The PNC points® Visa® Credit Card might make you feel like you’re on an “Oprah” giveaway show. With an earnings rate of 4 points for every $1 you spend, it seems as if you could practically just show up with the card and walk away with a points-heavy prize package.
But before you get caught up in a rewards-induced rush to spend that cache, you have to take into account the value of those points — and that’s where the card stumbles.
Here are five things you should know about the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card:
1. It does earn a lot of points …
You can boost that rate even higher if you qualify for one of PNC’s relationship bonuses, which offer an additional 25%, 50% or 75% bonus on base points for those who qualify. This could mean an eye-popping 7 points per dollar spent for those in the highest tier.
If you want to pile up points through everyday spending, the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card will help you achieve that goal. You can redeem for things like cash, travel, gift cards and merchandise.
2. But those point values are mostly meh
For cash back and gift cards, a PNC point is worth 0.2 cents (and potentially less for merchandise). That’s a pitiful valuation when compared with many other rewards cards that earn points valued at a full penny or more each.
Granted, the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card earns more total points per dollar spent than does much of the competition. But it’s helpful to consider the math.
For example, a balance of 50,000 points on the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card can be redeemed for $100 cash. But for cards that value points at a penny a piece, those same 50,000 points would get you $500 in cash.
Put another way: If you’re earning 4 points for every $1 spent with the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card, that means you’d need to spend $12,500 to earn $100 back. But if you spent that same $12,500 on a flat-rate cash-back card that nets you a simple 2% back on every purchase, you’d earn $250 in cash back.
An exception to the card’s 0.2 cent point valuation is redemption for airfare. A PNC spokesperson notes that points are worth the most when redeemed for flights, followed by hotels and then cash.
According to PNC, a Cleveland-to-Chicago round-trip economy flight that’s priced at $212.40 would require 70,800 points. In this scenario, a point is worth 0.3 cents — slightly better, but still far, far less per point than what other cards offer.
To be fair, at an earning rate of 4 points per $1 spent with the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card, you’re getting 1.2 cents’ worth of value out of each $1 spent, if you redeem for flights. Essentially, for airfare, you could snag a ticket by spending less on the card than you would with some competitors. And that’s not taking into account any PNC relationship bonus.
But plenty of other rewards cards can take you farther and with less complexity.
3. It takes a lot of effort to maximize rewards
Speaking of complexity, in many cases the breakdown of how many PNC points you need for a particular item can be a head-scratcher. A $25 Amazon gift card will cost you 11,539 points. And a $100 Amazon gift card will cost you 45,111 points. Since you’re earning points in multiples of 4, cashing in for one of these gift cards guarantees you’ll have a hard time using up all your points.
You’ll also want to do some math and comparison research if you’re considering redeeming points for merchandise. The Nerds found examples in which points were worth as little as 0.1 cents each via the PNC portal when compared with dollar prices for those items on popular retail websites.
You may be better off with a card that doesn’t require you to pull out a calculator to determine what kind of value you’re getting when you redeem for merchandise or travel.
4. There’s no sign-up bonus
Many rewards cards typically offer some type of welcome offer for meeting a minimum spending requirement. But the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card does not, which knocks it down a few pegs when compared with other no-annual-fee rewards cards.
So while you’ll get a lot of ongoing points with the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card, you won’t get anything upfront. Another rewards card may net you more, at least in the first year.
5. If you don’t already have a PNC bank account, there are application restrictions
In order to apply for the PNC points® Visa® Credit Card, you either have to be banking with PNC or you have to live in one of the following states: Alabama, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.