Like many people during this time of pandemic, I've been staying at home and generally spending less, but I'm shelling out more than ever on groceries.
Credit card issuers clearly have realized that many people are doing the same, because they have been pushing out incentives to get people to use their particular plastic when buying groceries.
Are you going to get rich by using the right credit card at the supermarket? No, but every little bit helps, and saving a few dollars here and there adds up over the long term.
Take my latest grocery shopping trip, for example.
For starters, I used a $20-off Harris Teeter coupon from the weekly circular that came in my newspaper, which required spending $100 on groceries.
As usual, I stocked up on non-perishable items that were on sale, such as buying a half-dozen boxes of breakfast cereal I like, which were half price, and saving $12. Of course I used coupons clipped from the Sunday circulars, which saved another $5.
The next time I buy gas for my car, I'll save 10 cents a gallon because of the Harris Teeter Fuel Perks from that shopping trip. At the checkout counter, I paid with a credit card that gave me the equivalent of 7.5 percent back on my purchase, saving me about $11.
And that's the part that was unusual.
Usually, credit cards return 1 percent or 2 percent on purchases. Some have higher rates for particular store categories.
Those small amounts of cash back are real savings for those who don't carry an interest-bearing credit card balance. Those who are paying credit card interest should, if they're able, avoid taking on more credit card debt.
With consumer spending down — except at certain businesses such as grocery stores — credit card issuers have cranked up the cash-back carrot. Merchants pay credit card companies a percentage of every charged purchase, so issuers want their card to be the one you reach for, even if you never pay them a dime in interest.
Here are some of the credit cards that have doubled or tripled incentives for grocery store purchases:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa — three points at grocery stores through June 30, instead of one. Three points are worth about 5 cents when those points are used to buy Southwest airline tickets.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve — five Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at grocery stores, instead of one, through June 30. That's worth 7.5 percent back, when those points are used to book travel through Chase.
- Marriott Bonvoy — six points per dollar through July 31, instead of the usual two. Great for those saving up points for a Marriott hotel stay.
- Delta Skymiles Platinum — four Skymiles per dollar at grocery stores through July 31.
So, if you buy groceries with a credit card, make sure you're using the most advantageous one you have. There are other credit cards that offer nice cash-back on groceries all the time.
There's the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa, which requires an Amazon Prime membership but otherwise has no annual fee, and provides 5 percent back on Whole Foods and Amazon purchases.
Another, which seem tailor-made for these times, is the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card ($95 annual fee), with top perks that include 6 percent back at grocery stores and most streaming services all year.