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With a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, travel may not be on your radar right now. However, that also opens up a window of opportunity to save for that next getaway — whenever or wherever that may be.
One way to do that is to collect points and miles to prepare for the journey ahead. But there's also the simplicity and appeal of cash back, too. If you prefer to be paid back in cents instead of points — or find yourself in a financial crunch similar to millions of Americans — a cash-back card could be the better choice.
And there is one cash back card that has captured my attention more than any other during the pandemic: the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. While it carries a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees), this is more than offset by its generous (and timely) category bonuses.
If cash back is more your style, here are three reasons why it should be your go-to.
Bonus categories perfect for being close to home
In my view, no card has a better permanent combination of cash back category bonuses — for staying at or near home. The Blue Cash Preferred has bonus earnings on U.S. supermarkets, select U.S. streaming services, U.S. gas stations and transit. In every single category, it's made our list of best credit cards.
Let's break it down further.
The Blue Cash Preferred earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of spending each reward year, then 1%). While it's a bit frustrating to have the $6,000 cap, you would still get $360 in cash back if you fully maximized this bonus category.
While it's leveled off recently, grocery spending has seen a tremendous surge during the coronavirus pandemic. It's not just an overall increase in grocery spending, but also an increase in the percentage as compared to other consumer categories, like retail and dining.
Next up, you'll also get 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. A recent study from Deloitte highlighted just how prevalent streaming and subscriptions have become. Prior to the start of the pandemic, the average U.S. consumer had 12 paid entertainment subscriptions. That number jumps to 17 if we're talking specifically about millennials.
For months, streaming was a primary source of entertainment. Here is the latest list of qualifying stream services from Amex:
Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Apple TV+, AT&T Now, Audible, CBS All Access, Disney+, ESPN+, Fubo TV, HBO Now, HBO Max, Hulu, iHeartRadio, Kindle Unlimited, Luminary, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, Netflix, NHL.TV, Pandora, Prime Video, Showtime, Sling TV, SiriusXM Streaming and Satellite, Spotify, Stitcher, YouTube Music Premium, YouTube Premium and YouTube TV
With this card, you'll receive 3% back at U.S. gas stations for running around town. And if you're ready for a summer or fall road trip, you'll be all set too. As you might have guessed, this card is on our list of best credit cards for gas.
While fewer U.S. residents are commuting, the transit category can still be worthwhile but I'll admit — it's probably the least valuable among the four bonus categories right now. The Blue Cash Preferred earns 3% cash back on transit, including parking, tolls, ride-sharing, subway, etc.
If public transit is still a no-go, your bike share and other mobility-related expenses might also count towards earning 3% back. There's a reason why this card made it onto our permanent list of best cards for transit.
No confusing temporary categories
If it seems like there is a new card update or bonus category change or every week or two during the pandemic, you're not far off. Thankfully, we have a guide to card benefit changes that breaks it all down. However, you might just prefer something simple (instead of keeping track of limited-time perks and when they kick in or expire).
The Blue Cash Preferred is ideal for that. It has bonus categories that are relevant to our current environment and has the ease of cash-back earning. To redeem, you can receive a statement credit (my preferred choice), get gift cards or shop directly with your rewards.
Easy-to-earn welcome offer
New Blue Cash Preferred applicants receive a $250 statement credit after spending $1,000 within the first three months. While it's not the most lucrative offer out there, cash-back cards rarely have huge welcome offers.
On the positive side, $1,000 within three months is a relatively low spending requirement and attainable just by shopping for everyday essentials.
Creating a points, miles or cash back strategy is a prudent choice while stuck closer to home. If cash back is more up your alley — and these bonus categories align with your pandemic spending — then you can't go wrong with the Blue Cash Preferred.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, please click here.
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