Living with credit, Rewards, Shopping

How to cut meal kit costs with your rewards cards

Jeff Herman

Meal kits that you may be used to be getting delivered to your door are in some cases available now at your local grocery store or warehouse club store.

Plated meal kits are now in some Albertsons stores and are expected to roll out nationally be year-end, and Costco has Blue Apron meal kits in some of its stores as part of a pilot program. At Walmart.com, you can purchase “no subscription meal kits” from Sun Basket, Takeout Kit and others.

In late May, Kroger announced plans to buy Home Chef, with the meal kits rolling out in stores and at Kroger.com once the purchase is completed. On Wednesday, Hello Fresh meal kits will begin being sold in nearly 600 Giant Food and Stop & Shop stores, The Wall Street Journal reported.

This shift from kitchen-to-door to kitchen-to-store means more savings for rewards card shoppers.


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Bonus rewards on meal kits bought in stores

If your rewards card has bonus cash back for supermarket purchases, you are getting a little back on your meal kits (and everything else in your cart) at Albertsons and other U.S. supermarkets.

Cash back cards with bonus rewards at U.S. supermarkets include:

American Express Blue Cash Preferred– 6 percent cash back with the American Express Blue Cash Preferred® card. (That 6 percent cash back is on $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1 percent).

 

Chase Freedom– 5 percent if you pay for your groceries with a Chase Freedom card (through June 30, 2018, groceries are a 5 percent bonus category for this quarter).

 

American Express Blue Cash Everyday– 3 percent cash back when you dip your American Express Blue Cash Everyday® card at the register.

Back in December, just a few months after Albertsons bought Plated, I asked Plated if meals purchased in stores would qualify for bonus cash back.

Plated meal kits at Randall's in Austin, Texas.

Plated meal kits at a Randall’s.

“If you are making any meal purchases in-store, you will then qualify for that 3 percent (or another percentage) off, but the weekly subscription will still be coded as ‘other’ and is therefore subject to the 1 percent off,” a Plated customer experience agent Dillon Smith said in an email.

What Smith described are how merchant category codes work. Supermarkets have one code, gas stations another, and so on. MCCs are how card issuers know which purchases earn bonus rewards.

Back in December, he noted, “We are slowly rolling out Plated meals into retail-grocer locations, right now they are just in California, but stay tuned!” he added. “We should be working our way east in the coming months!”

Now the Plated meal kits are available in my Albertsons-owned store (called Randall’s here in Austin, Texas).

Gift cards at Costco cut Blue Apron costs

If Blue Apron meal kits aren’t in your neighborhood Costco yet, you can still save with Blue Apron gift cards purchased at the warehouse club.

Jason Huie, an IT colleague here at CreditCards.com, buys Blue Apron gift cards at Costco and saves on average 20 percent off his and his wife’s meal kit costs. Recently, he spotted a bigger 30 percent off sale at Costco on the Blue Apron gift cards, so he bought $500 of them.

A Costco spokeswoman declined to comment on the Blue Apron pilot program or how Costco members can save with the Blue Apron gift cards available in store.

Costco Anywhere Visa by CitiBonus savings: If you pay with your Costco Anywhere Visa card by Citi, you earn 2 percent cash back on top of your savings on Blue Apron gift cards purchased at Costco. (Note: You can pay with any Visa card at Costco, but you might not be able to top the Citi card’s 2 percent cash back.)

How to save on meal kits at Walmart

Walmart MastercardWith the Walmart Mastercard, you earn 3 percent cash back on your Walmart and Walmart.com purchases. Order your Sun Basket or other meal kits online and you can pick them up at the store (instead of at your door).

With the Chase Freedom and other 5 percent bonus category credit cards, you often can earn 5 percent on Walmart purchases during four months of the year.

Do the math

Would discounts you can find online for meal kit services top what you can save with your rewards cards? That’s where you will have to do the math for yourself, plugging in your family’s spending.

Sun Basket, for instance, is offering $60 off your first three orders. By comparison, three orders of the Sun Basket family meals will cost nearly $240, and 6 percent cash back on that is $14.40.

Something else to consider: Meal kit contents may be different via the subscription service and in stores. That definitely appears to be the case with reformulated Blue Apron meals, which cost 30 percent less in stores in the pilot program, according to Business Insider.

Once you’re signed up and paying regular prices, paying with a rewards card online at meal kit websites will earn you cash back or points for travel. Paying in stores for your meal kits with a card that earns bonus rewards at U.S. supermarkets will earn you more.

Whether you use your rewards cards to pay for meal kits online or in-store – or buy discounted Blue Apron gift cards at Costco to order your meals online – you save.

See related: Rewards cards + Whole Foods’ new loyalty program = more savingsCredit cards, rewards programs add up to savings at the grocery store, 4 unexpected ways to earn rewards from grocery shopping

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