(Updated) Credit Card Bonus Categories 2021 – Here’s Which Credit Card To Use

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Credit Card Bonus Categories 2020 - Here's Which Credit Card To Use

Credit Card Bonus Categories 2021 – Here’s Which Credit Card To Use

Our guide to credit card bonus categories in 2021 looks at the best credit card to use in each category. Credit card bonus categories can change often, so here’s a look at the best earning rates in 2021. We’ll break down spending categories and highlight the best cards to use for that type of transaction. This helps you earn the most points and miles possible by multiplying what you earn on every transaction.

Updated 10/9/21

Rotating / Quarterly Bonus Categories (October-December 2021)

There are some popular cards with rotating / quarterly credit card bonus categories. Here are the bonus categories for July-September 2021:

  • Chase Freedom Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Chase Freedom Flex – 5% / 5X on up to $1,500 of purchases at Walmart and when paying with PayPal.
  • Discover It Cash Back Credit Card – 5% on up to $1,500 of purchases online at Amazon.com, Walmart.com & Target.com.
  • Citi Dividend – 5% back on up to $1500 in purchases at restaurants & Best Buy.
  • US Bank Cash+ – select two categories to earn 5% on up to $2000 in spend, then 2% after.
    • TV, internet and streaming services, Home utilities Select, clothing stores, Cell phone providers, Electronics stores, Gyms/fitness, Fast food, Ground transportation, Sporting goods, Department stores, Furniture stores, Movie theaters

Temporary Credit Card Bonus Categories In 2021

Numerous credit card issuers had temporary bonus categories last year. We’ve already seen some of them go away, change, and some renew. Others available at the beginning of 2021 have ended now.

American Express Temporary Bonus Categories

  • Restaurant & Cell Phone Credits – varying amounts across numerous co-branded credit cards from American Express. These run through the end of 2021. You must add the offer to your card.

Best credit card for online shopping

Amazon / Online Shopping

When shopping online, look for things like Amex Offers to boost your points earning or get statement credits. Also, the following cards can earn the most amount of points / cash back:

  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card – 5% cash back on all Amazon purchases
  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spend in your 2 preferred categories (choose options like electronics stores / sporting goods / department stores / furniture stores / clothing–covers limited stores)
  • Citi Double Cash – 2% cash back on all purchases
  • American Express Blue Business Plus – 2X Membership Rewards on all purchases

Tip: Another great way to earn extra points from online shopping is to buy gift cards from office supply stores (see below for best cards) and then pay with those when shopping online. The same idea works for cards that earn a bonus at grocery stores.

Airfare / Flights

Many cards earn elevated rewards for travel-related items. Specific to flights, these are the best options:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express – 5X Membership Rewards on flights booked directly with the airline (also 5X on purchases through AmexTravel.com)
  • Citi Prestige Card – 5X ThankYou Points
  • Citi Custom Cash – 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3X Ultimate Rewards

Credit Card Bonus Categories

Cell Phone Bills

In addition to credit cards that offer free cell phone insurance, some cards earn extra points when paying your phone bill:

  • Chase Ink Business Cash – 5X / 5% cash back on phone services (on up to $25,000 across all 5X categories on the card)
  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spend in your 2 preferred categories
  • Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card – 5X points
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred – 3X Ultimate Rewards on phone services (on up to $150,000 across all bonus categories on the card)
  • U.S. Bank Triple Cash – 3% cash back on phone expenses (unlimited)

Cruises

There are multiple cruise line companies with their own co-branded credit cards. However, these tend to offer a low return on your spending. Instead, consider these cards:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express – 5X Membership Rewards on cruises booked through AmexTravel.com
  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend (travel category)
  • American Express Green Card – 3X Membership Rewards
  • Citi Prestige Card – 3X ThankYou Points
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Business Preferred – 3X Ultimate Rewards

Credit Card Bonus Categories

Entertainment

Entertainment as a credit card bonus category can cover a lot. Here are cards that offer extra points and cash back in this category:

  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spend in your 2 preferred categories (choose “movie theaters” as a category)
  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend (live entertainment category)
  • Capital One Savor Rewards Card – 4% cash back (8% cash back on purchases with Vivid Seats)
  • Capital One SavorOne Rewards Card – 3% cash back
  • U.S. Bank Business Edge Select Rewards Card – 3X on a bonus category of your choice (choose “travel/entertainment”)

feast

Food Delivery

Multiple cards offer perks in this bonus category. Your monthly Uber credits from the American Express Platinum Card are valid for Uber Eats. The American Express Gold Card has a $10 monthly credit for Grubhub and Seamless. The Chase Sapphire Reserve provides a DashPass membership, which gives you free delivery on DoorDash orders. Additionally, the Citi Prestige provides $5 in credits for all Postmates orders greater than $25.

Here are the best cards for earning maximum points on food delivery purchases:

  • Citi Prestige Card – 5X ThankYou Points
  • Citi Custom Cash – 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend (if it codes as restaurant)
  • American Express Gold Card – 4X Membership Rewards
  • Capital One Savor Rewards Card – 4% cash back
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3X Ultimate Rewards
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 3X Ultimate Rewards

pump

Gas Stations

Here are the best credit cards to use at gas stations:

  • Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card – 8X points
  • PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card – 5X points
  • SunTrust Business Credit Card – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of monthly spend at gas stations (during the first year, 3% after that)
  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card (also the personal version) – 4% cash back on gas worldwide, including at Costco (for the first $7,000 per year, then 1% after)
  • American Express Business Gold Card – 4x on the 2 categories you spend the most in each month, with gas as an option (cap at $150,000 of 4x spend annually)
  • Citi Premier Card – 3X ThankYou Points
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card – 3X points
  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred – 3% cash back

Credit Card Bonus Categories

Grocery / Supermarket

Multiple banks and credit card issuers have the temporary bonus categories on grocery / supermarket mentioned above. Additionally, these cards earn the highest points on spending at supermarkets:

  • Citi Custom Cash – 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • American Express Gold Card – 4X Membership Rewards at U.S. Supermarkets (4X earning limited to $25,000 per year)
  • Citi Premier Card – 3X ThankYou Points at supermarkets

Gym Memberships

You can earn extra points when paying your gym / fitness club membership with the following cards:

  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spenda
  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spend in your 2 preferred categories (choose “gyms/fitness centers”)
  • Chase World of Hyatt Card – 2x on fitness club and gym memberships

Home Improvement / Construction

For those looking to earn extra points on spending at home improvement stores, use these cards:

  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express – 5% cash back at Lowe’s
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card – 3% cash back on your preferred category (choose “home improvement and furnishings”, which covers home improvement stores AND contractors doing work on your home)

skyline

Hotels

Generally speaking, the most points will be earned by using that hotel chain’s credit card (ex: World of Hyatt Credit Card for stays at Hyatt, American Express Hilton Surpass Card or other Hilton cards when staying at Hilton, etc.). If you don’t have a card for that brand, the following are good options depending on your booking strategy:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express – 5X Membership Rewards on hotels booked through AmexTravel.com
  • Capital One Venture – 5X earning on hotels booked through CapitalOneTravel.com
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve – 5X earning on hotels booked through the Altitude Reserve Center in your member portal
  • Citi Custom Cash – 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Business Preferred– 3X Ultimate Rewards on hotels
  • Citi Prestige Card – 3X ThankYou Points on hotels, 4th night free

Best credit card for mobile payments

Mobile Payments

Using tap-to-pay or mobile wallets is increasingly common. Some banks list this as a credit card bonus category for certain cards in 2021:

  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve – 3X points
  • Apple Card – 3% for Apple Pay purchases with Uber, Uber Eats, T-Mobile, Exxon & Mobil gas stations, Nike & Walgreens; otherwise, get 2% back on all other Apple Pay purchases

While these are credit card bonus categories, it’s 2021, and most credit cards recognize the merchant regardless of tap-to-pay / mobile wallet. This means that paying at a restaurant usually codes as a restaurant. You could still use a card with a restaurant bonus category and earn those bonus points.

Office Supplies / School Supplies

When shopping at places like Staples, Target, or Office Max for your school or office supplies, earn bonus points with these cards:

  • Chase Ink Business Cash – 5X / 5% cash back at office supply stores (on up to $25,000 across all 5X categories on the card)
  • Target RedCard Debit or Target RedCard Credit Card – 5% cash back on purchases at Target
  • SunTrust Business Credit Card – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of monthly spend on office supplies (during the first year, 3% after that)

Pharmacies / Drug Stores

For the pharmacies category, remember that this is for stand-alone pharmacies. Pharmacies located inside other stores typically code as whatever that store is (supermarket, for example). Max out your points with these cards:

  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card – 3% cash back on your preferred category (choose “drug stores”)
  • Chase Freedom Flex – 3% cash back / Ultimate Rewards on pharmacy / drug store purchases
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card – 2% cash back on all drug stores & pharmacies

Credit Card Bonus Categories

Rental Cars

Consider what rental car perks your card may offer, as well as the credit card bonus categories for earning the most points. Look for rental car insurance or even elite status with the rental agency. Purely in terms of points earning, these cards rank highest:

  • Capital One Venture – 5X earning on cars reserved & paid for through CapitalOneTravel.com
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve – 5X earning on rental cars booked through the Altitude Reserve Center in your member portal
  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend (transit category)
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Business Preferred – 3X Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Green Card – 3X Membership Rewards
  • Citi Premier Card – 3X ThankYou Points

dining

Restaurants

Don’t forget to enroll in dining programs for extra points, and then take advantage of the 2021 credit card bonus categories with these cards:

  • Citi Prestige Cards – 5X ThankYou Points
  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • American Express Gold Card – 4X Membership Rewards
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve / Sapphire Preferred / Freedom Unlimited / Freedom Flex – 3X Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Green Card – 3X Membership Rewards

Additionally, some food delivery apps may code as ‘restaurant’, which means you could earn extra points and miles this way also.

Credit Card Bonus Categories

Rideshares

Before committing to ‘set it and forget’ for the card in your rideshare profile, check how you get charged after the first use. Make sure it’s coding properly to earn the most points possible.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – 10X Ultimate Rewards on Lyft, 3X on other rideshare apps
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 5X Ultimate Rewards on Lyft, 2X on others
  • Citi Custom Cash – 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend (transit category)
  • American Express Green Card – 3X Membership Rewards
  • Citi Premier Card – 3X ThankYou Points
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card – 3X points

Streaming Services

Remember that we listed temporary/rotating credit card bonus categories for 2021 above. Several cards are offering temporary perks for streaming services. Credit cards with every day bonus points earning in this category are the following:

  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred – 6% cash back
  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spend in your 2 preferred categories
  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card – 3X points
  • Chase United Quest Card – 2X points
  • US Bank Altitude Connect – $30 annual credit for spend on streaming services, 2X points earning after that

hotel

Travel / Transportation

Several other categories include items that could be considered “travel”, such as flights, hotels, etc. Here, we are including points earning from items which generally code as “travel” but don’t fall into those areas (this could include public transportation, taxis, buses, etc.):

  • Citi Custom Cash– 5X ThankYou Points in your top spend category each month, up to $500 of spend
  • Expedia Rewards Voyager Card from Citi – 4X points on Expedia purchases (3X with the Expedia Rewards Card)
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve – 3X points on all travel
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3X Ultimate Rewards on all travel
  • American Express Green Card – 3X Membership Rewards on tours, campgrounds, travel purchases on third party travel websites, and travel purchases on amextravel.com. Also earn 3X on trains, taxis, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, and subways.
  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred3% cash back on transit–including taxis, rideshare services, parking, tolls, trains, buses, etc.
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card – 3X points on transit and home stays (including Airbnb)

Utilities & Bills

Paying your electricity bill, internet, etc. can earn extra points and miles when using the following cards:

  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa – 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spend in your 2 preferred categories
  • Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card – 5X points
  • Chase Ink Business Cash – 5X / 5% cash back on internet services (on up to $25,000 across all 5X categories on the card)
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred – 3X Ultimate Rewards on internet & cable services (on up to $150,000 across all bonus categories on the card)
  • Voice Credit Card from Huntington – 3X points on up to $2,000 in your preferred category each quarter (choose “utilities & office supplies”)

Credit Card Bonus Categories

Warehouse Clubs

Warehouse clubs are places like Sam’s Club or Costco, where you need a membership to shop there and typically buy items in bulk quantities. While these can be rotating categories at different times with Discover or Chase, not many cards have a bonus category here all year. Additionally, these stores will NOT count as “supermarket” or “grocery” stores for those bonus points. Here are the best cards for warehouse clubs:

  • Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card (also the personal version) – 2% cash back on purchases from Costco or Costco.com
  • Citi Double Cash – 2% cash back on all purchases
  • American Express Blue Business Plus – 2X Membership Rewards on all purchases
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card – 2% cash back at wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 across all bonus categories on the card, per quarter)

Remember that Costco only accepts Visa cards in person. They accept Mastercard online.

Final Thoughts On Credit Card Bonus Categories 2021

There are tons of credit card bonus categories 2021 offers which enable you to earn extra points for daily spending. Simply using the right credit card can earn a bunch of extra points for what you’re already spending. If the purchases are online, there are even greater opportunities, since you can stack your purchase through shopping portals.

If you discover any new categories, let us know! We’ll keep this updated as perks and benefits on cards change or as new credit card bonus categories are announced later in 2021.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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28 COMMENTS

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Didn’t the fact you could buy large ticket items online with MC and return them to stores (that could not reverse a MC payment) for cash lead to some interesting large scale MS (aka the diamond ring on a string hack) back about ten years ago?

  2. Nice list! I would also add the Wyndham Earner Business Card for 8x on gas stations, 5x on utilities, & an annual fee that essentially more than pays for itself via the 15k/yr points + status, with annual status matching to Caesars & plenty of value in 1 bedroom Vacasa vacation rentals priced between $250 & $349/nt for 15k/nt.

  3. With the rise in EV (electric vehicles), a category for best credit card to use for the charging stations, might be helpful. Chase Freedom Unlimited, Citi double cash card, etc. Are you aware how the stations are coded? I.E. travel, utility, etc.

    • Brent – from looking up a few options, it seems that these don’t tend to all code the same. That makes telling you which card to use tough. Some will code as gas, some as “car services”, and others seem to code as utilities. You’ll have to test it out and adjust accordingly, until the merchant category becomes more consistent.

    • Amy – we don’t have anything for it yet, since the card is only a month old. Once people start making retention calls on that card, hopefully they’ll share the details with us. I wouldn’t expect anything soon, to be honest.

    • Leigh – I had Uber Eats code as ‘restaurant’ on my Citi Premier, which gave me 3x. And I just confirmed with someone who has Citi Prestige and got 5x from a Tock order recently. Experiences can vary, but Citi cards often code for bonus earning in ‘restaurant’ from online orders. Give it a shot and see if it works for you.

  4. Ryan,
    Thank you for an excellent reference chart.
    Was going to stick it on the refrigerator for my better half, but I get enough glares about “not using the right card.”

  5. Gas- could include AmEx Business Gold 4x, not worth it for most people (because of high AF) but could be very useful with high business gas spend
    Gym/fitness- could include Hyatt 2x
    Is there a card with a bonus category for farm/agricultural cooperative expenses?

    • Eric – good catch on Hyatt for gyms. I always forget they have that.
      As for the co-op, I asked the rest of the writers if anyone knew anything, and we all came up empty. The best card would be anything where you’re working on the minimum spend. After that, your best “every day spend” card, like Citi Double Cash or Amex Blue Business Plus for 2x earning with either of those.
      If you ever come across something from a small issuer that has a target audience of farmers and gives a bonus in this category, do let us know! It would be great to see.

      • Ryan, thanks for asking around to the other writers. I asked because of horse expenses. Seems like there should be something, but I haven’t found any applicable bonus card/category, so I’ve been using the BBP generally, as you’ve suggested.

        • Eric – have you asked any of the credit unions in your area, since this might be a target audience for them? “3% cash back on farm supplies” might be hidden somewhere. If that doesn’t lead anywhere, any forums dedicated to other people in the industry might be a place to find people who have a card they prefer for horse & agriculture expenses, etc.

  6. Not sure if it’s targeted or not but the traditional Chase Hyatt card has the same 5x/3x bump as WoH Card plus extra free night w $4k spend by year end.

  7. CFF & CFU also have 3% on ” restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services “. Same as CSR. Not a “bonus” category, but kinda kills the CSR bonus incentive.

  8. I’m not sure that it matters but Costco only takes Visa so the Citi Double Cash and Amex cards won’t work there.

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