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Which credit cards have gotten better during COVID-19?

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked

Our pick for a card that's gotten stronger: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited® logo

Up to 5%

Cash back

  • Huge potential signup bonus for a no-annual-fee card
  • 5% at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in first year
  • Up to 5% cashback and an impressive 1.5% base cashback rate
Apply now
During the coronavirus pandemic, many cards have removed balance transfer offers, limited use of travel perks and sliced down credit limits. But some credit cards have actually gotten better and with stronger benefits.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® / Chase Freedom Flex℠

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ cards have always focused on a variety of categories. The first was designed for flat rewards on all purchases, while the second for accelerated rewards on rotating categories each quarter.

But as soon as the pandemic hit and consumer behavior changed, Chase rushed to make several upgrades to the Freedom cards:

  • DoorDash benefits. Chase partnered with DoorDash to make food delivery a slightly cheaper experience during the lockdown. With either of the two Freedom cards, you get three months of complimentary DashPass service — which provides unlimited deliveries for a $0 delivery fee on eligible orders of $12 or more. You can save around $29.9 for three months with this benefit.
  • Lyft rewards. Commuting on public transportation has dropped significantly during 2020. As a response, Chase partnered with Lyft to offer 5% cash back on Lyft rides until March 2022.
  • Rewards on groceries. With fewer people dining in restaurants, grocery shopping is on the rise. Chase responded with a new rewards category — 5% back on groceries on up to $12,000 in the first year of card membership, and 1% after that with the Chase Freedom Flex℠, or 1.5% with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Reaching the cap can earn you a massive $600 in cash back. Chase experimented with this perk by adding grocery stores into Freedom’s rotating categories from April to June. Now, the perk applies for a whole year.
  • Additional cashback categories. Starting September 15, 2020, Chase added three additional cashback categories to both cards. You now earn 5% back on travel purchase via the Chase Ultimate Rewards, and 3% back at drugstores and restaurants, including takeout and delivery.

Chase Sapphire cards

Chase hasn’t left its flagship travel cards out of new benefits during the pandemic. In fact, Sapphire cards — Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — got the most extensive updates of any other credit card.

Both cards got a boost on Lyft rides and DoorDash benefits, plus you can earn accelerated points on Instacart purchases and more.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve®
DoorDash1 year of DashPass membership with unlimited deliveries for a $0 delivery fee on eligible orders of $12+

Savings of around $120 for 1 year

Activate by December 31, 2021 to use this benefit

1 year of DashPass membership with unlimited deliveries for a $0 delivery fee on eligible orders of $12+

Savings of around $120 for 1 year

Activate by December 31, 2021 to use this benefit

Earn $60 in statement credits through December 2020 and another $60 in statement credits through December 2021

LyftEarn 5x points on Lyft rides until March 2022Earn 10x points on Lyft rides until March 2022

Lyft Pink membership with up to 15% off every car ride, plus priority airport pickups and relaxed cancellations

Activate the Lyft Pink membership with your Sapphire Reserve card by March 31, 2022

$199 value

InstacartEarn 3x points on qualifying Instacart deliveries and pickups on up to $3,000 in purchases from July 1 to September 30, 2020

Earn up to $50 in statement credits toward a yearly or monthly Instacart Express membership, which provides unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders of $35+

Benefit available from July 1 to September 30, 2020

Earn 5x points on qualifying Instacart deliveries and pick-ups on up to $3,000 in purchases from July 1 to September 30, 2020

Earn up to $50 in statement credits toward a yearly or monthly Instacart Express membership, which provides unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders of $35+

Benefit available from July 1 to September 30, 2020

Gas station rewardsEarn 3x total points on gas station purchases on up to $1,500 from July 1 to September 30, 2020Earn 5x total points on gas station purchases on up to $1,500 from July 1 to September 30, 2020
Streaming servicesEarn 5x points on select streaming services like Netflix and Spotify on up to $1,500 from July 1 to September 30, 2020Earn 10x points on select streaming services like Netflix and Spotify on up to $1,500 from July 1 to September 30, 2020
Pay Yourself Back ToolYour points are worth 25% more when redeemed for statement credits against purchases in grocery stores and restaurants — including takeout and eligible delivery services — home improvement stores and select charitable organizations

Promotion through September 30, 2020

Your points are worth 50% more when redeemed for statement credits against purchases in grocery stores and restaurants — including takeout and eligible delivery services — home improvement stores and select charitable organizations

Promotion through September 30, 2020

More ways to earn your annual travel creditNoneFrom June 1 through December 31, 2020, gas station and grocery store purchases also count toward earning your $300 travel credit

The Platinum Card® from American Express®

Unlike other card issuers, American Express’s response to the pandemic has been modest. The biggest change we noticed is with the Amex Platinum Card.

You’ll find one additional benefit: Earn up to $40 per month in statement credits when you use your Amex Platinum Card to pay for select streaming subscriptions and wireless phone services until December 31, 2020. The statement credit is divided into two parts:

  • Up to $20 per month on select US streaming subscriptions
  • Up to $20 per month on wireless phone service charges made directly with a US wireless cell phone service provider

Total savings with this benefit is $120 over three months.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One partnered with Uber in response to the pandemic. Now you can earn 5% cash back or 5x miles on Uber Eats with eligible credit cards. This offer ends on January 31, 2021.

Eligible Capital One credit cards are:

Hilton credit cards

All three personal Hilton credit cards — the Hilton Honors American Express Card, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors™ Aspire Cardgot an update during the pandemic.

The most rewarding change was allowing you to earn 12x points at US supermarkets during July. Additional updates are to the free weekend night rewards and how bonus points you earn count toward earning elite status:

  • Use the free weekend night rewards issued until December 31, 2020, any night of the week, not only during weekends.
  • New free weekend night rewards issued through December 31, 2020, are valid for 24 months from the date of issue. (They lasted only 12 months before the update.)
  • All bonus points you earn from eligible purchases that post to your Hilton Honors account between May 1 and December 31, 2020, are considered base points. Base points count toward elite tier qualification in the calendar year 2020 and Lifetime Diamond Status. There is no limit to the number of bonus points counted as base points during the promotional period.
  • With the Hilton Honors™ Aspire Card, purchases made at US restaurants between June 1 and August 31, 2020, qualify toward the statement credits you receive as part of the $250 Hilton resort statement credit benefit.

What should I look for when choosing a credit card during the coronavirus pandemic?

Everyone’s needs are different. Before choosing a card, look for perks you will actually use:

  • Rewards categories. Most credit card updates revolve around reward categories. With a Chase credit card, you earn additional rewards on groceries, food delivery, gas, ridesharing and streaming services. With a Capital One card, you earn more rewards with Uber Eats.
  • Intro APR period. Most of the the most recent reward updates came at the cost of a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers. To consolidate your debt with a balance transfer credit card, you’ll need to look for other cards.
  • Length of new benefits. Some of these benefits last until September or December 2020. The longer you wait to apply, the less time you have to use the benefits. Select cards extend these new perks well into 2021, and some even into 2022. Check the time you have to use these benefits before you apply.

Compare credit cards that improved during COVID-19

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in the first year
5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% on Lyft, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases
$0
This solid 1.5% cashback card gets even better with the addition of up to 5% back in categories like travel, drug stores and dining.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
With a massive welcome offer for a no-annual-fee card and up to 7x points at Hilton, this is a solid pick for Hilton fans and occasional travelers. Rates & fees
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
125,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
12x points on Hilton Portfolio spending, 6x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$95
With a big welcome offer worth up to $750, up to 12x points on spending, and free Gold status, this is an upgrade from the entry Hilton card. Rates & fees
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Should I get a credit card during the coronavirus pandemic?

This largely depends on your current financial situation. If you have a steady income and no issue paying off your balance on time, you can choose from some of the most rewarding credit card options available. But those who struggle to pay off debt may find a 0% balance transfer card with limited or no rewards the stronger option.

Another aspect to consider is your utilization ratio. With card issuers slashing credit limits, your utilization ratio could climb to 30% or more. This can be dangerous territory, where too much debt is likely to knock a few numbers off your credit score. Adding a new credit card to the mix with its own credit limit can give you some breathing room.

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