Editorial Review

Sam’s Club Mastercard Review: Great for Gas, but Mind the Gaps

On one hand, the card offers generous rewards on fuel, dining and travel; on the other, you can redeem those rewards only once a year, and you have to do it in the store.

Melissa LambarenaOctober 23, 2018

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

3.5

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: Simply being a Sam's Club member isn't reason enough to get this card, since you won't get any extra rewards for using it at the store. But it's worth considering if you spend a lot in the categories that earn 5% and 3% cash back.

Synchrony Bank Sams Club Mastercard Credit Card

Sam's Club Mastercard

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

17.15% - 25.15% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
N/A

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons
  • Need Sam's Club membership to qualify

  • Rewards redeemable once a year and only at Sam's Club

Alternate Pick: 2% on everything

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Double the rewards you earn at Sam's

A NerdWallet favorite, this card pays an unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase, everywhere — 1% when you buy something, and another 1% when you pay if off. In other words, this card is twice as rewarding at Sam's Club as the Sam's Club Mastercard. Annual fee: $0.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

The Sam's Club Mastercard is a worthy option if you want to bag cash back in bulk — and you don't mind jumping through some hoops.

The card could be a gas guzzler's dream, featuring one of the highest rewards rates available for gas purchases, not to mention impressive incentives for travel and dining out — all for an annual fee of $0.

But you do need to be a Sam's Club member to have the card, and that's not free. And even if you already shop there, it's not enough reason alone to get the Sam's Club Mastercard, because it's not particularly rewarding for most Sam's Club purchases. You'll also face reward caps, plus restrictions on how and when you can redeem.

If you're looking for a card with more flexibility, and if gas isn't a big expense for you, consider other cash-back credit cards.

Sam's Club Mastercard: Key features

Card type: Store.

Annual fee: $0, but you must be a Sam's Club member. Membership fees start at $45 a year.

Rewards: You can redeem rewards for cash, apply them to your statement balance or use them toward Sam's Club purchases. Total rewards on this card are capped at $5,000 per calendar year. You earn:

  • 5% cash back at eligible gas stations worldwide, including stations at Sam’s Club (on up to $6,000 spent per year, then 1%).

  • 3% cash back on dining and travel.

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Sign-up bonus: Get $45 (covers your Sam's Club membership fee for a year). Offer valid now through January 15, 2020.

APR: The ongoing APR is 17.15% - 25.15% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Additional benefits: Extended warranty protection, purchase protection, identity theft resolution services, Mastercard Global Services.

Nerd tip: You can opt for a higher membership tier — Sam’s Club Plus — for a fee of $100 per year. Among other perks like free shipping, members at this level can earn $10 back on every $500 spent on qualifying purchases, up to $500 a year.

To find out whether the Sam's Club Mastercard can offset the cost of your membership based on your spending, let our calculator do the math:

Highlights of the Sam's Club Mastercard

  • High rewards rate on gas: If gas is a giant part of your budget, the Sam's Club Mastercard may be for you. With a 5% cash-back rate on up to $6,000 in gas expenses per year, you could earn $300 annually in that category alone, plus 1% on any gas purchases beyond that cap. And those earnings would be in addition to Sam’s Club member-exclusive prices offered on fuel at select locations. That's a sizable chunk of savings.

  • Appetizing rewards at restaurants: You'll earn a high 3% cash-back rate on dining, which includes things like restaurants, drinking places and caterers. The average American household spends $3,154 per year on food outside of the home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey. If you spent that much at restaurants with the Sam's Club Mastercard, you could earn nearly $95 annually.

  • A jet-setting travel companion: The Sam's Club Mastercard charges no foreign transaction fees — somewhat rare for a cash-back card — and it earns a high 3% cash-back rate on travel in categories such as airlines, hotels, rental cars, cruise lines, travel agencies, travel websites and more. As part of the Mastercard network, the card is also widely accepted abroad.

Drawbacks to consider

  • Redemption restrictions, including a long wait: With the Sam's Club Mastercard, you can redeem rewards only once a year, in person. Here's how their old-school process works: In February, you'll receive a check via snail mail for all of the cash back you earned over the previous calendar year. But you can't simply deposit the check electronically, because it's made out to the retailer. You have to cash it at a Sam's Club store.

  • Reward caps and rules: Even if you're a long-haul trucker who drops tons of money on fuel, your 5% cash-back rate in that category is capped at $6,000 in spending annually. Total rewards-earning ability is capped at $5,000 a year. (To hit that cap, you'd have to spend $150,000 to $500,000 a year, which may be unlikely for a typical household but not for a business with, say, high expenses for travel and entertaining clients.) On the other end of the spectrum, you must earn at least $5 in rewards to receive any cash back, and rewards that don't meet that threshold won't carry over to the next reward period.

  • Little incentive for Sam’s Club shopping: Sam's Club gas stations aside, any shopping you do at Sam's, either inside the store or online, will net you only 1% cash back. Other store-branded cards are more rewarding for loyalists. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, for example, offers 2% cash back at the retailer's stores and online. Amazon and Target also have cards that offer higher rates or deeper discounts for die-hards. Even Sam's Club's parent company, Walmart, offers cards that earn 3% cash back for Walmart.com purchases (1% back at Walmart stores).

Possible alternatives

If Sam’s Club isn’t your go-to store, or if you lack the patience to wait for annual rewards, you can get more flexibility from other rewards credit cards. Some examples:

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

If wholesale-club shopping is your jam and you live in an area that offers choices, you might consider the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. It, too, offers a high rewards rate on gas, as well as rich rewards on dining and travel. And speaking of travel, as a Costco member, you'll also have access to the company's well-regarded Costco Travel portal. You will, however, encounter some of the same hurdles that the Sam's Club Mastercard poses, including a membership fee and a long wait for rewards. Moreover, you'll need excellent credit to qualify for this card. Unlike the Sam's Club Mastercard, though, there is no yearly cap on the total rewards you can earn.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Another choice with an annual fee of $0 is the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. It offers 3% cash back on gas or your choice of one of five other categories, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and unlimited 1% on all other purchases (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases).

Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® earns 5% cash back in rotating categories that you activate every quarter, on up to $1,500 in quarterly spending (and 1% back on everything else). Previous categories have included gas stations, wholesale clubs, restaurants and grocery stores. The card is a good fit if your spending is varied and if you want flexible redemption options or the chance to earn higher rewards rates in specific categories. It has an annual fee of $0.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

For simple, no-fuss rewards that are easy to keep track of and redeem, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer offers 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay it off. That makes it a good card to use at Sam's Club or anywhere else. The card has an annual fee of $0.

Visit NerdWallet's list of the best credit card offers to see how these cards stack up against other options.

Should you get the Sam's Club Mastercard?

If you spend a lot on gas and dining out — and you’re willing to wait on your rewards — the Sam's Club Mastercard could be a match for your spending. But don't apply simply because you're a Sam's Club shopper, because beyond gas purchases, the card doesn't do much when it comes to rewarding loyalists.

And while the card's features can make it a decent traveling companion, you can find plenty of travel credit cards that offer rich sign-up bonuses, more flexible redemption options and greater perks.