How the $6,500 Spending Requirement Works on the Amex Blue Cash Credit Card


Recently, I wrote about how the old Blue Cash card from American Express can be a big winner, and that it’s still available, though no longer advertised.

The huge caveat associated with the card is that you need to spend $6,500 before the 5% cash back categories actually get triggered.

The first $6,500 in spending from your cardmember anniversary only amounts to between 0.5% and 1% cash back, despite what American Express reps might tell you. When I phoned Amex, I was told calendar year, but a higher-up later corrected that person.

At First I Earned Between 0.5% and 1% Cash Back…


To illustrate that, take a look at the screenshot above of my Amex Blue statement.

This the first billing cycle after my cardmember anniversary, which lands in mid-August.

As you can see, I only earned 1% cash back on gas, groceries, and at drugstores. For all other eligible purchases, I earned a measly 0.5%. That’s right, less than 1% cash back.

But I spent nearly $4,500 in that first month, only $2,000 shy of the spending target to unlock the 5% cash back categories, and increase other eligible purchases to 1% cash back.


During my second billing cycle, I spent another $2,020, which put me a mere $10 or so away from the precious $6,500 target. Again, I only earned between 0.5% and 1% cash back that month.

The 5% Cash Back Categories Are Finally Unlocked!


In my third billing cycle since my cardmember anniversary, I was able to unlock those powerful 5% cash back categories, which are good for the rest of my anniversary year.

So for another 8-9 months, I’ll earn 5% cash back on gas, groceries, and at drugstores with no limit!  And I’ll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases made with the card throughout the year.

Notice in the image above that there was a mix of pre-5% spending and post-5% spending. That’s because I was just shy of the $6,500 spending requirement, but once I hit that level, it was activated immediately.

So that $10 I needed to spend to hit $6,500 earned me 0.5% cash back, and then everything after it was either 1% cash back or 5% cash back, depending on the category.

Here in billing cycle number four, it was evident that I began earning the full 5% cash back in all the rewards categories, and 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.


I continued to earn 1% or 5% cash back each billing cycle after that, and will until my closing statement in mid-August. Then the whole process will start over again and I’ll need to spend another $6,500 to activate the cash back categories once more.

Is It Worth the Trouble?

It might seem like a pain, but for those who spend a lot on their credit cards, getting to $6,500 shouldn’t take long. And if you take note of your cardmember anniversary, you’ll know when to start spending to meet that magic $6,500 number.

For the record, you’ll need to call American Express to get your cardmember anniversary date. I don’t believe it’s listed on the website anywhere.

Once you know that date, you’ll need to treat the $6,500 requirement like a new credit card sign-up bonus. Here are some methods that could make meeting that threshold easier.

If you don’t swipe that much, perhaps the rotating 5% cash back categories offered by Discover it and Chase Freedom are a better value.

Or the Blue Cash Preferred Card, which doesn’t require $6,500 in spending, but does have an annual fee.  However, it offers 6% cash back on groceries, though there are pretty low annual limits on how much you can earn.

(photo: ume-y)

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.


  1. Be careful with your anniversary year start date on this card…it will throw you off because the rewards history is like two months delayed on every billing statement. You won’t want to spend unnecessarily while earning sub-1% cash back.

  2. Does the purchase of American Express gift cards count towards the $6,500 spending requirement? Thanks.

  3. Dara,

    I’ve heard that Amex gift cards do count toward the $6,500 you need to spend to unlock the bonus categories, but YMMV.

  4. Colin, could you clarify, please. Does card-member anniversary means I’m going to get 5% only on my second year after I spend $6,500? I don’t get 5% cash back no matter how much I spend in my first year?

  5. Tony,

    You get the 5% once you spend $6,500 during each year including the first year, based on your anniversary date, which is the day you were originally approved for the card…so if you opened the card in May, once you hit $6,500 in spending the bonus categories rise to 5% cash back. They remain at 5% until the following May in our example, at which point you would need to spend the $6,500 all over again to unlock them for the following year. So yes, you can get 5% back in your first year and in subsequent years when you spend $6,500, as per your anniversary date. You should know this key date (unique to you) so you know when the 5% categories reset and when $6,500 in spending will be required once more to unlock the 5%.

    Every year I have to spend $6,500 again to unlock the 5% categories and I know the date when it resets so I can ramp up spending at that time to get the 5% categories activated ASAP.

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