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Credit Cards, Reviews

Blue Cash Preferred® Card Review: The Perfect Cashback Card for Grocery Shoppers?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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If you’re looking for a cashback program that will reward you handsomely for grocery shopping, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is one to check out. Although this card has an annual fee, the amount of cash back you have the potential to earn can easily cover the fee.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

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on American Express’s secure website

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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
12.99%-23.99% Variable
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 1% Cash Back on other purchases.

How to earn cash back with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

1. Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year of purchases, then 1%).

The supermarket category excludes superstores and warehouses. Specialty retailers like wine stores and convenience stores likely won’t earn 6% cash back either. The annual cap for the supermarket category is $6,000; after, you earn 1%.

2. Earn 6% cash back on streaming services

Earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, including Amazon Music, Hulu, Netflix and Pandora, among others.

3. Earn 3% cash back on transit

Earn 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

4. Earn 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 1% cash back on everything else.

There’s no annual spending limit for the 3% and 1% cashback categories.

5. Earn a welcome offer.

$250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

How redeeming cash back works

Cash back earned converts into Blue Cash Rewards Dollars. You can redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars for a statement credit in increments of $25.

Word of warning: A cashback statement credit does not get applied to your minimum payment. To keep your card in good standing, you need to make at least the minimum payment each month even if you redeem cash back.

Overview of card benefits

These are the American Express benefits:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance. You can decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver because you’re covered if your rental car is damaged or stolen when you pay with this card, though some countries like Australia and Italy aren’t covered.
  • Global assist hotline. When traveling, you get 24/7 access to legal, emergency and financial assistance.
  • Travel accident insurance. You get coverage for accidental death or dismemberment during travel.
  • Extended warranty of up to an additional year after your manufacturer’s warranty expires.
  • Roadside assistance for emergencies if your car needs to be towed, you need to fix a flat or you need a battery jump. Third-party service costs may apply.

What we like about this card

6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year, then 1%

Despite the annual fee and category restrictions, we’re still big fans of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. You only need to spend $1,583 per year (or $132 per month) on groceries to earn enough cash back to cover the $95 annual fee.

Since the supermarket spending cap is a generous $6,000 per year, you still have plenty of room to earn cash back beyond this break-even point. If you spend a full $6,000 at U.S. supermarkets in a year, you’ll earn $360 in cash back before the annual fee is deducted.

6% cash back on streaming services

You’ll be able to earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, including HBO Now, SiriusXM and YouTube TV, among others.

3% cash back at U.S. gas stations

You’ll be able to earn 3% cash back in the gas category without any cap, which can serve you well on your commute.

3% cash back on Transit

You’ll be able to earn 3% cash back on transit including taxis, rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

No revolving categories

This card is simple to use. You don’t need to enroll in the bonus categories quarterly or annually. You just need to remember to pull out this card when you shop at major U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations.

What we don’t like about this card

Store restrictions in 3% and 6% categories

Category restrictions are common for most cashback cards, but still a piece of fine print for which you should be aware. American Express uses merchant codes to determine how much cash back you get on each purchase.

Stores like Amazon, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Target and Walmart won’t qualify as supermarket spending.

Furthermore, you can’t earn 3% cash back by pumping gas just anywhere. You have to buy gas at places with a U.S. gas station merchant code. Gas purchases at U.S. supermarkets or U.S. warehouse clubs will not qualify unless otherwise noted.

This restriction on gas spending may be the biggest deal-breaker for savvy gas shoppers since supermarkets and warehouses often have competitive gas prices with minimal markup.

Before you apply for the card, contact American Express if you pump at discount locations to see if the spending qualifies. American Express has a short list of example stores that fall into each cashback category here.

Who the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is best for

Whether the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is or isn’t for you will depend on how much you spend in the bonus categories.

Here’s why:

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has a sister card that comes with a $0 annual fee called the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express gives 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases.

Pick the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express ($0 annual fee) instead of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express ($95 annual fee) if you spend less than $3,200 per year on qualifying groceries (about $300 a month).

If you spend more than $3,200 on groceries per year (about $300 a month), the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express with the $95 annual fee outperforms the $0 annual fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.

Another thing to consider is where you do your shopping.

If you live in a city where major supermarkets are few and far between, neither the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express nor the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express will serve you well. You won’t get 6% for food purchases at corner markets and specialty stores.

Shoppers who stock up for groceries at warehouse or superstores like Walmart will also get less use from these American Express cashback cards since that spending doesn’t qualify.

Consumers who’ll get the most out of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express are those who spend at places that are eligible for bonus cash back like Whole Foods, Safeway and Kroger.

To see rates & fees for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.

To see rates & fees for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.

Approval chances

You have the best chance of getting approved for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express with good to excellent credit (a score that’s 670 or above).

Alternatives

You can find our ultimate roundup of cashback cards for every category in this post.

Here we’ll cover four alternatives to compare against the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • Chase Freedom®
  • Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
  • Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

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on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply |  Rates & Fees

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Intro Purchase APR
0% on purchases for 15 months
Intro BT APR
0% on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular Purchase APR
12.99%-23.99% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases.

As mentioned, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is the $0 annual fee version of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. It offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases.

To see rates & fees for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.

Chase Freedom®

The information related to Chase Freedom® has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Chase Freedom®

Regular Purchase APR
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

A revolving category cashback card is an alternative if you spend pretty evenly across multiple areas. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The categories change quarterly on the Chase Freedom®. There’s a $1,500 quarterly spending cap on the 5% category. The bonus categories change every quarter.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Read Full Review

The information related to Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Regular Purchase APR
13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.

An unlimited flat-rate cashback card such as the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is good to pair with any of the category cards we discuss above. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases (Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay.), making this a great card to earn a consistent cashback rate. There is a $0 annual fee for this card.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

Regular Purchase APR
11.99% - 14.99% Variable
Annual fee
$99 annual fee, waived the first year
Rewards Rate
Unlimited 2.5% cash back on all purchases

The Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card offers unlimited 2.5% cash back on all purchases. There is a $99 annual fee, waived the first year. A good rewards strategy is partnering a high cashback rate category card with one of these unlimited cards for non-category spending.

FAQ

The acceptance of American Express is worse than for Visa and MasterCard — especially outside of the United States. However, the network continues to expand every year, and it is much more difficult to find places in the U.S. that don’t accept Amex.

Anything you spend over the $6,000 yearly spend limit at U.S. supermarkets will earn only 1% cash back. Fortunately, there is the 6% cash back on streaming services and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, so you’ll always get bonus cash back for that spending.

No, Blue Cash Rewards Dollars do not expire as long as your account remains open.

Yes, the minimum amount to redeem Blue Cash Rewards Dollars is $25.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars can only be redeemed for statement credit. They can’t be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards.

Blue Cash Rewards Dollars are redeemable for statement credit, while Membership Rewards Points are redeemable for statement credit, travel, gift cards, merchandise or entertainment. With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express you receive Blue Cash Rewards Dollars.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Credit Cards, Reviews

CreditStacks Mastercard Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a unique opportunity for individuals with little or no U.S. credit history – such as recent college graduates or professionals relocating to the U.S. for employment – to be approved for a credit card.

That’s because instead of requiring a Social Security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) as most traditional credit cards do, the CreditStacks Mastercard allows applicants to apply using a valid passport or U.S. government-issued ID, a U.S. visa or a permanent resident “green” card (if applicable), as well as proof of income. The CreditStacks Mastercard also allows you to apply up to 60 days prior to starting your new job in the U.S.

We break down the pros and cons of the CreditStacks Mastercard, and show how it compares to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, which is also designed to help individuals establish or rebuild credit.

CreditStacks Mastercard pros

No credit history required. With the CreditStacks Mastercard, you can apply without a Social Security number and with little or no U.S. credit history. Once you obtain your Social Security number, you must provide it within 60 days of account opening. At that point, CreditStacks will begin reporting your credit activity to the Equifax and TransUnion credit bureaus.

Note, if you have been living in the U.S. for more than one year, you will be required to provide a Social Security number when applying for the card. A credit check may also be performed.

Decent credit limit. The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a credit line of up to $5,000 – which is a generous amount for an unsecured credit card that doesn’t require credit history.

Your credit limit will be determined by the proprietary underwriting procedures of CreditStacks, which will consider your current employment situation and additional factors, instead of your credit score.

No annual fee. The CreditStacks Mastercard comes with a $0 annual fee.

Additional CreditStacks Mastercard benefits:

  • Mastercard ID Theft Protection(™). Access free identity theft resolution services, as well as Mastercard ID Theft Alerts(™).
  • Extended warranty. Receive an extended warranty of up to one year past a manufacturer’s warranty of 12 months or less.
  • Purchase protection. If you are dissatisfied with a purchase, you may be eligible to receive a full refund for up to 60 days from the date of purchase.
  • Price protection. Get reimbursed for the difference if you find a lower price for an eligible new item within 60 days of purchase using your CreditStacks Mastercard.
  • Purchase assurance. Cardholders receive coverage if an item is lost, damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase.
  • Travel protections. The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a MasterRental(R) collision damage waiver, lost or damaged luggage insurance, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance and trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. Plus, receive access to exclusive experiences and offers through Priceless Cities and special travel offers through Mastercard’s online booking tool.
  • Cellphone insurance. If you use your CreditStacks Mastercard to pay your monthly cellphone bill, you can receive coverage against theft or damage of up to $600 per claim and up to $1,000 per 12-month period.

CreditStacks Mastercard cons

No rewards program. The CreditStacks Mastercard does not offer a sign-up bonus or rewards on the purchases you make using the credit card. That said, when trying to build or rebuild credit, it’s best to focus on paying your bill on time and in full (when possible) each month, rather than racking up rewards.

No intro APR on purchases. The CreditStacks Mastercard does not offer a 0% intro APR on purchases – meaning, if you don’t pay your balance in full each month, you will be subject to interest charges at a rate of 15.49% Variable APR.

That said, the card’s ongoing APR for purchases is reasonable – considering that some cards designed for individuals with little or no credit come with APRs upwards of 26.99% (variable).

Compare it to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Similar to the CreditStacks Mastercard, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is designed for individuals with little or no credit. However, because it is a secured credit card, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® requires a refundable security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, for an initial credit line of $200.

If you deposit more money before your account opens, you may be eligible for a higher credit line, up to $1,000. Additionally, you can be given access to a higher credit line after demonstrating responsible card usage by making your first five monthly payments on time.

While the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® does not require U.S. citizenship to apply, it does require a valid SSN or ITIN, as well as a residential address in the U.S. or a U.S. military location.

See how the cards compare side-by-side in the table below.

CreditStacks Mastercard vs. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

 CreditStacks MastercardCapital One® Secured Mastercard®
Annual fee$0$0
Rewards rateN/AN/A
Credit lineUp to $5,000$200-$1,000
Deposit requiredNone$49, $99 or $200
Regular purchase APR15.49% Variable26.99% (Variable)

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® also comes with a number of benefits, including auto rental collision damage waiver, travel accident insurance, extended warranty and 24-hour travel assistance services. As a Capital One member, you will also have access to virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno, as well as access to your credit score and fraud monitoring through CreditWise.

But if you plan to carry a balance on your card, you’ll be better off with the CreditStacks Mastercard, since the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® comes with a substantially higher APR of 26.99% (Variable).

Read our: Capital One Secured Mastercard review

Which credit card is best for me?

If you haven’t yet established credit in the U.S., the CreditStacks Mastercard could be a good fit. In addition to not requiring a Social Security number for approval, the card helps build your credit by reporting to two major credit bureaus.

But if you’re in the market for a secured credit card and already have a SSN or ITIN, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a good alternative. While the card offers a much lower credit line than the CreditStacks Mastercard, it does offer a variety of useful benefits that aren’t common for a secured credit card.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Credit Cards, Featured, News

Average U.S. Credit Card Debt in 2020

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Credit card balances are at all-time highs, and absent any other relief, the recent rate cuts by the Federal Reserve will do little to slow down growth in total balances that borrowers carry month to month. And while it’s still too early to know for certain, the cash crunch many households are experiencing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic may mean even greater average monthly balance increases than in recent years.

We’ve updated our statistics on credit card debt in America to illustrate how much consumers are now taking on.

  • Americans paid banks $121 billion in credit card interest in 2019. That’s up 7% from $113 billion in interest paid in 2018, and up 56% since 2014.
  • In February 2020, the average APR on credit card accounts assessed interest was 16.61%. Although the Federal Reserve has cut the key Federal Funds rate by two percentage points since mid-2019, the more recent cuts aren’t yet reflected in lower interest assessed to balances carried from month to month.
  • Total revolving credit balances are $1.05 trillion, as of February 2020. The vast amount of this balance is from spending on credit cards from banks and retailers, while $83 billion comes from revolving balances, such as overdraft lines of credit.
  • Americans carry $687 billion in credit card debt that isn’t paid in full each month. This estimate includes people paying interest, as well as those carrying a balance on a card with a 0% intro rate.
  • 43.2% of credit card accounts aren’t paid in full each month. Those who don’t pay in full tend to have higher balances, which is why the percentage of balances not paid in full (71%) is higher than the percentage of accounts not paid in full (43.2%).
  • The average credit card balance in 2019 was $6,194 for individuals with a credit card. That’s an increase from $6,040 in 2018.

Credit card use

  • Number of Americans who actively use credit cards: 184 million as of 2019, according to TransUnion.
  • Number of Americans who carry credit card debt month to month: 77 million.
    • We estimate 42% of active card users carry debt month to month, based on the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

Credit card debt

  • Total credit card debt in the U.S. (not paid in full each month): $687 billion
  • Average APR: 16.61% (also excludes those with a 0% promotional rate for a balance transfer or purchases). This estimate comes from the Federal Reserve’s monthly reporting of APRs on accounts assessed interest by banks.

The above estimates only include the credit card balances of those who carry credit card debt from month to month — they exclude balances of those who pay in full each month.

Credit card balances

  • Total credit card balances: $1.05 trillion as of February 2020, an increase of 3.3% from February 2019. This includes credit and retail cards, and a small amount of overdraft line of credit balances.
  • Average number of credit cards per consumer: 3.1, according to Experian. This doesn’t include an average of 2.5 retail credit cards.
  • Average credit card balance: $6,194. The average consumer has $1,155 in balances on retail cards.

The above figures include the credit card statement balances of all credit card users, including those who pay their bill in full each month.

Who pays off their credit card bills?

In 2019, fewer accounts were paid in full than accounts with a balance carried from month to month. According to the American Bankers Association:

  • Revolvers (carry debt month to month): 43.2% of credit card accounts
  • Transactors (use card, but pay in full): 31.1% of credit card accounts
  • Dormant (have a card, but don’t use it actively): 25.6% of credit card accounts

Delinquency rates

Delinquency rates peaked in 2009 at nearly 7%, but in 2019 delinquency rates were 2.6%, historically well below the long-term average.

Credit card debt becomes delinquent when a bank reports a missed payment to the major credit reporting bureaus. Banks typically don’t report a missed payment until a person is at least 30 days late in paying. When a consumer doesn’t pay for at least 90 days, the credit card balance becomes seriously delinquent. Banks are very likely to take a total loss on seriously delinquent balances.

Debt burden by income

Those with the highest credit card debts aren’t necessarily the most financially insecure. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances (the most recent data available), the top 10% of income earners who carried credit card debt had nearly twice as much debt than the average borrower.

However, people with lower incomes have more burdensome credit card debt loads. Consumers in the lowest earning quintile had an average credit card debt of $2,100. However, their debt-to-income ratio was 13.9%. On the high end, earners in the top decile had an average of $12,500 in credit card debt, though their debt-to-income ratio was just 4.8%.

A look at American incomes and credit card debt

Income percentileMedian incomeAverage credit card debtCredit card debt-to-income ratio
0%-20%$15,100$2,10013.9%
20%-40%$31,400$3,80012.1%
40%-60%$52,700$4,4008.3%
60%-80%$86,100$6,8007.9%
80%-90%$136,000$8,7006.4%
90%-100%$260,200$12,5004.8%

Source: 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances data

Although high-income earners have more manageable credit card debt loads on average, they aren’t taking steps to pay off the debt faster than lower-income debt carriers. If an economic recession leads to job losses at all wage levels, we could see high levels of credit card debt in default.

Generational differences in credit card use

In Q2 2019, Generation X cardholders had the highest credit card balances. The average cardholder from this generation had a balance of $8,215, according to Experian. Baby boomers held an average balance of $6,949, comparatively.

At the other end of the spectrum, millennials — who are often characterized as frivolous spenders — held significantly lower credit card balances, at $4,889. They also carry fewer (3.2) of credit cards in their wallets. Generation X carry 4.3 credit cards and baby boomers have 4.8 credit cards, on average.

How does your state compare?

Using data from Experian, as well as data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel and Equifax, you can compare average credit card balances by state.

Differences in credit card debt by generation

In 2019, Generation X had more credit card debt, on average, than baby boomers, as those in their mid-40s typically have the largest amount of expenses relative to both younger and older consumers.

Methodology

In February 2020, MagnifyMoney collected and analyzed credit card data from government and industry sources, including the American Bankers Association, Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, to determine average credit card balances, interest rates, usage and delinquency rates.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.