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. However, it is a tough sell for travelers who would rather earn Membership Rewards (MR) points than cash back. Travelers who go grocery shopping often should look elsewhere. It’s also a tough sell for cash back lovers too because of its limited redemption options.
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 one way to redeem cash back, which is via statement credit. 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.
Statement credits are nice for travelers who can put atypical travel expenses on their Blue Cash Preferred and then “erase” them with the cash back. But they’re terrible for people who want to use their cash back however they want. For example, I prefer to redeem my cash back for investing or saving. The Blue Cash Preferred does not let you do either.
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.
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 much 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 offers a public sign-up bonus worth 60,000 MR points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
The Blue Cash Preferred Card is a nice card for people who have a decent amount of grocery expenses. But it’s truly hampered by a lack of redemption options. Statement credits are not the best redemption option for most travelers and cash back lovers. So I would not recommend this card unless American Express becomes more flexible.
Apply Today: American Express Blue Cash Preferred
I would guess the Everyday Preferred card will get updated shortly.
I certainly hope so! I would like to see them add another bonus category and lower (or even remove) the 30 transaction threshold.