New Grocery Bonuses: Making Sense of the Changes to Maximize Your Return

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Grocery bonuses are all the new craze. First, Chase announced new supermarket bonuses for many of its travel cards, with Amex following suit only a few days later. While both of these announcements are welcome improvements, they make it a little harder to differentiate between each card's value proposition. How do you choose between 12X Hilton Honors points and 5X United miles?

To simplify things, we're doing a deep dive into the major credit cards with limited-time bonuses for supermarket purchases. Let's see if these bonuses are really as valuable as they seem.

Update 07/1/2020: The original Chase bonuses listed in this post ended on June 30, 2020. However, no activation or registration was necessary, so you should earn extra points for qualifying purchases made during the promotion. The Chase cards and earning rates are listed in the table for your reference. From July 1, 2020, Chase will offer several new bonus categories for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders. Cardholders will earn bonus points on gas stations, online streaming services, and Instacart grocery delivery service. Additionally, Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cardholders will receive up to a $50 statement credit to offset the purchase of an Instacart Express membership. We cover the new bonus categories in this post.

Grocery Bonuses

Before COVID-19, the supermarket category was largely monopolized by American Express. In fact, in our guide to the best credit cards for supermarkets and groceries, the top 5 spots are all Amex cards, with the remaining contenders consisting of cards optimized for everyday spending—including groceries. For the last couple of years, the champion has been the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).

With the introduction of these new benefits, we wanted to see if these top spots have changed. In order to accomplish that, I've put together a table that includes most of the cards currently (or soon to be) offering grocery bonuses. I've ranked them by their effective rate of return—calculated by multiplying the card's earning rate by my baseline valuation of the currency.

For example, I value Delta miles around 1.2¢ per mile, so the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card—which currently earns 4X Delta Miles at U.S. supermarkets—earns a baseline of 4.8¢ (1.2 per mile X 4 miles) on every dollar spent, or a 4.8% rate of return.

Here's the full table. Note that you can search by card name and reorganize it by column value.

CardEarning RatePoints/Miles CurrencyCurrency ValuationEffective Rate of ReturnCap on Earning Rate
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
*Ended 6/30
5Ultimate Rewards1.7¢8.5%$1,500 per calendar month
Chase Freedom®5Ultimate Rewards1.7¢8.5%$1,500 in Q2 2020
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express {1}4.5Membership Rewards1.8¢8.1%$6,000 per calendar year
American Express® Gold Card4Membership Rewards1.8¢7.2%$25,000 per calendar year
United Club℠ Infinite Card, United MileagePlus® Presidential Plus℠‎ Card,
United MileagePlus® Club Card
*Ended 6/30
5United1.3¢6.5%$1,500 per calendar month
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card,
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
12Hilton0.5¢6%No limit
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express6Cashback1.0¢6%$6,000 per calendar year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
*Ended 6/30
3Ultimate Rewards1.7¢5.1%$1,500 per calendar month
Citi Premier Card {3}3ThankYou Points1.7¢5.1%No limit
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card,
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card,
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card,
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
4Delta1.2¢4.8%No limit
The World Of Hyatt Credit Card,
The Hyatt Credit Card
*Ended 6/30
3Hyatt1.5¢4.5%$1,500 per calendar month
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express {2}2.4Membership Rewards1.8¢4.32%$6,000 per calendar year
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card,
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card
6Marriott Bonvoy0.7¢4.2%$7,500 total
All Chase Marriott Bonvoy cards

6Marriott Bonvoy0.7¢4.2%$5,000 total
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card,
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card,
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
*Ended 6/30
3Southwest1.4¢4.2%$1,500 per calendar month
British Airways Visa Signature® Card,
Iberia Visa Signature® Card,
Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card
*Ended 6/30
3Avios1.4¢4.2%$1,500 per calendar month
United℠ Explorer Card,
United MileagePlus® Awards Card,
United MileagePlus® Select Card
*Ended 6/30
3United 1.3¢3.9%$1,500 per calendar month
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express3Cashback1.0¢3%$6,000 per calendar year
Disney Rewards® Visa® Card3Disney Rewards Dollars1.0¢3%$1,500 per calendar month
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® credit card3Rewards Program Bonus Points1.0¢3%No limit
HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card2Rewards Program Bonus Points1.0¢2%No limit
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card,
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
*Ended 6/30
3IHG0.5¢1.5¢$1,500 per calendar month

Important Notes:

  1. The The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express typically earns 3X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year (then 1X). However, use your card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 50% extra points on those purchases. That means you can earn up to 4.5X points from grocery purchases.
  2. Likewise, the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express earns 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x). But by using your card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period, you'll earn 20% more points on those purchases. That gives you the chance to earn 2.4X points. 
  3. The recent changes announced for the Citi Premier Card include the addition of uncapped 3X at groceries. This earning structure was scheduled to go into effect on August 23, 2020. However, it was accelerated to take effect on June 2, 2020.
  4. Many of these bonuses only apply to U.S. supermarkets.

First Impressions

Right away, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Freedom® stand out as new frontrunners with a stellar 8.5% return.

The next thing that stands out is how well the top United co-branded cards measure up. Given United's recent devaluations, the baseline value I assign to United miles has subsequently slipped down to 1.3¢ per mile. With that in mind, it was surprising to find less than 1% separating these cards from the top-of-class Amex Gold.

Furthermore, the position of the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card on this table does a great job illustrating how all points aren't created equally. Even while earning 3X at groceries, it still only manages to match the same rate of return that the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns everywhere!

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Annual Fee$550
Welcome Bonus Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Chase's flagship Ultimate Rewards card. You get a $300 travel credit, airport lounge access courtesy of a Priority Pass membership and industry-leading travel insurance benefits. New cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Strategy

First, it's essential to recognize that everyone values miles differently. Valuations are subjective, meaning you should adjust them to reflect your preferences. Changing the baseline valuation could significantly alter your card ranking.

Second, you need to consider your timing. These increased rates are only temporary—so if you're trying to maximize them, you'll need to make a plan. To better visualize this, I've created a graph plotting the qualifying dates for some of the temporary and new grocery bonuses.

Depending on your spending level, the timing of the bonuses may play a critical role in your card choice. For example, if you easily reach the $25K per year cap on your Amex Gold, it may make more sense to use your The World Of Hyatt Credit Card now, while it earns a higher point multiplier and an increased rate towards elite status. You can always return to using your Amex Gold once the promotion ends.

Lastly, make sure you take into account the high-spending bonuses that several of these cards offer. For instance, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (card review) provides a free weekend night certificate after spending $15k in a calendar year. These certificates were recently made a lot more valuable following Amex's announcement extending their validity and adding the ability to use them any night of the week.

Final Thoughts

For a lot of people, the best way to take advantage of these new bonuses is by using the table above to find which card offers you the highest rate of return, and then simply using it until the promotion ends. For others, you're going to want to do some planning.

In either case, the increased grocery multipliers present a fantastic opportunity to earn a lot of points on your weekly shopping trips. Just make sure you grab the right card!

Are these bonuses changing your grocery card strategy?

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Comments

  • I think we will need more of the grocery bonuses for the rest of 2020.

  • K Johnson says:

    I use the no longer available Amex Blue Cash for my grocery spend so most of the increased offers don’t move the needle. However, I maxed out the $1.5k grocery spend on my IHG Premier card last month as part of meeting the $3k spend for the 140k points as Joel Smith mentioned above.

  • Jameel Nicholson says:

    Looks like I was in the the right place at the right time – I just got the CSP and CFU last week, and am working on the signup bonus(es). Initially I was going to use the CFU for June, but I might as well put all spend on the CSP to take advantage of the limited time offer. I’m new to points, and have strategically mapped out what cards I want to acquire through December 2021 (navigating 5/24). The AmEx Gold was on the tail end of my plan for its grocery spend. However, what you’ve put together shows that the Chase Freedom (my next card) is a strong contender, and the AmEx Everyday Preferred is probably a better fit for my situation, with similar returns as the AmEx Gold coupled with a lower annual fee as a complement to a Chase-centered portfolio.

    Excellent article!

  • Joel Smith says:

    Solid article and advice. One thing I wish the points and miles blogs would be more upfront about is the opportunity cost involved. If you follow their advice (which is to sign up early and often), there’s usually a minimum spend you’re working on at any given time, which makes these articles kind of moot.

    Yeah, the IHG return on grocery spend is week, but when you’re working towards 140,000k points for $3k min spend, that’s an additional 46 points/dollar return!

    • JT Genter says:

      Fair point! We don’t always mention the “given” that you should almost always use a card on which you’re working toward a sign-up bonus.

  • Gina Mell says:

    I’ve had Chase Sapphire Reserve for a few years now. Amazing card with lots of perks. It is one of the few cards where I think the annual fee is worth it (if it doesn’t increase in price anymore). I’m not surprised to see they stand out as a front runner.

  • Seems like a good time to buy gift cards at grocery stores if you have Freedom and Sapphire Reserve cards to take advantage of $1,500 limit on both.

  • I switched cards to take advantage of these deals when buying groceries.

  • I recently got an upgrade offer from Everyday to Everyday Preferred, so I’m currently putting all my grocery spend on that. Once I hit my required spend, I’ll probably switch over to my CSR.

    Also, I can confirm Peapod delivery counts as grocery.

  • I wonder if I should max out the CSR $1500 spending for groceries.
    Normally I spend about $500 on groceries each month, so that would mean buying $1000 worth of gift cards at grocery stores…

  • Maybe just maybe Chase will wake up and keep groceries as a bonus category. Having one card that could compete with both the Platinum and Gold cards would be killer.

  • I got emails on all of these and have planned that I will finish up with the Freedom card and then, since I need Hilton points, I will focus on the Hilton Amex. I cannot wait to see the 12x grocery on my account. If I max these out and can still get bonus then United. I focused on what I needed and will go for it. These would be great to have once in awhile.

  • Hopefully, grocery buying will lead to more wonderful travel experiences very soon.

  • It’s hard to renew a card with high annual fee given that many cards are offering similar supermarket bonuses.

  • I did a stack at my local Kroger’s store. Bought $250 in gift cards, got the 5X Chase bonus plus 6X fuel points (4% digital coupon + 2% in store) at Kroger gas. Assuming I buy 15 gallons at a time, $22.50 off gas from Kroger (15 gallons x $1/g max, plus 15 gallons x 50c/g = $22.50), plus $12.50-$21.25 in Chase its. Total savings = $43.25 max., or a 17.3% savings on my $250 purchase.

    If I had just done a $170 gift card buy it would be a savings of $29.45, or almost 30% savings. Wish I had bigger gas tank!

  • This is great! Thanks!

    I recently found that Chase coded my Purple Carrot meal subscription as groceries. Does anyone know if AMEX codes that way as well? Has anyone had that apply for any other meal services like Sunbasket or HomeChef for Chase or AMEX?

  • Matt ward says:

    Thanks for the info. Do we know if we get points from the Chase Reserve for buying gift cards at the grocery store? Mat

  • Do you know if Citi Premier has put an end date to the 3/$ grocery awards scheme?

  • Florencia says:

    Do these supermarket vouchers work for any chain? If I can use them at The Whole Foods Market it is the best promotion I saw these days.

    • JT Genter says:

      While it might not work at every chain, Whole Foods is treated as a supermarket/grocery store by most bank issuers: https://awardwallet.com/merchants/WHOLE+FOODS+MARKET

    • The grocery bonuses will work at the majority of chains, but not everywhere groceries are sold, so you’ll want to do your homework if you have a specific one in question. For example, superstores like Target and Walmart and warehouse clubs like Costco usually are exclusions as far as I know.

  • JOSEPH HONEK says:

    Thanks for putting this summary together.

    Helps making the decision which card to use when grocery shopping easier.

  • Great! Will try to take advantage of this. Thank you!