A fan-favorite travel card is now one of the best cards to use for groceries

Editors note: has been updated with the latest information. 

An increase in grocery spending is one of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior that we've seen during the coronavirus pandemic. Credit card issuers have responded to these changing spending patterns, with temporary grocery bonuses and statement credits.

For those of us with an arsenal of cards to choose from – especially with so many recent grocery bonuses announced – it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out which card to use for grocery spending right now. The Chase Sapphire Reserve tops our list (at least through June 2020). Here is a breakdown of all the cards you should be using.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve: The best card for groceries through June

(Photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Yagi Studio/Getty Images)

The card that gets the crown as the best for groceries is Chase Sapphire Reserve. Here's why.

Use your travel credit towards groceries

Between June 1 – Dec. 31, 2020, gas and grocery spending will qualify for the Sapphire Reserve's $300 annual travel credit. Of course, this only pertains to you if you haven't used some or all of the credit yet, but it is automatically applied for any future grocery or gas purchases.

Although travel is slowly beginning to re-emerge, this is a huge win for cardholders who may have questioned the value of this travel credit given the current environment.

Double dip rewards in June

Here's the best part: If you use the $300 credit toward groceries, you'll still earn Ultimate Rewards points on those purchases. It just so happens the Sapphire Reserve has a limited-time 5x bonus on groceries through June 30.

That means if you have yet to use your $300 travel credit and spend the full amount on groceries in June, you can earn 1,500 Ultimate Rewards points (valued at $30). That's an amazing double-dip, as Chase is effectively giving you points for free.

Use Ultimate Rewards points to pay for groceries

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Finally, Chase is launching “Pay Yourself Back,” the ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards points at an elevated rate to cover purchases on groceries, dining and home improvement as of May 31 through September 30, 2020.

You might notice that these are the same rates that are typically offered for purchases made on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. With travel barely sputtering back to life, Chase is now allowing you to use your points to offset everyday purchases, like groceries, at the higher rate.

While TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, there certainly are situations where redeeming at 1.25-1.5 cents a pop makes sense. If you have an abundance of points or simply want to minimize your living expenses, then redeeming your points toward a grocery haul can be worthwhile.

Related reading: Chase adds limited-time and permanent Sapphire card perks

Other cards that provide the most value for groceries now

With Chase and other credit card companies scrambling to remain top-of-mind for cardholders, consumers like us can benefit when it comes to essential items like groceries. For instance, instead of sockdrawering that premium travel card (or canceling it), card issuers would rather you use it to buy the basics.

Using TPG's points valuations as a guide, here are my top picks for the best cards to use on groceries right now. In terms of criteria, this list includes cards that offer the following:

  • A temporary or permanent grocery bonus and the dates it's valid for
  • At minimum, a return of six cents per dollar spent
  • A mix of cash back, a card rewards currency, or specific travel points
Card Grocery Bonus per dollar Earning TPG Valuation** Temporary or permanent?
Chase Freedom®^ 5x, up to $1,500 Ultimate Rewards points or cash back 10 cents Temporary, through June 30
Chase Sapphire Reserve*
5x, up to $1,500 Ultimate Rewards points 10 cents Temporary, through June 30
American Express® Gold Card 4x, up to $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets Membership Rewards points 8 cents Permanent
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
12x at U.S. supermarkets Hilton Honors points 7.2 cents Temporary, through July 31
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card 12x at U.S. supermarkets Hilton Honors points 7.2 cents Temporary, through July 31
United Club Infinite Card* 5x, up to $1,500 United MileagePlus miles 6.5 cents Temporary, through June 30
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card* 3x, up to $1,500 Ultimate Rewards points 6 cents Temporary, through June 30
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 6%, up to $6,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets Cash-back 6 cents Permanent

Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express^

3x, up to $6,000 per calendar year (then 1x) at U.S. supermarkets Membership Rewards points 6 cents Permanent

^The information for these cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

*According to Chase, these cards are temporarily considering superstores such as Target and Walmart as eligible grocery stores as long as they have grocery sections with a deli and bakery. Note that this does NOT apply to the Chase Freedom's 5x bonus. 

**Bonus valuation based on TPG valuation and not provided by issuers. 

Several cards that deserve an honorable mention but are not in my top picks include:

Related reading: Guide to maximizing rewards on grocery spending

The cards I'm personally using

Decisions, decisions. In a normal world, the Amex Gold has typically been my go-to grocery option. However, things have changed now with temporary bonuses.

I personally have four cards on this list including the Chase Freedom, Amex Gold, Hilton Aspire, and Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Sapphire Preferred gets immediately nixed because I can earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points on groceries this quarter with the Chase Freedom.

Related reading: American Express Gold review

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

The interesting wrinkle in all of this is the Hilton Aspire card, with an impressive 12x points per dollar. While I usually would not use this card on groceries, the temporary bonus now makes for an interesting value proposition. I am not a huge hotel guy, but the Hilton Diamond status that comes with my Aspire card sometimes sways me towards being brand loyal.

I am hopeful for future travel plans in 2021 (including a dream trip to South America and Patagonia), and padding my Hilton points balance doesn't hurt for when that time comes. Here's how I plan to divide out my grocery spending:

  • Now through June 30, I'll use a blend of my Hilton Aspire and Chase Freedom
  • From July 1 through July 31, I'll exclusively use the Hilton Aspire
  • From Aug. 1, I'll go back to my regular habit of buying groceries at U.S. supermarkets with the Amex Gold

What counts as a grocery store?

Each credit card issuer “codes” your purchase under a certain category, and not all of your grocery store trips will be coded as such.

Chase and Amex don't count warehouse clubs

A fan-favorite travel card is now one of the best cards to use for groceries 1
You won't get bonus points for grocery shopping in warehouse clubs such as Sam's Club. (Photo by Shutterstock)

None of the cards above will count warehouse clubs (Costco, Sam's Club, B.J.'s) as grocery stores. However, the exception to this are grocery delivery services like Instacart. If you use these services to order items from warehouse clubs, your purchases should be categorized as groceries.

Related reading: How to ensure you earn bonus points for grocery purchases

Some Chase cards now include Target and Walmart

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Superstores like Target and Walmart are usually ineligible for grocery store category bonuses. However, Chase will code these merchants as grocery stores as long as they have a dedicated grocery section with a deli and bakery. The Chase Freedom, which has a 5x category bonus this quarter on groceries, does not include superstores in that category.

Related reading: Your guide to online grocery delivery services

Bottom line

Before deciding which card to use for groceries, it's important to think about what rewards you value right now during this pandemic. Do you feel optimistic about the future of travel (like we do here at TPG) and want to collect more points with a specific redemption in mind? Or would you rather earn transferable credit card points that offer flexible redemption options (my personal choice)? Finally, straight cash back is another viable alternative, given the current environment.

Related reading: You can find the full card list of elevated grocery bonuses for American Express and for Chase.

Featured photo by The Points Guy

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