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.
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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.
- Earn 5% cash back on gas (on first $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
- Earn 3% cash back on dining and travel
- Earn 1% on other purchases.
Pros & Cons
- Bonus cash back categories
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fee
- 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
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 June 15, 2019.
APR: The ongoing APR is 17.15% - 25.15% Variable.
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).
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.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
If groceries are a bigger expense for you than gas, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earns 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per year, 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% back on all other purchases. Terms apply. The card has a $0 annual fee, so it could serve as an alternative to — or a companion for — the Sam's Club Mastercard. And if you don’t mind paying a $95 annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express can offer even richer rewards.
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.
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