Sam’s Club Mastercard Review: Great for Gas, but Not for In-Store Shopping

On one hand, the card offers generous rewards on fuel, dining and travel; on the other, its rewards for shopping inside an actual Sam's Club are meager.

Melissa LambarenaSeptember 22, 2020

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Our Take

4.6

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 bonus 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

14.90% - 22.90%, Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

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 intro for the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

The Sam's Club® Mastercard® is a worthy option for Sam's Club store members who guzzle gas and don't mind jumping through some hoops.

The card, issued by Synchrony Bank, features one of the highest rewards rates available on fuel purchases, not to mention impressive incentives on travel and dining out, all for an annual fee of $0.

But the card is decidedly less generous when it comes to in-store or online Sam's Club purchases — a bit surprising since being a Sam's Club member (and paying the annual membership fee) is a prerequisite for getting the card. Oddly, other cash-back credit cards can deliver more value for your actual Sam's Club shopping.

Sam's Club® Mastercard®: Basics

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.

Nerd tip: You can opt for a higher membership tier — Sam’s Club Plus — for a fee of $100 per year. At this level, you'll enjoy perks through Sam's Club such as free shipping and 2% back in cash rewards on qualifying purchases, up to $500 a year (on top of your credit card rewards).

Sign-up bonus: Get $45 as a statement credit when you open a new account and spend $45 online in the same day.

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

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Additional perks: Mastercard or World Mastercard benefits, depending on which version you're approved for.

Why you might want the Sam's Club® Mastercard®

One of the highest rewards rates on gas

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, especially for rideshare drivers, weekend warriors and others who hit the road often.

Appetizing rewards at restaurants

You'll earn a high 3% cash-back rate on dining, which includes things like restaurants, drinking places and caterers. In 2018, the average American household spent $3,459 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 more than $103 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.

Why you might want a different credit card

mediocre rewards 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. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card can double that rate while also still delivering a relatively high rate back on fuel purchases. It earns 3% cash back on gas or on your choice of one of five other categories, plus 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases). All other purchases earn 1% back.

Too many reward caps and rules

With the Sam's Club card, the 5% cash-back rate on gas is capped at $6,000 in spending annually, and your total rewards-earning ability for all purchases is capped at $5,000 a year. Incidentally, you also 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. That's a lot of rules and limitations to keep track of. If you prefer no-fuss rewards, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer presents 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.

A long wait for rewards

With the Sam's Club® Mastercard®, you can redeem rewards only once a year. For more flexible redemptions, look to the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or the Discover it® Cash Back. They both earn 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.

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

Is the Sam's Club® Mastercard® right for you?

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 isn't as rewarding for loyalists.

And while the card's features can make it a decent traveling companion, travel credit cards can offer rich sign-up bonuses, more flexible redemption options and better vacation perks.

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