American Express 6% Cash Back Q & A

Posted by Madison on October 18, 2011

As we convert to our new favorite card, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express to take advantage of the 6% cash back, I discussed many of the ins and outs of this card with readers as we all learn how to maximize our cash back.

We started with an overview of how to get the American Express 6% Cash Back Credit Card & $100 Sign Up Bonus and use it for grocery store purchases, gift cards, and prepaid debit cards.

Since American Express reports cash back one statement behind, we had to wait until we got our second statement to confirm many of our cash back purchases.

American Express 6% Cash Back

Here are some of the questions and answers about the Blue Cash Preferred Card that might be helpful to maximizing the profitability of this card:

Does American Express payout in Membership Reward points or straight cash? – Wayne

Hi Wayne,
The rewards were based in dollars that I could use to purchase gift cards or as cash back. The cash back was available in multiples of $25 which was applied as a statement credit when I redeemed it.

I signed up for the AMEX Blue Credit Card for the groceries cash back. Thanks for the tip. My question is, what qualifies as groceries? I’m assuming it is by the store. What about a place like Walmart, Costco or Target that sells Groceries and regular stuff?

If it is by the store, then I am assuming (and you may have already written about this) that if my grocery store sells gift cards to Amazon, etc. that I can parlay my 6% cash back into non-grocery items that way. – Rory

Hi Rory,
Glad you like the amex card! I too am loving the 6% cash back. We have determined that it is coded by store. I looked at my account, and Costco doesn’t count (it shows up as Wholesale Stores). I haven’t tried it at Walmart or Target yet, but I have a feeling those are also probably not coded as grocery stores.

As far as your grocery store selling gift cards- yes, that’s what I’m doing, Amazon gift cards, restaurant gift cards, and the generic visa gift cards to use everywhere else.

Madison, can you confirm that you have already received the 6% cashback on the purchases where you bought the $500 Visa card at Grocery stores? I’ve only had this now for one statement cycle and in the last statement I did get 6% back on my purchases at Grocery stores but I did not make any purchases of gift cards during that cycle. I’m trying to arrange a very large payment with the $500 Visa cards… I feel like it’s a little risky to be sure I’ll get the cashback from American Express until I actually see the BlueCash gets credited on the purchases of Gift Cards I made at Grocery stores. – Kelly

Hi Kelly,

I just got my second statement in the mail this week, and I can confirm that all $1,286 of my grocery store purchases from my first statement, which included my first 2 $500 gift cards, earned $77 reward dollars, all at 6%!

For the record, both of those purchases included gift cards and groceries in the same transaction.

When I login to my account online to check the recent activity, you can expand the store purchase for more information. When I do that, I see the purchase labeled like this – Category: Merchandise & Supplies – Groceries.

I think the purchase category depends more on the actual store than on what you purchase.

I am looking at the AMEX card that gives 6% back at grocery stores, not that we buy that many groceries, but we do buy other things. I looked at our Safeway yesterday and they had tons of gift cards along with the Visa PrePaid Credit cards in amounts up to $500. I didn’t get much info b/c the small print was folded up on a white piece of paper inside the packet and since I wasn’t buying it, I did not feel I should tear it out. However, it did say on the outside of the packet I could add monies to it once I had used all the monies. That defeats my purpose of getting back 6% each time I buy in $500 increments.

Then I stopped by my bank to see if I could use it as cash and everyone there was uncertain. They thought I might be able to use it at their ATM (not positive, though) and they did not know if I could take out the entire $500 at once. I was thinking if I bought a bunch of these things, it would pay me to use them to pay everything, but I may be dreaming in lala land. Can you please help me? Thanks so much for your time. – Barbara

Hi Barbara,
Your lala land sounds fantastic! I think you might be onto something great here. You’re right, you don’t want to add money to it since you would miss out on the 6% cash back.

My husband and I have been stocking up on the gift cards every time we’re at the grocery store, and we now use them for almost all of our other purchases, but cashing them out at the ATM is another added twist I didn’t think of.

I pulled out the last few cards I bought, and one of them doesn’t look like you can cash it out at the ATM, however, 2 of the other cards do allow ATM withdrawals. One has a small fee for the ATM withdrawal, and the other says ATM withdrawals are free!

If I were you, I’d go ahead and purchase just one and do a trial run at the ATM. If it rejects it, then just spend the $500 on regular purchases. If it accepts it… I think you just found new part time job driving between the grocery store and the ATM every day. I’ve noticed that ATMs have different withdrawal limits. Our local bank (which has free ATM withdrawals) would allow a $500 withdrawal, so you might need to look around in case yours has a lower limit.

Good luck! I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

What other tricks, twists, and tips have you discovered with your American Express 6% Blue Cash card?

More on the Blue Cash Preferred Card

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Comments to American Express 6% Cash Back Q & A

  1. I have this card too and like it, for the most part. I never considered buying gift cards at the grocery store. Usually, Plastic Jungle has a better discount. But, I can see buying gas gift cards at the store since those are rarely discounted more than 5% elsewhere online. Great tips!

    Mortgage free Mike

    • Plastic Jungle! I keep forgetting about that one Mike!


  2. Don’t forget, most, if not all, of the Visa & Mastercard Gift Cards have a $5.95 activation fee, so unless you get cards valued at more then $100 it’s really a push.


    • LOTRGandalf,

      Good reminder. I’m only buying them for $500 where you can really maximize the value.


  3. Where are you finding $500 Visa/Mastercard Gift Cards? I can only find $100 max with the 5.95 activation fee.


    • I found them at Shop N Save here in the St Louis area. You have to buy the loadable gift cards around here, but the fee is still $5.95. You can load from $20-$500 on them.


    • And I’m finding them at the Roundy’s stores in the midwest.

      They are conveniently hidden behind the $100 cards.

      And they’re also the $20- $500 ones like LOTRGandalf found.


  4. Being able to buy pre-paid cards and then withdraw from the ATM seemed too good to be true, but of course I had to try it. I went to a Safeway in the East Bay and was able to buy a PayPower branded card. This card, just like the pre-paid Visa cards, let’s you know how much you value want to put on the card up to $500. I took it to the register and the cashier processed it on my AmEx. I then had to go through both an activation and a registration process, where you set up a PIN number, and then I was able to withdraw cash. Keep in mind that since PayPower is not my bank I had to pay an ATM withdrawal fee (it was $3 at the Credit Union I used) plus PayPower’s $1.95 fee. In my learning process I ended up making two withdrawals and paying the fees twice. Keep in mind that even though you loaded the card with a value of $500 you’ll probably only be able to withdraw $480 at the ATM because most ATM’s only allow you to withdraw in multiples of $20 and because there has to be enough money on the card to cover both the ATM’s fee and PayPower’s ATM withdrawal fee.

    So, I was really happy that I was able to do this, however, I’m not sure I’ll be able to repeat the process. I tried buying one of the ReLoadit packages at a Safeway in the city and they would not let me pay for it with my AmEx. In fact the package does actually say “Cash Only”. The Safeways here in the city seem to be much stricter about allowing you to buy gift cards that are not store-specific with my AmEx and really seem to want you to pay cash for any of the pre-paid value cards with the Visa Gift Card or the PayPower card. I may try another surburban Safeway and see if I can buy the ReLoadit pack with my AmEx but I think the chance is slim.

    Also, with the PayPower cards they require you to provide your Social Security number to them and from what I’ve read looks like you’re only allowed one PayPower card per person. That’s the other reason I think I’d have trouble repeating this, if I tried to buy another PayPower card I think I’d have trouble with PayPower’s verification process. I’ve read a few nightmare stories on a credit card forum about trying to get your money back from PayPower if you have trouble with the verification process so I’m not sure I want to try that. It would be really cool if I could keep re-loading the PayPower card from my AmEx because that would also open up paying my mortgage via a credit card via the ChargeSmart service. If anyone does have any advice about how to reload your PayPower card with your AmEx in a grocery store I would love to hear your story.

    Aside from the PayPower card I have not found any other gift cards that allow you to do ATM withdrawals. Madison or others – could you give the names of the types of cards you purchased that allowed you to do the ATM withdrawals?

    Thank you


    • Kelly,

      Great report on the ATM process. Now, if only we could find a store with a kiosk that let you reload your card in the grocery store! Probably wishful thinking…

      I threw out the card that said you could do an ATM withdrawal (I had to start throwing the emptied ones away because I was starting to get so many I didn’t want to get them confused!)

      Next time I’m at that grocery store, I’ll look at the name brand.

      Anyone else have names of the cards that allow ATM withdrawals?


  5. I got an email from a reader Chris, who noticed that American Express now directs us to the 3% card. You can still get the 6% card, but you’ll have to dig a little, here’s the instructions I sent to Chris:

    It looks like American Express changed that page. It used to show both the 3% card and the 6% card and you could pick. I did find a workaround though to get you to the 6% card:
    -Click the link that goes to the 3% card.
    -Then in the need help box (search box) on the top right, enter: blue cash preferred
    -The 2nd link in the blue box will take you to the application and all the details.

    I wonder why they’re hiding it on us… maybe it’s becoming a really popular card and will disappear soon!


    • Hi Madison. I’m interested in your feedback on my post below. I think you may be right. There appears to be pressure from the gift card producers to accept only cash at grocery stores for the visa gift card and others.

      Norm Miller

  6. As an added bonus, I recently purchased 2 $500 gift cards at a local Shop n Save, and with the receipt came 2 $5 off fuel card coupons (for when you buy $100 or more in fuel gift cards). Guess I’ll be going back soo and purchasing 2 Shell gift cards now, and getting even more back. I LOVE my 6% card!!!


    • Great news LOTRGandalf! I too found I can stack the card with gas perks, what a great side benefit!

      Stay tuned for more on the gas rewards…


  7. So with the PayPower cards they do have a “ReLoad” it card that you can purchase at Safeway. I have been able to repeat this a few times. I keep purchasing the PayPower ReLoadIt cards at various Safeways and in various amounts to see if I get stopped anywhere. The front of the PayPower cards and the Paypower ReLoadIt cards does specify that you can only purchase them with cash and so does their website, however, I’ve been able to purchase the ReLoadIt cards with my AmEx 4 more times. I purchased one of the ReLoadits at $300, at $700, at $400 and at $500. When you purchase in the larger amounts the cashier often does needs to ask a manager or someone for an override key (I’m assuming to authorize the large amount) and every one of the above transactions did cause the cashier to ask someone for the ovveride key but it was quick and then the cashier processed the transaction on my AmEx without problem. So, all the Safeways I’ve gone to in the suburbs have allowed me to purchase the ReLoadIts with me AmEx but I did have the Safeway in the City tell me that they would not accept anything but cash for the ReLoadIt cards.

    Also, due to the timing of AmEx reporting cashback one statement behind I have not yet had a cycle with American Express where my PayPower or my ReLoadIt cards have been purchases on a statement where I got to see the cashback credited. All of my Visa Gift Cards and store gift cards have all earned the 6% cashback at grocery stores but I still like to see it before I fully believe it. I have a nagging little concern about whether buying cards that allow ATM withdrawals is somehow going to trigger AmEx to say “that’s a cash equivalent, no cashback for you”. My next statement cycles on the 13th and I’ll report back after that to let you know if I did get the full cashback from AmEx.


  8. I would like to hear a follow up on the 6% cash back for gift cards. This worked for me for about a month. Then the store I bought them at was not able to process my purchase of the gift card. I tried again the next day and they said the gift cards are cash only. The chain is the only one in my area that has the $20 – $500 card. Another store in the same chain told me the same thing, but a third store a little farther away, I was able to purchase the card one day, and the next day went back for another and while she did initially have a problem, I think she manually pushed the purchase through. I think next time I go back, I may not be so lucky. I contacted the gift card company and they said it has always been their policy that the gift cards can only be purchased with cash. They said some merchants have had issues with customers purchasing gift cards with fraudulent means of payment, and that they are upholding this policy for the safety of all purchasers. I have not had a problem at a different chain, but they only have the $100 card. And while they do have gas rewards, it’s not the same as buying a $500 gift card.

    I would like to see a follow up and ask the contributors on this site if they have had any follow up problems purchasing these cards. Perhaps a FAQ page keeping a list of stores that accept, stores that don’t , and maybe even which stores have the $500 versus the $100 cards.

    It seems in Vermont, only Shaws has the $500 card, and it is hit or miss if they will sell it to you if you don’t pay cash.

    Price Chopper and Hannafords, so far, I have only found the $100 cards. Hannafords also doesn’t appear to sell the visa card unless you pay cash.

    We are looking forward to when we replace our kitchen set at Lowes this year. We will buy 20 or 30 Lowes $100 gift cards at Shaws (they do take credit card payment on department store gift cards), and buying our appliances with those. 🙂

    norm miller

    • Hi Norm,
      I still haven’t had any trouble buying gift cards with my credit card, but then again, I’m in the Midwest here.

      I like your idea of tracking the stores. I’ll have to put some more thought into how we can pull that off.

      Any other readers care to chime in on which stores you’re shopping at with success? (And which ones you don’t have success?)

      I love your plan with the appliance purchases! Let me know how it turns out!


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