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With peak flu season around the corner and the ongoing effects of COVID-19, a rewards credit card that covers pharmacy and drugstore purchases can be a valuable way to save money on prescriptions and over-the-counter medicine.
In fact, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data shows that Americans spend much more out of pocket on pharmaceuticals per person than those in other countries do on average: $1,229 per year. A card that earns 3 percent cash back on pharmacy purchases therefore would put another $37 back in your pocket.
A good drugstore rewards card might not land you a fortune, but these rewards could cover the copay for one or more doctor visits when you need them. But with the right credit card, you could earn even more rewards.
How to pick the best drugstore credit card
The best credit card for drugstores depends on a few factors, including your medical needs, how often you typically shop at pharmacies and where you do most of your shopping.
If your prescriptions are on the expensive side or you fill them at retailers that don’t typically earn rewards (like Walmart and other superstores), a flat-rate rewards card or a card with an unlimited pharmacy rewards category might be your best option.
A retail credit card might also be worth considering in that case, but just remember that store cards aren’t always worth it on account of their typically narrow uses and high rates and fees.
Bonus category credit cards can provide higher reward rates while retaining year-round flexibility, but rotating category cards may net the most rewards if your drugstore spending is seasonal.
Although flat-rate or consistent bonus category cards might help if you have prescriptions for a chronic condition or other ongoing pharmacy costs, a rewards card might not be your best option. A zero-interest card or a credit card designed for medical expenses might be a better fit if you’re concerned about covering your health costs over rewards.
Best pharmacy and drugstore credit cards
Best for U.S. supermarket pharmacies: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Besides being one of the best grocery credit cards, the Blue Cash Preferred is also one of the best cash back cards for prescriptions filled at supermarkets. You’ll earn an amazing 6 percent cash back on purchases at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year (then 1 percent back) for a small $95 annual fee.
If you expect your pharmacy expenses will shoot past this spending cap, the American Express® Gold Card offers an outstanding 4X Membership Rewards points on up to $25,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases per year for a heftier $250 annual fee.
Best for flat-rate cash back: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card’s standard 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases is helpful for online prescription services and health expenses that fall outside standard bonus categories, but the card also goes above and beyond with its extra bonus categories. You’ll rake in unlimited 3 percent cash back at drugstores and more, plus an intro 5 percent on grocery store purchases (on up to $12,000 spent in the first year)—helpful if you use pharmacy counters there too.
It’s also hard to ignore the excellent perks you don’t normally find on a no annual fee card and the potential pairing benefits with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards.
Best for rotating category cash back: Discover it® Cash Back
Drugstore shoppers that prefer rotating cash back won’t have to sacrifice pharmacy rewards with the Discover it Cash Back, since Discover rotating categories essentially cover prescriptions in each quarter until 2022.
Outside the January to March 2021 grocery store, Walgreens and CVS categories, you can also earn 5 percent cash back (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1 percent) by:
- Filling prescriptions at a wholesale club (like Costco) from April to June 2021
- Using PayPal to fill your prescriptions online for delivery or pickup from July to September 2021
- Filling prescriptions online with Amazon.com, Walmart.com or Target.com through October to December 2021
Best for choice category cash back: Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
If you need a bit more consistency and versatility than rotating categories allow, but you want specialized rewards, then the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card is a flexible alternative.
You can choose “drugstores” as one of six 3 percent cash back categories that you can swap every month. The ongoing 2 percent cash back category can then step in to reward prescriptions filled at grocery stores and wholesale clubs during months that you need a different 3 percent category.
Unfortunately, the 3 and 2 percent categories share a $2,500 quarterly spending limit before dropping to 1 percent cash back. This can be offset a bit if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member though, since you can earn an extra 25 percent to 75 percent cash back on all purchases.
Best for Amazon Pharmacy and Whole Foods prescriptions: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
Avid Amazon shoppers can use the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card to earn unlimited 5 percent rewards (equal to 5 percent cash back) on Amazon and Whole Foods Market purchases. Once you consider that Amazon Pharmacy delivers prescriptions, unlimited 5 percent back is a stellar deal for no annual fee (Amazon Prime membership required to apply).
Comparing the best pharmacy and drugstore cards
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
|U.S. supermarket pharmacies
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
|Flat-rate cash back
|Discover it® Cash Back
|Rotating category cash back
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
|Choice category cash back
|Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
|Amazon Pharmacy and Whole Foods prescriptions
|$0 (Amazon Prime subscription required)
How to maximize your drugstore rewards
Earning cash back on pharmacy purchases is often as simple as using a grocery rewards card at a supermarket’s prescription counter, but there are a few other tricks to make the most of your drugstore rewards.
- Take advantage of drugstores’ loyalty programs. You can use the CVS ExtraCare and myWalgreens programs to stack extra discounts on top of your credit card.
- Centralize your spending. Shopping at drugstores tends to be pricier than convenience stores or supermarkets, but the rewards from shifting your small purchases to drugstores can add up over time. Tip: Taking advantage of the Citi Rewards+℠ Card’s point roundup feature on these small items and pooling rewards with the Citi Premier® Card is an easy way to squeeze out more points per dollar.
- Pair your cards. Like the Citi Rewards+ combo, you can stretch your rewards a bit further by combining your cards’ features. For example, you can funnel the rewards earned on grocery store pharmacy purchases through the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card’s Pay Yourself Back 1.5 percent boosted redemption feature (until April 30, 2021) for essentially 5.5 percent cash back toward grocery store purchases. You could use the Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit to cover future pharmacy purchases at grocery stores until Jun. 30, 2021.