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.
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.