Blue Cash Everyday(SM) Card from American Express
April 21, 2011
The rewards program for the Blue Cash card was one of the best cashback cards, in my opinion, and has recently gotten a little better. This has actually been one of the biggest years for our cash back payout, up to $560 so far, and now I don’t have to wait to redeem it.
Blue Cash Rewards
You’ve probably heard me mention before that I didn’t like having to wait a year to get the cash back we earned with our Blue Cash card. Two days ago I got a reminder email from American Express with the subject “Now get Blue Cash rewards when you want them” along with a link to their new rewards site.
As a side note on online security, I don’t click links in emails these days, instead I go directly to the site after reading the email. So I went out the American Express site to check out the enhanced rewards program. It had actually been a long time since I’d logged into my American Express account directly since our statement is always paid through online bill pay – long enough I couldn’t even remember my login.
After resetting my password and getting logged in I noticed the rewards program wasn’t the only thing that had changed. The site design was a little different and I noticed a few more options in my account. First I’ll go over the changes to the reward program and if I think they helped make the card better.
Rewards Program Changes
The card now offers more than just a cash back program, to reflect the change American Express now calls your earnings “Blue Cash Reward Dollars”. Once you’ve accumulated 25 or more reward dollars you can redeem them – Hurray!
I’ve had my card for almost ten years now so I’m pretty used to seeing the rewards show up once a year as a statement credit. I like that I don’t have to wait to cash them in but if you’re like me and accustomed to them being automatic, you’ll have to remember to request redemption.
Perhaps in an effort to offer the same flexibility as other cards from Citibank, Discover, Capital One, and Chase – AmEx now lets you use your reward dollars for other things, such as gift cards or merchandise.
I use this card for the cashback but I browsed through the gift cards to see what they had. I was hoping maybe they’d have an offer like the Discover card where you can actually buy a gift card for less than face value – something I talked about when I compared Blue Cash vs Discover .
For example, with Discover’s reward program, you can an buy a $50 Panera gift card for only $45. That’s like an extra 10% bonus cash back but unfortunately the American Express program didn’t have any deals like that.
They were more flexible than Discover, you only need $25 Blue Cash Reward Dollars to redeem for a gift card vs the $45 you have to accumulate for Discover. The gift cards were all for restaurants and stores that you’ve probably heard of, and they did have tons of products you could buy with your rewards dollars.
However, like I said, I use this card for earning the cash rebate so I’ll probably just stick with that.
The way you earn cash back has also changed along with the rewards progrm. The card no longer has a minimum amount you have to spend before earning cashback on everyday items, so American Express has renamed it the Blue Cash Everyday card. It used to be that all everyday purchases earned the same amount of cash back but now they’ve split Supermarkets into it’s own earning category, paying the highest cashback. They also removed pharmacies from the everyday spending cateogry and replaced it with department stores.
When you login to your account online it shows you the cash back percentages that you’re currently earning. If you don’t get your statements online and they come in the mail instead, your printed bill also has a section that breaks out your earnings by cashback percentage. You can actually access all your old statements online back to 2004, I went to checkout the ones from last year because I wanted to see what month our annual credit for the rebate used to show up.
One thing I saw on the statement that I hadn’t noticed before is that if you pay over $400 for a single purchase of gas you don’t earn the 2% back – but rather 1% back instead. That’s a lot of money to fill up your tank but if you ever get close to spending that much in one transaction, don’t fill up all the way. Just stop, pay the bill, and then start a second purchase so you still earn 2%.
Cash Back Levels
Obviously the biggest advantage of the card from an earnings perspective is the 3% back on groceries and 2% on gas and department store purchases. You earn a 1% cash rebate on all other purchases.
As you can see in this glance at our account, our grocery spending has been the highest so it’s nice that supermarkets pay the most in cash back. We also put all of our gas purchases on this card so we can earn the higher cash back.
One thing to note is that you don’t earn the 3% back on groceries or 3% back on gas at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco. If you’re a Costco member, you can get the TrueEarnings card to earn higher cash back when shopping there.
Redeeming Cash Back Rewards
As I mentioned, the redemption of rewards is where the big changes come in. As you can see from one of our statements from last year (below), the rebate used to show up as one big credit on your account every 12 months.
The good thing about the old setup was that one a month a year our bill was a lot lower than normal. Of course the bad thing was those rewards weren’t doing anything for me all year long.
Now you can login and request your cash rebate as long as you have at least $25 accumulated. So if a credit makes your bill $25 less than it would have been, that $25 you saved can be earning interest all year long. The thing to watch out for is spending more money than you would have simply because you’ve earned cash back.
The graphic below shows how you request your statement credit once you’re logged into the American Express website.
You choose the amount of the credit you want to request and the quantity and click “Add to Cart”.
The different redemption amounts American Express offers are $25, $50, $75, $100, $200, and $500. You can mix and match the different amounts – for example, to request our $560 earned so far I could request a credit for $500 and 1 for $50.
The remaining $10.39 would stay in the account until I’d earned enough to redeem another $25. The reason AmEx introduced the whole cart experience is that you can also turn in your rewards dollars for gift cards and merchandise. However, I’m sticking with the cash back optin so I don’t worry about shipping or fees rewards.
Blue Cash Bonuses
American Express has been working on these upgrades to the rewards program for a while. I remember when I got the first letter about the changes but as the date drew near they sent out another notice that the new program would be postponed.
I’m glad they took their time to work out the kinks and get it right because I think the new program is definitely an improvement. Based on the bonuses that they’re offering, American Express must also think that we’ll like the changes. If you own and use the Blue Cash card, AmEx will give you a $25 credit if you refer a friend to the card and they’re approved. I guess they figure with these recent enhancements they’re likely to get more recommendations.
In the past you would have had to wait a whole year to claim those $25 in bonuses but now you can get them right away. If you want to check out the card and the bonuses just click here.
All posts by Ben Edwards