Sam’s Club Mastercard Review: Great for Gas and Premium-Tier Sam’s Members

It offers rich rewards on gas and dining, and Sam's Club 'Plus' members can also earn a high rate on shopping with the wholesale club. But the card is less appealing for lower-tier Sam's Club members.

Melissa LambarenaMar 17, 2021
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Our Take

4.6

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: It's worth considering if you're a Sam's Club "Plus" member. But if you're only a "Club"-level member, you won't get any bonus rewards for using it at the store. Other less-complicated cash-back cards may work better for you.

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

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
NerdWallet rating 

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

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers

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® can be a worthy option for certain Sam's Club shoppers who guzzle gas, but it's certainly not the most straightforward card out there.

It features one of the highest rewards rates available on fuel purchases, not to mention a solid rate on dining, for an annual fee of $0. It can also offer great rewards for shopping at Sam's Club — but here's where it gets complicated.

To get the card at all, you must be a Sam's Club member, and that does come with a yearly fee of either:

  • $45 for a baseline "Club" membership. At this tier, the Sam's Club® Mastercard® earns only 1% back on eligible Sam's Club shopping.

  • $100 for a "Plus" membership. At this tier, the card lets you earn up to 5% back on eligible Sam's Club shopping.

So the question is whether it's worth paying a higher membership fee for better rewards. (Here's the math on that.) It may also be a question of how many reward rules and caps you want to deal with, because there are several.

Sam's Club® Mastercard®: Basics

Card type: Store.

Annual fee: $0, but you must be a Sam's Club member. ($45 per year for a Club membership; $100 per year for a Plus membership).

Rewards: 

  • 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% back on dining.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

  • For Sam’s Club Plus members only: Up to 5% back on eligible Sam’s Club purchases (3% back with the card, plus up to 2% back from the membership tier.)

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

Sign-up bonus: Get $30 as a statement credit when you open a new account and make $30 in Sam's Club purchases within 30 days.

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.

Club vs. Plus: Which Sam's membership tier makes sense for you?

There's a $55 difference between the Club tier ($45 a year) and the Plus tier ($100 a year). To find out whether it's worth paying that difference — and thus reaping the higher rewards rate with the Sam's Club® Mastercard® — consider the math:

  • The card can give you 4% more in cash back at the Plus level, and $55 divided by 4 cents (or 0.04) is $1,375. If you spend more than that at Sam's Club in a year, it may be worth paying more for a Plus tier.

But that figure is not the "break-even" point on the annual cost of a Sam's Club membership itself:

  • To break even on a $100 Plus membership, you'd need to spend at least $2,000 on eligible Sam's Club purchases in a year.

  • To break even on a $45 Club membership, you'd need to spend at least $4,500 on eligible Sam's Club purchases in a year.

Neither of those figures, though, takes into account your spending in the card's other bonus categories (gas and dining). So it's worth evaluating where you spend the most before deciding on a membership tier.

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

ELEVATED REWARDS FOR SAM’S CLUB PLUS MEMBERS

If you're a Sam’s Club Plus member, the Synchrony Bank-issued Sam's Club® Mastercard® is made for you. You’ll earn a stellar rate of up to 5% cash back on eligible purchases with the retailer. That's a lot of rewards potential for groceries and other household items, and it's in line with what some of the best store credit cards on the market offer for shopping within their walls.

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 2019, the average American household spent $3,526 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 more than $105 annually.

Why you might want a different credit card

mediocre rewards for baseline Sam's Club MEMBERS

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 with a baseline Club membership. The Bank of America® Customized 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

The card's 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. And for Plus members, there's even more to keep in mind:

  • At the Plus tier, the card itself earns 3% back on qualifying Sam's Club purchases in-store or online — but the additional 2% back via your membership is only on qualifying in-store purchases, not at samsclub.com.

  • The 3% rate from the card is unlimited, but the 2% rate from the membership is capped at a total of $500 in rewards per year.

  • The 2% back from your membership tier is also subject to a $2,000 overall "maximum balance" at any given time. Once you hit that threshold, you stop accruing rewards until you "reduce" that balance by redeeming rewards.

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®, rewards are issued only once per year, in February. 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 have only a baseline Club membership but still want to maximize your Sam's Club shopping, the Sam's Club® Mastercard® card doesn't do much for you there. It might still be worth a look if you spend big on gas or restaurants, but you'll likely do just as well or better with other cash-back credit cards.

But if you're a Plus member, and if spending at Sam's Club makes up a big chunk of your budget, this card could be a valuable match.