: American Express Gold Card

The American Express Gold Card is a top-notch card for groceries, as you'll not only get a relatively high return, but also some incredible baked-in benefits. It's not a cheap credit card with a $250 annual fee, but you might find that the perks outweigh the fee.

With the Amex Gold, you'll earn 4 points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1x), 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, 3 points per dollar spent for flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

These are the same Membership Rewards points earned on the Amex EveryDay and Amex EveryDay Preferred cards, which means The Points Guy values them at 2 cents each. That means you're looking at an effective 8% return at US supermarkets, which is the highest return you'll see for groceries on any credit card on an ongoing basis, even if other cards on our list are better for a limited-time.

Aside from earning a lot of points, the Amex Gold also offers several annual statement credits. Right now, the easiest one to take advantage of is the up to $120 in dining credits. With this perk, you'll get up to $10 in statement credits each month when you use your card to pay at select merchants, including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations.

With both Grubhub and Seamless on this list, if you're ordering out regularly these days, you can easily use up these credits each month. And if you're able to utilize the entire $120 in credits in a year, you've reduced the effective annual fee on the card to just $130.

If you're ordering regularly via Grubhub, you can get up to $120 in annual dining credits with the Amex Gold card.

Finally, while it's difficult to use at the moment, another money-saving benefit of the Amex Gold is its up to $100 in annual airline fee credits. These can be used on your airline of choice for incidental fees, such as checked bag fees and carry-on pet fees. These credits will be valuable once air travel starts up again, and since they're based on a calendar year, you can receive up to $100 in 2020 and then again in 2021, ultimately giving you up to $200 in airline credits in your first year of card membership.

Learn more about the American Express Gold Card.

Best sign-up bonus: United Club Infinite Card

If you're planning to get back in the air as soon as travel resumes and want plenty of miles in your account when you do, then the United Club Infinite Card is one card to pay attention to right now. It's currently offering an increased sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account. With United miles worth 1.3 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, these miles are worth $1,300 in travel.

The United Club Infinite card is also offering 5 miles per dollar spent on groceries from now through June 30. That's the exact same offer as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card — and Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to United — but the United Club Infinite card has specific perks that might serve you better if your focus is United Airlines.

With this card, you'll get a United Club membership that gives you access to the airline's lounge network whenever you're traveling on United. You'll also be able to check both your first and second bags free of charge on United flights, receive complimentary Premier upgrades on award flights if you have elite status, earn up to a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and earn 4 miles per dollar on United purchases (although only 2x miles on all travel purchases and dining).

When travel returns, you'll have access to United Clubs with the United Club card whenever you're flying on United.

Keep in mind that the United Club Infinite card comes with a $525 annual fee, which is quite high, especially since you aren't able to take advantage of all of the card's travel benefits at this time. If this card is too expensive for your tastes — which is completely understandable — the United Explorer Card is also offering a boost in points on groceries, but you'll only receive 3x miles instead of 5x miles.

Learn more about the United Club Infinite Card.

Which credit card is best when you buy groceries?

For the moment, you'll want to take advantage of the limited-time increased bonuses on either Chase or American Express credit cards. Since the higher offers only run through the end of June or July — depending on the card — move those cards to the front of your purse or wallet and save your normal grocery store credit cards for later.

If you want a credit card that maximizes the cash back you earn on groceries, then the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is your best bet — always. Of course the Amex EveryDay and the Amex Gold are also great for earning points throughout the year after the bonus opportunities have ended.

But one thing to keep in mind with these three cards is that only purchases made at US supermarkets qualify. This means shopping at specialty stores, superstores and warehouse clubs won't earn bonus points. So if most of your purchases are made at superstores or warehouse clubs, you might want to focus on their store-specific credit cards such as the Costco Anywhere Visa for Costco.

When it comes to travel, the credit card that gives you the absolute best value on groceries is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. With such a high return, this card is hard to beat at the supermarket right now, especially since you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to so many partner programs or use the points within Chase's own travel booking site.

Finally, if you're interested in travel perks, you might want to focus on the Southwest Premier Credit Card to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, the World of Hyatt Credit Card for top-tier Hyatt elite status, or the United Club Infinite Card to get United lounge access and a ton of bonus miles.

Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2020.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.