The American Express Blue Cash Preferred is the Amex’s flagship cash back credit card. It went through a major revamp in May 2019 when Amex added some new bonus categories.
We know our Blue Cash Preferred Card Members well – they are juggling busy schedules and want an easy and valuable way to earn Cash Back on their day-to-day spending. Since we launched the Card in 2011, our Card Members’ buying habits have evolved, which is why we’re evolving the Card too. We’re adding the ability for Card Members to earn rewards in even more innovative ways, from streaming their favorite shows at home, to commuting to their office the next morning.
— Kunal Madhok, American Express’ Vice President of U.S. Consumer Lending and Acquisition
This quotation was from a May 2, 2019 press release from American Express. Mr. Madhok stated that there was an emphasis on the customer when deciding to add new bonus categories. He also noted that those customers’ spending habits and demands have changed since Amex introduced the card in 2011.
The Blue Cash Preferred Card has a $95 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). But you can justify this fee with enough spending, especially within the 6% categories.
As with most cash back credit cards, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card’s strength lies in its earning structure. It earns 6% at Grocery Stores and on qualifying US Streaming Services. Qualifying streaming subscription companies include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Spotify.
Unfortunately, the 6% on Grocery Stores is limited to the first $6,000 spent annually. Thereafter, the earning rate goes down to 1%. This can be a turn-off for prospective cardholders with large grocery budgets. Those with large families might want to get a second grocery store credit card to keep earning rewards.
Furthermore, the Blue Cash Preferred Card earns 3% at Gas Stations and on Local Commuter Transit. Local Commuter Transit merchants include Lyft, Uber, toll roads, and train stations. The Blue Cash Preferred also earns 1% cash back on non-bonus spend.
Plus, the Blue Cash Preferred also has a sign-up bonus worth $250. This bonus can be earned after spending just $1,000 in the first three months. Earning this bonus is like getting a 25% return on the first $1,000 in purchases with the card.
American Express’ cash back cards are hampered by having only three ways to redeem cash back: statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise. And only the first two methods will provide any value. This is unfortunate because many competitors offer more ways to redeem. For example, Discover lets you deposit cash back rewards into a bank account among other methods.
This is the most common way to redeem cash back with an Amex credit card. It’s also best for travelers who can put atypical travel expenses on their Blue Cash Preferred and then “erase” them with the cash back.
American Express has six pages of gift cards to choose from on their website. Cash back is worth 1 CPP when redeeming for gift cards. Conversely, Membership Rewards points are worth a lot less when using this redemption method.
This third method is the least valuable because American Express’ merchandise is overpriced. You can get the same (or similar) merchandise on Amazon or at brick and mortar stores for much less.
Perk: Return Protection
The Blue Cash Preferred has one significant perk in Return Protection. And it could justify the card’s annual fee if used enough.
Credit card artwork is one of my favorite parts about credit cards. But I don’t write about it because aesthetics are not important when choosing a credit card. The Blue Cash Preferred is an exception because American Express radically changed the artwork as part of its May 2019 revamp. The card now looks more like the newer Cash Magnet Card than the Blue Cash Everyday Card.
I like the new artwork with its so-called “Centurion iconography”. It’s reminiscent of American Express’ charge cards and their heritage. I also like the large dark blue Centurion coupled with the silver font. Overall, the new design makes the card look more substantial than before.
My only complaint is that it looks too similar to the Cash Magnet Card, even though the Preferred uses a darker shade of blue. Telling the two cards apart might be difficult for some people.
Rules & Regulations
Unfortunately, this card is subject to Amex’s Once Per Lifetime rule. This rule states that you can earn a sign-up bonus on any card only once. I suggest waiting until a targeted bonus comes out in the future. Otherwise, $250 is a nice bonus.
Check out these alternatives if the Blue Cash Preferred is not for you.
American Express Blue Cash Everyday
The Amex Blue Cash Everyday Card is the “little sibling” of the Blue Cash Preferred. It has no annual fee and similar bonus categories to the Preferred.
The Blue Cash Everyday earns 3% cash back at Grocery Stores and 2% at Gas Stations and Department Stores. Plus, it comes with a sign-up bonus worth $150. This bonus can be earned after spending $1,000 within the first three months.
People who spend less than $61 per week at Grocery Stores and want to earn cash back should go for the Blue Cash Everyday Card. Otherwise, the Blue Cash Preferred is better for cash back enthusiasts.
American Express Gold Card
The American Express Gold Card is a better option for travelers as it earns Membership Rewards (MR) points and not cash back. It has a $250 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). However, it has plenty of benefits and a nice earning structure to justify the fee.
American Express’ golden charge card earns 4x MR points at Grocery Stores and Restaurants. There is an annual spend limit of $25,000 on these categories, meaning that you can earn up to 100,000 points per year. It also comes with $120 in annual dining credits, $120 in annual Uber Eats credits, and a $100 airline incidental credit (which is ending after 2021). The Gold Card also comes with a few travel insurances as well as American Express’ standard benefits.
It also comes with a sign-up bonus worth 35,000 MR points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first three months. The minimum spend requirement used to be just $2,000 within the first three months. But Amex doubled it to $4,000 in October 2019 to better align with competitors. Unfortunately, this makes the Gold Card’s bonus much less desirable than it used to be.
The American Express Blue Cash Preferred is an excellent credit card for those who want to quickly earn cash back at the grocery store. It also has three other secondary bonus categories that will boost your cash back. But it also has a $95 annual fee, which can be a turn-off for those with smaller grocery store budgets.
Apply Today: American Express Blue Cash Preferred