Supermarkets are big business. Globally, food retail sales top $4 trillion, while in the U.S. they top a hefty $600 billion. It's not such a surprise, then, that Amazon.com went after a piece of that pie by buying Whole Foods Market. It's not just companies that can make money in supermarkets, though. We shoppers can, too, if we use the best credit cards for grocery shopping.
Someone who shops several times at one or more grocery stores in a typical month and who spends a meaningful chunk of his or her household earnings there is a great candidate for grocery credit cards (and perhaps gas cards, too). Good grocery cards will reward you with cash back while charging reasonable fees.
Below are some of the best credit cards for grocery shopping that can help you keep more dollars in your pocket. First, though, let's review how you might go about comparing and evaluating credit cards of interest.
Comparing offers: Look at rewards and fees
Here are some of the most important traits that distinguish the best credit cards:
- No annual fee. Most credit cards don't charge an annual fee, so it's easy to find ones without one. On the other hand, it's sometimes OK to have a relatively modest annual fee, if it's more than made up for by the benefits of the card -- such as if a card charges $99 per year and offers you around $300 in cash back annually. (Note that you can often have the annual fee waived or reduced just by calling your card company and asking.)
- No-penalty APR. A penalty APR is when card companies hike your interest rate, often to 25% or more, if you're late paying a bill. Look at a card's fine print to see whether there's a penalty APR, and consider avoiding the card if it's there. Plenty of cards don't have this feature. If you're carrying, say, $4,000 in debt and you're socked with a 25% annual interest rate, that's a whopping $1,000 in interest!
- Low interest rates. If there's a chance that you will frequently or occasionally be carrying a balance, you should favor cards with a relatively low interest rate range. Try not to carry a balance, though! In late September 2017, the average credit card APR, per CreditCards.com, was 16.15%.
- No foreign transaction fees. This feature can save you a lot if you're a frequent traveler abroad. Without it, if you spend money abroad or with a foreign-based retailer, you'll see currency exchange-related fees on your statement.
- Access to your FICO credit score. It can be helpful to be able to check your credit score now and then, especially if you're working on paying off debt and increasing your score. Many cards these days let you see your score, with some printing it on each statement.
- Cash back -- or points or rewards -- that can be earned as you spend with your card. You can find cards that pay you 2% cash back overall on your purchases, and ones that offer up to 5% or 6% back on certain categories, such as supermarket spending. Some cards have preset cash back rates for certain categories, while others rotate categories that earn extra-big rewards every three months -- sometimes even letting you choose the categories.
Great credit cards for grocery shopping
So what are the best credit cards for grocery shoppers? Here are some strong contenders for your business:
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express: This card offers a whopping 6% cash back at supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in annual spending, after which that drops to 1%), along with 3% cash back at gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else. There is a $95 annual fee -- but you can bypass it by opting for the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express below. You can also collect $150 if you spend $1,000 in your first three months. (Read our full Blue Cash Preferred from American Express review.)
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express: This card offers 3% cash back at supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in annual spending, after which that drops to 1%), along with 2% cash back at gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else. It charges no annual fee and offers $200 if you spend $1,000 in your first three months. (Read our full Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express review.)
Bank of America Cash Rewards®: This card offers 2% cash back on your supermarket spending and also at wholesale clubs, along with 3% back on gas station spending (on up to $2,500 combined spending in those categories each quarter). You get 1% cash back on your other spending. There's no annual fee, and you can collect a $150 bonus if you spend $500 in your first 90 days. Bank of America customers can also collect between 10% and 75% in bonus cash back through the banks Preferred Rewards program. (Read our full BankAmericard Cash Rewards® Credit Card review.)
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards: This card also has no annual fee and offers a $150 bonus reward if you charge at least $500 in your first 90 days. The grocery cash back rate of 1.5% might make the card look less attractive than some others, but note that the 1.5% applies to all your spending, not just at supermarkets, and it's unlimited. Depending on your overall spending, this card can reward you more than others with high grocery cash back levels. There is an annual fee of $39. (Read our full Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards review.)
Chase Freedom UnlimitedSM: This card offers an unlimited 1.5% back on all spending, at supermarkets and elsewhere, while charging no annual fee. It also offers a $150 bonus if you spend $500 in your first three months. (Read our full Chase Freedom UnlimitedSM review.)
Citi® Double Cash Card: If you'd like to collect even more than 1.5% back on all spending, consider this card, which offers 2% back -- 1% when you charge an expense and then an additional 1% when you pay it off. The card charges no annual fee, either. (Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card review.)
A few more cards
Finally, here are three more cards you might consider, from retailers that also sell groceries:
- Amazon Prime Rewards Visa: This card, for Amazon Prime members, charges no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, either. You'll receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card upon signing up and will then earn a whopping 5% cash back on all Amazon purchases, along with 2% back on spending at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else. (Read our full Amazon.com Prime Rewards Visa review.)
- Costco Anywhere: The Costco Anywhere card is only available to Costco members, and memberships start at $60 for a household. It offers a substantial 4% back on gas spending (up to $7,000 in spending per year) along with 3% back on qualified travel and restaurant spending, 2% back on purchases at Costco (and Costco.com), and 1% back on everything else. There's no annual fee as long as you have your Costco membership.
- Target REDcard: The Target REDcard offers 5% savings when shopping at Target and Target.com. It also gives you an extra 30 days to return most items and free shipping on most items from Target.com. There's no annual fee, and the card can only be used at Target stores or at Target.com.
If you're buying groceries with cash, checks, or credit cards that aren't rewarding you, you're doing your bank account a disservice. Finding a card that best fits your needs and spending habits might put a few hundred dollars in your pocket each year.
Selena Maranjian owns shares of Amazon, American Express, Costco Wholesale, and JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends American Express and Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.