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Jason & friends – our favorite credit cards for Dining, Groceries, & More

This latest entry is part of the recent blog entries I wrote:

4 simple strategies in earning miles and points for travel

Top 11 questions I get asked about earning points with credit cards

I asked my friends to share their favorite cards. Some of them are aligned with my favorites, while others have favorite cards I don’t even have. When you meet my friends, you’d be amazed at the # of credit cards they hold. We don’t carry them all, and we have quite a few favorites.

Hilton Waikoloa Village – Big Island Hawaii

I asked one of my trusted travel buddies, Jeff Hancock. He and I go way back. Way before I even started to earn miles and points, Jeff and I were already friends – both of our families love to travel to Hawaii…and what we love most? Traveling to Hawaii using points, and flying for nearly free to Hawaii. I asked him about his favorite card. He said:

Well, as you know there is no one perfect card. I use different cards for different categories.

He is absolutely correct. For me, there is no one size fits all. You gotta know what you want to achieve, and know how to use those cards to your advantage. I will share with you Jeff’s favorite card much later.

What’s in my wallet

I very rarely carry cash. I’d be lucky to have a $10 bill or a $20 bill in my wallet. You will never see me carry a checkbook either. But credit cards in my wallet? Yes, I have a few. They all serve a different purpose to help me maximize my points-earning potential.

Image courtesy of Hi & Lois

This comic strip is soooo me. I shuffle through my cards making sure I use the right one as each credit card has a purpose.

There are hundreds of credit cards out there. I can’t speak to all of them. But I can share with you which cards we use in our family that’s given us value with earning points.


This has got to be one of the most common way we use our credit card in the family. Whether it’s a small fast food joint or a fancy restaurant, there are two credit cards we use.

Happy Hour at The Cheesecake Factory

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred as I have mentioned many times is a perfect starter card. For dining, it gives you 2 points per every dollar that you spend. My kids actually carry this card since there is no fee in adding them as authorized users.

Image courtesy of Chase

Here’s an example where the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP)was used for dining at Little Caesar’s Pizza. The amount spent was $10.73, and instead of just earning 10 points, the amount of points earned were doubled.

Image courtesy of Chase

Remember, for this card, with its current 60,000 bonus points, those points alone have gotten us two tickets to Hawaii, have gotten us to many countries and cities in Europe and Asia, just as an example. The card comes with a $95 annual fee but the sign up bonus alone can be worth as much as $1,000 or more in travel. In order to earn the 60,000 bonus points, you have meet the required spend of $4,000 in the first three months. Click here for more info or to sign up – Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The other card that is a permanent resident in my wallet is the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR). One of the striking difference is points earning when dining – you get 3 points per dollar with the CSR vs. 2 points per dollar when you use the CSP. Jumping from 2 points to 3 points may not seem much, but the idea here is that it all adds up in the grand scheme of things. This is also a favorite for my friend, Terrance Yu. Why? He said, “Chase Ultimate Rewards is still the most versatile and easiest to earn.” And I believe that to be true. In 2018, I used nearly two million points in flights and hotel stays, and a big chunk of those points were Chase Ultimate Rewards.

3 points per dollar goes a long way. Image courtesy of Chase

Here’s an example (see above). We went to a Thai Restaurant and paid $125.41 for our meal. I used my CSR and was awarded 3x per dollar = 376.23 points.

I don’t have an active referral link right now for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could easily apply online with Chase, and earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here’s a write up that I wrote on both Sapphire cards.

Image courtesy of Chase

American Express Gold Card

One of my travel buddies, Chris Jensen, is a big fan of the American Express Gold Card. I value his strategy and here’s what Chris had to say:

The American Express Gold Card is my favorite card for every day earning. Many credit cards offer one point for every dollar spent. The Gold Card offers four points for every dollar spent on groceries and restaurants. No other credit card offers that much earning except the Citi Prestige (for restaurants only). If you only want one card for both purposes, the American Express Gold Card is the obvious choice. The Gold Card also offers three points for tickets booked directly from airlines.

Amex Gold

Gotta love transferring points to partner airlines

In this hobby we transfer points to different airlines, and American Express offers nineteen different airlines and three hotels to transfer points to. Periodically, American Express offers extra points (a transfer bonus) at different times when transferring points to certain partners. This is the best deal they have, and it can turn the number of points needed for an economy flight into a business class flight. Amex usually has a 30% or 40% transfer bonus when they run these. A person using say, 60K points to fly United in economy to Spain, instead can use 49K Amex points (when the 40% bonus is offered) and get a business class flight on Iberia to Spain. With Virgin Atlantic’s partnership with ANA, you can fly first class to Japan round trip for 120K points. With a 40% bonus that same trip only costs 86K Amex points. Delta charges almost that much to fly one way to the UK in their business class. The incredible value here is obvious.

Access to the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts is also included with the gold card, which acts as your concierge and sometimes can get deals with reduced prices or free nights.

What else do you need to know about the American Express Gold Card? All travel cards have fees. The Gold Card costs $250. For that you get:

  • $100 credit for airline “extras”, luggage fees, seat assignments, food & drink, etc.
  • $120 allowance for certain chain restaurants & delivery services used $10 at a time monthly
  • Receive a $100 credit for that property if you stay two or more days booked through the Amex Hotel Collection

So, you pay between $50 – $150 per year, but the value of a transfer bonus each year wipes that cost out instantly.   

Thank you, Chris. I’m due to get another card, and this one is a top contender. I agree with you on the value of transferring points to travel partners. I have earned 30% – 40% bonus transfer with my American Express Membership Rewards points when we flew to Hawaii, and with our trip to Japan next year. Here’s what I wrote on those  award travel bookings.

How we earned six FREE tickets to Kauai with American Express

How we booked 2 FREE first class tickets to Japan – a $35,000 value, and we only paid $500.


Another major expense in my family (and I’m sure with most families out there) is shopping for groceries. I’m talking about shopping at supermarkets. You have to open your mind and think beyond just shopping for vegetables, meat, etc. There are many things that you could now buy at grocery stores. Here are the cards that we use for groceries

My high school buddy, Johnray, and I ran into each other at Costco.

Chase Freedom

During the course of the year, the Chase Freedom card gets 1 point for every dollar spent with the card. No big deal, right?  But there are certain quarters during the year when shopping at groceries earn you 5% cash back or 5 points per dollar. That adds up when you use this card for groceries during that quarter.

If you have this card, you will need to activate this by going to your Chase Freedom account. Also, the maximum spend to get the 5% cashback is $1,500 per quarter, therefore, if you spend $1,500 during one quarter, when you multiply that by 5 points, that’s equivalent to 7,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

  • 5% bonus Ultimate Rewards or cash back (quarterly bonus categories)
  • The promo has included purchases with gas stations, groceries, restaurant, the typical everyday spend.
  • The best part? No Annual Fee.

To get this card, click here! Chase Freedom

How to earn 5x on non-typical grocery items

Some folks don’t have $1,500 worth of grocery expenses. But let’s think outside the box. So let’s think BEYOND your typical grocery items (milk, bread, meat, produce, etc.). Most grocery stores today sell many things other than groceries. We tend to plan our purchases and buy gift cards at the grocery stores as well. Gift cards? Groceries? Yes. Many grocery stores sell gift cards. Some of these are gift cards that we could use at restaurants (where we’d normally earn 2 to 3 points) but with 5 points quarterly special with Chase, our dining at certain restaurant establishments could earn us up to 5 points. This idea goes far beyond restaurants. In my local grocery store, they sell gift cards to gas stations, clothing stores, home improvement store, online shopping sites – the list is endless. This means, I can earn 5 points per dollar on these gift cards where I might only earn one point per dollar if I used any other card.

Image courtesy of Chase

Looking at the screenshot above, you will see the bonus categories through the 3rd quarter of 2019. My friend, Derrick Chen, makes sure that he and his family maximize the earnings potential on their Chase Freedom. Thankfully, the quarterly offers change and you could easily focus on different types of earnings during the year.

Going back to the American Express Gold Card – you could easily earn 4 pts for every dollar as shared by my friend, Chris Jensen. In fact, another friend of mine who is big on earning points with grocery stores, Lowell Aquino, loves his American Express Gold Card. He reminded me that using it at grocery stores with gasoline rewards program has been a great help for him. So that gives you another opportunity. And the good thing about American Express Gold Card you can use this perk of earning 4 points per dollar all-year long. No wonder, Chris and Lowell love this card!


Way before we started travel hacking, Nancy and I only had two credit cards. One of them is our Discover card. This card also has a rotating calendar which includes grocery stores. The screenshot below shows that in 2019, Discover cardholders had the opportunity to get 5% cashback between January through March 2019. You will also see the other programs with Discover through the year.

Image courtesy of Discover

My buddy, Stephen Sun, has many credit cards, and he reminded me about the value of this card as well. The Discover IT Cash Back credit card also offers Unlimited Dollar for Dollar match at the end of your first year. According to Discover:

No purchase minimums. After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will match all of the cash back rewards you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the following one or two billing periods.

If you apply, you will get a $50 statement  when you make a purchase within the first 3 months. Plus, this card has no Annual Fee. So click here to apply.

American Express Everyday Preferred

Image courtesy of American Express
  • Earn 15,000 American Express Membership Rewards
  • Spend 1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfer for 15 months
  • Best part: NO ANNUAL FEE, and NO ANNUAL fee for additional cards.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.
  • Earn 20% more points when you use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% extra points on those purchases less returns and credits.

This is another one of those cards that I don’t mind carrying in my wallet. No annual fee? And 2 points per dollar spent at groceries with opportunities to earn 20% bonus? American Express Everyday Preferred is not bad.

American Express Hilton Honors Card

I looked at my card inventory and remembered that I have another card that earns a bit of points when it comes U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and gas stations. It’s the American Express Hilton Honors Card.

Image courtesy of American Express

There’s a current offer of:

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • No annual fee
  • Earn 7x when you use the card that is part of the Hilton Portfolio
  • On all your other purchases, you earn 3x per dollar.
  • Click here for more info or to apply for the American Express Hilton Honors Card

I’m not really loyal to any hotels which is probably why this card has taken a back seat. I like using cards that are flexible and versatile in usage. But the fact that it’s got no Annual Fee, I’ve decided to keep the card, and there are certain times when I’m reminded.

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of credit cards out there, and not all of them are designed the exact same way. These are my favorite for Dining and Groceries, and I share these faves with my trusted travel buddies. If you want to apply for any of these cards, I would appreciate it you could click the links I posted.

How about you what’s your favorite?

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.