If you're fortunate enough to live in an area that offers choices when it comes to wholesale-club shopping, you may have considered applying for one of the following:
Both offer rewards that on certain levels can compete with some of the best cash-back credit cards on the market, especially when it comes to gas and dining — but both cards also have their drawbacks. For one thing, while neither product carries an annual fee, you'll have to be a wholesale club member to qualify for either one, and there is a yearly membership fee for that.
That fee can be worth it, though, depending on your spending habits. Let's take a look at the cards side by side.
How they compare at a glance
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Sam's Club® Mastercard®
Bonuses tend to change frequently, but as of Feb. 2021: Get $30 as a statement credit when you open a new account and make $30 in Sam's Club purchases within 30 days.
Membership plan costs
Rewards on warehouse club purchases
Rewards on gas purchases
4% cash back on gas purchases (both at Costco and other eligible gas stations) on up to $7,000 in spending a year, then 1% back.
5% cash back at eligible gas stations worldwide, including gas stations at Sam’s Club (on up to $6,000 spent per year, then 1%).
Rewards on dining
Rewards on travel
None. (As of Jan. 2021, Sam's Club no longer offers elevated rewards on travel. All travel purchases earn 1% back.)
Rewards on all other spending
Receive a certificate for the previous year's rewards mailed in February, redeemable at any Costco store for cash or merchandise.
Rewards will be issued in February (for the previous year's spending) and will be automatically loaded onto your Sam's Club membership at that time. Rewards are redeemable for cash, a statement credit toward your balance or merchandise at Sam's Club (in store or online).
No caps on most rewards earned. Gas rewards are an exception at $7,000 in spending per year.
Rewards overall are capped at $5,000 per year.
Nerd tip: With either card, rewards are issued only once a year, in February.
Strengths of the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Rewards are straightforward and uncomplicated
While both cards put a cap on gas rewards, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi has far fewer of those kinds of rules and limits to keep track of:
1. annual rewards are unlimited
The Costco card imposes no limit on the total amount of rewards you can earn in a year. But for the Sam's Club® Mastercard®, it's $5,000.
2. Store rewards are decent for All members and easy to understand
The Costco card earns a flat 2% at Costco and Costco.com — not outstanding for a store card, but not terrible. And if you're an "Executive" member, you can double that rate to 4%.
With the Sam's Club® Mastercard®, you could earn as much as 5% back on Sam's Club shopping, which is excellent — or as little as 1% back, which is quite poor. And within that rewards range, there are all kinds of rules to keep in mind, especially for higher-tier "Plus" members:
The card's 3% rate applies to eligible in-store and online Sam's purchases, but the additional 2% back via your membership is for in-store shopping only.
The 3% back from the card is unlimited (up to the annual $5,000 rewards cap), but the 2% back from your membership tier is subject to a separate cap of $500 in rewards a year.
The 2% back from your membership tier is also subject to a $2,000 overall "maximum balance" at any given time — meaning that once you hit that threshold, you stop accruing cash back until you "reduce" that balance by redeeming rewards.
Travel is a bonus category
With the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, you can earn 3% cash back on your next vacation. You can also combine that rate with value on Costco vacation packages.
The Sam's Club® Mastercard® eliminated travel as a bonus category in January 2021. You'll earn only a 1% base rate on travel purchases now.
Nerd tip: Reward rates aside, both cards travel well. Neither charges a foreign transaction fee, and both run on payment networks that are widely accepted all over the globe (Visa for the Costco card, Mastercard for the Sam's Club card).
Strengths of the Sam's Club® Mastercard®
Potentially superior rewards for some members
For Sam's Club members at the Plus level, the Sam's Club® Mastercard® is probably an unbeatable deal. At that tier, the card earns up to 5% back on eligible Sam's Club shopping — a stellar rate and in line with what some of the best store cards on the market offer.
With the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, the normal rate on Costco shopping is just 2% back, and at best 4% back.
It's also worth noting that, as of February 2021, the Sam's Club® Mastercard® was offering a sign-up bonus, while the Costco card was not.
Higher rewards on gas purchases
The Sam's Club® Mastercard® out-earns the Costco card on gas.
Yes, the Costco card gives you a higher potential rewards cap in that category. But in reality, unless you're a long-haul trucker or business owner with a fleet of vehicles, you're unlikely to come anywhere close to either card's cap. The average U.S. household spends roughly $2,000 per year on gas.
So if, like most, the cap is irrelevant for you, then the card with the higher rate can be more valuable. And that's the Sam's Club card.
Less costly membership options, potentially less stringent credit requirements
You can join Sam's Club for $45 and still enjoy good benefits with the Sam's Club® Mastercard®, including its excellent rewards on gas.
To join Costco and take advantage of what its co-branded credit card offers, you'll owe a minimum of $60. And its higher-tier membership level is also more expensive than the premium Sam's Club counterpart. And while you'll need excellent credit (FICO scores of at least 720) to qualify for the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, you may be able to qualify for the Sam's Club® Mastercard® with only good credit (FICO scores of at least 690).