The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card is the issuer’s flagship cash back card. But it has recently been in the news because American Express 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.
The Blue Cash Preferred card’s strength lies in its earning structure. American Express has bolstered this structure as it now earns 6% at Grocery Stores and at US Streaming Subscriptions. Streaming subscriptions include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Spotify. It also earns 3% at Gas Stations and on Local Commuter Transit. Local Commuter Transit merchants include Lyft, Uber, toll roads, and train stations.
Before May 9, the card earned 6% only at Grocery Stores and 3% only at Gas Stations. Current cardmembers will also earn 3% at Department Stores until July 31, 2019. Thereafter, this category will earn 1%. New cardmembers will not have access to this bonus category.
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. The bonus on this card before May 9 was just $200 with targeted bonuses worth $250. Now, American Express has increased the public bonus to $250. This 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 valuable two ways to redeem cash back: statement credits and gift cards. This is unfortunate because many of Amex’s competitors offer more ways to redeem. For example, Discover lets you deposit cash back rewards into a bank account among other methods. Personally, I would prefer depositing my cash earned into a bank account so I can invest it.
This is the most common way to redeem cash back with an Amex 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 (like normal) when redeeming for gift cards. Conversely, Membership Rewards points are worth a lot less for this redemption method.
I would select this method out of the three because gift cards can be used at any time.
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 less.
The Blue Cash and Cash Magnet cards are not known for their perks either. However, they do have standard American Express perks, such as Return Protection. For those who don’t travel, this is oftentimes enough. But travelers want more in the way of perks, especially on a card that has a $95 annual fee (NOT waived the first year).
Credit card artwork is one of my favorite parts about credit cards. But I don’t write about it because aesthetics is not important when choosing a card. The Blue Cash Preferred is an exception because American Express has radically changed the artwork. 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. 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 right for you.
American Express Blue Cash Everyday
The Blue Cash Everyday card is the “little sibling” of the Blue Cash Preferred. It has no annual fee, but it does have similar categories to the Preferred.
The Blue Cash Everyday earns 3% cash back at Grocery Stores and 2% at Gas Stations and Department Stores. Unlike the Preferred, the Department Store category is not going away on July 31. This card also comes with a $150 sign-up bonus, which can be earned after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Targeted bonuses have been as high as $200.
People who spend less than $61 per week at Grocery Stores and want 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
This charge card is a better option for travelers as it earns Membership Rewards (MR) points and not cash back. The American Express Gold Card 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.
The Gold 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 and a $100 airline incidental credit. 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 $2,000 in the first three months. Compared to other mid-tier travel cards, this is a great bonus with a minimum spend that’s not too hard to hit.
The Gold Card is the better card for most travelers. However, the Blue Cash Preferred is a great alternative for cash back lovers and travelers who don’t like MR points.
Even though PYCR is a travel blog, I also cover travel and credit news. This card’s changes are newsworthy and significant enough to warrant a review.
I personally wouldn’t apply for this card or upgrade my Blue Cash Everyday Card. This is because I would rather earn Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards points. However, that’s not to say the Blue Cash Preferred is a bad card. The Blue Cash Preferred has become a fantastic option for cash back enthusiasts who spend heavily on groceries and streaming services.
Apply Today: American Express Blue Cash Preferred