Editorial Policy

Want rewards for buying that 79-cent candy bar?

Tina Orem

March 12, 2014

Admit it: You've done it. You've used a credit card to buy one teeny pack of gum at the gas station.

And remember that time you used your Visa to pay for a $1.59 soda at the drug store? What about when you didn't have any cash on you, so you bought that $1.79 box of thumbtacks with your MasterCard?

If you're part of this cashless crowd, the new American Express EveryDay card might be worth a look: It actually rewards you for making piddly purchases.

The perks

Here's the angle. This card earns American Express Membership Rewards points, which you can spend on a variety of things. You'll get 1 point for every dollar you spend; that rises to 2 points when you spend at a supermarket.

Here's the kicker: If you use your EveryDay card to make 20 or more purchases of any size in a month (another box of Tic-tacs, anyone?), you get a 20 percent point bonus for the month. In other words, you get rewarded for how often you use the card, not just how much you spend on the card.
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So, let's say you've hit the local grocery store 19 times this month because you keep forgetting to buy lima beans (who can remember those, right?). Over those 19 trips, you've spent $300 — but not on lima beans. At 2 points per dollar, that means you earn 600 points.

Once again, however, you forgot the lima beans, so back to Acme you go. You throw a few other things in the cart and spend $10, for a monthly total of $310, or 620 points. But because you've hit the 20-visit threshold, American Express gives you a 20 percent bonus for a total of 744 points. Not bad.

The EveryDay card has no annual fee and is a true credit card, meaning that you can carry a balance over from the last month. (Charge cards, on the other hand, require you to pay the card off every month, such as the American Express Green Card.) You'll also pay no interest for the first 15 months, but after that the rate is as low as 12.99 percent — decent, but you'll only get that rate if you have outstanding credit. Some folks might pay a steeper 21.99 percent.

Perhaps one of the best parts of this card, though, is its smart-chip technology. It's one of the small but growing number of American cards out there with EMV technology, which makes them a bit more secure than magnetic stripe cards.

The quirks

You may earn rewards for buying something that literally costs a dime a dozen, but there are a few things to be aware of.

First off, don't confuse this card for the similarly named Blue Cash EveryDay and Blue Cash EveryDay Preferred cards, also from American Express.

Second, there's a $6,000 annual limit on that double-points deal at the supermarket. Once you've spent more than that on groceries — or about $500 a month — you'll only get one point per dollar. You'll also have to be careful about where you buy your groceries. Just because you can eat it, doesn't mean it earns double points; you have to make the purchase at a supermarket. “Merchants are assigned codes based on what they primarily sell. A purchase will not earn additional points if the merchant's code is not eligible,” say the terms and conditions.

To boot, according to the terms and conditions, superstores and warehouse clubs don't count — bye bye, Costco and Sam's Club. If you buy groceries through a third-party payment account (such as PayPal) or if you buy groceries from Amazon or any other online marketplace with multiple retailers, you won't get double points. (So long, home delivery of toilet paper.)

Third, you won't earn double points if you pay with a mobile or digital wallet or if the store uses a mobile or wireless card reader. So when you're at the supermarket, make sure you use the terminal that's physically stuck to the checkout.

The takeaway

If you charge your groceries or constantly run around town without any cash, take a look at the EveryDay card. If you have great credit and can qualify for the 12.99 percent interest rate, look at it harder. Be careful, though. Getting bonus points for the number of times you use your card in a month is like getting two free doughnuts after you eat 10 — it may feel like you're getting a deal, but you're just getting fat.