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If you’re one of the many Americans working from home and limiting travel because of the coronavirus, you have probably seen a slowdown in what you earn in credit card rewards. After all, you can’t rack up airline miles and travel points when you’re spending more time on the couch than zipping through airports.
Luckily, your earnings don’t have to stop while you’re spending more time at home if you use credit cards that reward day-to-day purchases, such as groceries, takeout orders and gasoline.
Here’s what you need to know about earning credit card rewards as your work and play remain largely at home.
Which Credit Cards Reward You for Staying Home?
Days at home, along with pandemic-related job or wage losses, have shifted consumer spending to essentials and comfort items. Credit card companies have adapted by bumping up points for rewards categories such as:
People still need to make trips to the grocery store and buy gas, points out Bola Sokunbi, founder and CEO of Clever Girl Finance, a personal finance website for women.
Make sure the credit cards you’re using provide cash back or other rewards for what you’re buying now. Here are some cards that provide the best rewards for those purchases:
Loyal Amazon and Whole Foods Market shoppers benefit the most from this card, which earns 3% cash back on purchases from both retailers. Cardholders with Amazon Prime can earn 5% at Amazon and Whole Foods Market. The card also earns 2% at drugstores, gas stations and restaurants, including takeout orders.
Cardholders can get up to $10 in statement credits for select streaming and wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers every month through December.
This card earns cash back rewards on everyday purchases: 6% on up to $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets and then 1% afterward; 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% on transit and at U.S. gas stations; and 1% on all other purchases.
You can earn three points per dollar with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card on grocery store purchases of up to $1,500 monthly through June 30. That includes grocery pickup and delivery services. The card also earns two points per dollar on any restaurant purchase.
Cardholders can use the Pay Yourself Back tool to redeem points for statement credits in certain categories at a 25% higher value than they would typically receive through cash back. This applies to grocery store, dining and takeout, and home improvement store purchases. The promotion is available through Sept. 30.
This card offers five points per dollar on grocery store purchases until June 30. You’ll also earn three points per dollar on restaurant purchases.
Through Sept. 30, use the Pay Yourself Back tool to get a statement credit at a 50% higher redemption value than you’d typically receive with cash back. It applies when you redeem points for grocery store, dining or home improvement store purchases.
Cardholders can get up to $20 in statement credits for select streaming and wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers every month through December.
This card gives you the flexibility to choose two spending categories in which to earn cash back each quarter. You can get 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in combined net eligible purchases.
Categories change quarterly but could include streaming services as well as internet and cellphone providers. You’ll also earn 2% cash back on an everyday category of your choice, such as gas stations or grocery stores.
Cardholders earn three points per dollar on at-home categories, including restaurants – even takeout – gas stations and popular streaming services.
Should You Get a Card for Streaming Service Rewards?
Opening a credit card just to earn streaming rewards may not be worthwhile, depending on how many services you subscribe to and their cost. Some streaming services charge as little as $6 per month.
“It’s not a huge expense,” says Logan Allec, founder of Money Done Right, a personal finance blog. “I wouldn’t recommend one of these cards just with streaming benefits as a first credit card.”
Your primary credit card should feature at least two rewards categories that are important to you, he says, such as streaming services and groceries.
If a rewards card has an annual fee, “I wouldn’t get a card for just one category. But if there are other categories, it could definitely be worth it,” Allec says.
Another option is to find a card that has competitive cash back benefits across the board. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited cardearns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. And you can earn 2% with the Citi Double Cash Card – 1% when you buy and 1% as you pay.
Should You Ditch Your Travel Rewards Card?
The value of your rewards credit card will depend on how much you spend in the card’s rewards categories.
Cash back credit cards or rewards cards with bonus points for at-home spending categories have the edge over travel cards now. But don’t be too quick to close your travel cards.
Some travel rewards credit cards have adapted their rewards programs for coronavirus times.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example, added grocery store purchases as a bonus category. And Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card allows you to redeem miles at the same value as travel credits for restaurant delivery or pickup orders and streaming or wireless telephone services.
You may not want to cancel your travel rewards credit card for a couple of other reasons, though. Closing your card could hurt your credit score, Sokunbi says.
“The travel industry will be back at some point,” she says. “We’re in the eye of the storm now, and it won’t last forever.”
When travel returns, you’ll be able to earn a lot more points by using a travel credit card for a $500 airplane ticket than a credit card for streaming rewards on a $7 monthly expense, Sokunbi says.
But know that travel credit card rewards can always increase or decrease in value. “Just because you earn points now doesn’t mean you will be able to redeem them for the same value a year from now,” Allec says.
Should Your Cards Change With Spending Habits?
If you are feeling financial pain during the coronavirus pandemic, you might be better off relying on a low-interest card rather than rewards points. In that case, look for credit cards with 0% interest offers, which can give you time to pay off purchases with no interest.
In the big picture, less business and leisure travel could mean greater emphasis on rewards for everyday credit card purchases. Rewards for utilities and internet services, for instance, could become more prominent offerings for credit card issuers.
“I’d love to see it,” Allec says. “Credit card companies have everyone’s spending data. They will do the math and come out with cards to market to people who spend more time at home. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a card that’s perfect for the telecommuter.”