Walmart Rewards Mastercard vs. Sam’s Club Mastercard: How They Differ

Both boast 5% bonus categories and elevated rewards on brand purchases. It all comes down to your spending habits.

Funto OmojolaFebruary 1, 2021
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Walmart and Sam's Club are two of the largest retailers in the U.S. and are both under the Walmart Inc. family. Whether you’re in it for the free samples or for the endless aisles of options, if you're a devoted Walmart or Sam’s Club shopper, you may be eyeing the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® or the Synchrony-issued Sam's Club® Mastercard® for the potential savings either could offer.

Both $0-annual-fee cards feature 5% cash-back categories, not to mention solid rates on other kinds of spending, meaning they can be lucrative — and also high-maintenance.

But the two co-branded cards differ significantly in terms of spending flexibility, spending caps and rewards redemption, among other distinctive features. In the end, it all depends on your typical spending habits and what kind of shopper you are.

Here’s what each card offers.

How they compare, at a glance

Annual fee

$0

$0, but a Sam's Club membership is required ($45 a year for a Club membership; $100 a year for a Plus membership).

Sign-up bonus

Earn 5% back on purchases in Walmart stores when you use this card in Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval. Walmart Pay is Walmart’s digital wallet, which you can use at checkout via your phone.

The card often offers a statement credit, in varying amounts, when you open an account and meet a spending requirement with Sam's Club within a certain number of days.

Cash-back rewards

Rewards on brand purchases:

  • 5% back on purchases made on Walmart.com or through the Walmart app. This includes items and groceries bought online for in-store pickup or delivery. (Gift cards earn 2% back regardless of where they are purchased.)

  • 2% back on in-store purchases, including those made at Murphy USA and Walmart gas stations.

Rewards on non-brand spending:

  • 2% back at restaurants and on travel.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

Rewards on warehouse club purchases:

  • Sam's Club Plus members only: Up to 5% back on eligible purchases (3% cash back with the card; 2% back with the membership, up to $500 in rewards annually).

  • 1% back for baseline Club members.

Rewards on non-warehouse-club spending:

  • 5% back at eligible gas stations worldwide, including stations at Sam’s Club, on up to $6,000 spent per year.

  • 3% back on dining.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

APR

The ongoing APR is 17.99% - 26.99% Variable APR.

The ongoing APR is 14.90% - 22.90%, Variable.

Foreign transaction fee

None.

None.

Nerd tip: The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® and the Synchrony Bank-issued Sam's Club® Mastercard® are "open-loop" cards, meaning they can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted. (Walmart and Sam's Club also offer "closed-loop" store cards, which can be used only within their respective brands.)

Strengths of the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®

No membership requirements

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® has an annual fee of $0, and you don't have to join a club with an annual membership fee to get it either.

Conversely, although the Sam's Club® Mastercard® also doesn't charge an annual fee, it does require cardholders to have a Sam’s Club membership. A baseline "Club" membership costs $45 annually; a higher-tier "Plus" membership costs $100 a year.

  • If you have only the basic Club membership, the Sam's Club® Mastercard® earns only 1% back on your spending with the wholesale club.

  • If you have the Plus membership, you can earn up to 5% back on eligible Sam's Club shopping.

Paying to be a Sam’s Club member might make sense if it’s your warehouse club of choice and if the card’s rewards match up with your spending (more on this below). Plus, the card frequently offers a sign-up bonus, in the form of a statement credit, that may help cover the cost of a membership fee for the first year.

But the Walmart credit card has no such membership hurdle at all.

Super-rewarding for online shoppers

If Walmart is your go-to store and you can do most of your shopping online, then the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® is probably unbeatable. You'll get an unlimited 5% back on purchases at Walmart.com and on items you buy through the Walmart app. That's a stellar rate.

And even if you mostly shop inside brick-and-mortar Walmart stores, you'll still earn 2% back on every purchase there. Your incentives to shop within the Walmart brand are solid.

The same isn't necessarily true for the Sam's Club® Mastercard®. Yes, you'll earn 5% back at Sam's Club-branded gas stations. But beyond that, whether you shop inside a physical Sam's Club or at samsclub.com, you're going to get only 1% back on your shopping unless you're a Sam’s Club Plus member. And you'll have to shell out $100 to become one.

For those with only a baseline "Club" membership, it's a pretty paltry return on store shopping for a co-branded card.

No caps on rewards

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® earns unlimited cash back in its 5%, 2% and 1% categories. You don't have to worry about bumping up against a cap on rewards.

On the other hand, your total combined rewards on the Sam's Club® Mastercard® are capped at $5,000 per year. And the card’s 5% gas category is also capped: You can earn that high rate on up to $6,000 in gas purchases each year, but once you hit that limit, you’ll drop down to earning 1% back on gas purchases for the rest of the year.

This may be a moot point for many, as $6,000 is still well above what the average American spends on gas per year. And even if you were to max that out, you'd still earn $300 in rewards each year on gas alone, not including the card's other bonus categories and the 1% you'd earn on gas after hitting the cap. That's a good chunk of change.

But a cap is a cap, and the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® doesn't have any.

Nerd tip: Dig into the terms for the Sam's Club® Mastercard® and you'll find even more caveats and caps, including limits on rewards you earn via the Plus membership tier. For more details, see our review of the card.

Redemption flexibility

With the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®, you can redeem your points for cash back in any amount and at any time (at a rate of a penny per point). Points can be redeemed for statement credit, credit toward online purchases, gift cards or for travel through Capital One's travel portal.

By comparison, rewards redemption is more restrictive for the Sam's Club® Mastercard®. For starters, your rewards will be issued only once a year — in February, for the previous year's spending — and will be automatically loaded onto your Sam's Club membership at that time.

Those rewards are redeemable for cash back, a statement credit toward your balance or Sam's Club merchandise.

Bonus rewards on travel

The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® wins out on travel, with a 2% cash back rate in the category.

Regardless of your membership tier, you'll earn only 1% back on travel purchases with the Sam's Club® Mastercard®. The card eliminated travel as a bonus category in January 2021.

Strengths of the Sam's Club® Mastercard®

Synchrony Bank Sams Club Mastercard Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Potentially high rewards for certain members

The Sam's Club® Mastercard® can be very valuable for Sam's Club Plus members. At that membership tier, shoppers can earn 5% cash back for shopping at Sam's Club — 3% back with the card and 2% back on eligible in-club purchases (up to $500 in rewards annually).

This provides a valuable incentive to shop within the Sam’s Club brand and is significantly better than the 2% back you’d get for in-person shopping at Walmart.

Keep in mind that if you’re a baseline Sam’s Club member, you’ll earn only the base 1% rate on Sam’s Club shopping.

Exceptional rewards on gas

The Sam's Club® Mastercard® is an excellent credit card for gas guzzlers. Its 5% rate in that category is on par with, if not better than, what's offered by the best gas credit cards on the market.

As noted, there's a cap on those rewards, but the average American household won't come anywhere close to hitting it.

With the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®, the best you'll be able to do on gas purchases is 2% back for eligible brands.

Pretty darn good for dining, too

The 3% back on dining that the Sam's Club® Mastercard® offers is also among the very best rates in that category, at least among credit cards with no annual fee.

And indeed it's better than the 2% back you'd earn at restaurants with the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®.

Does it make sense to have both?

Probably not for most people. For starters, both cards already have complicated rewards tiers of their own; keeping track of both of them may make it even more complex.

Secondly, having both cards would be worthwhile only if you're both an avid Walmart shopper and are already a Sam's Club Plus member.

But it's more likely that you're either a big-box shopper or a wholesale club shopper. If you're the former, the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® is the superior pick. And if you're the latter ... well, the answer isn't as clear-cut.

That's because the rewards you’d earn with the Sam's Club® Mastercard® hinge on your membership tier. If you have the baseline membership, it may not be worth getting the card just because you shop a lot at Sam's Club. In fact, you'd earn the same rewards rate there with either card — 1% back — so it's a wash.

The Sam's Club card makes sense only if you're an existing “Plus” member or if a major portion of your budget is devoted to gas and dining out.

If you’re not tied to either Walmart or Sam’s Club and just want a straightforward card that can reward you well no matter where you shop, consider a general flat-rate rewards card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. It earns 2% cash back on everything, no matter where you shop or what you purchase there: 1% back when you buy, 1% back when you pay it off.

Information related to the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.

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