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Rewards cards that encourage healthy habits

Look closely before signing up for cards with bonuses on gym memberships


Looking for a credit card that will reward you for hitting the gym? You might be better off with a flat-rate cash back card. Find out which card could work best for you.

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Dear Cashing In,

I plan to join a gym after the first of the year. What’s the best reward card to charge that expense on? – Hannah

Dear Hannah,

Typically, the holiday season is the time of year when people overindulge. Holiday parties, feasts and sweets are all around. But then, when the holiday goggles come off in January, people tend to want to undo the damage. That’s the time of year when new exercise regimens, gym sign-ups and “healthy” New Year’s resolutions take hold.

Whether those routines of more exercise and healthier eating become permanent (or are discarded like leftover Christmas fruitcake) depend largely on the commitments of the person making them. But there are several ways people can use credit cards – and specifically, credit card rewards – to aid in that effort.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Tony a question.

See related: How to earn rewards when paying monthly bills

Rewards card options

Many rewards cards offer category bonuses – spending categories in which cardholders receive extra points for charging expenses in those areas. The most popular are in travel and restaurants.

But there are a couple that offer category bonuses that bode well for people seeking a healthier lifestyle.

The World of Hyatt Credit Card from Chase is designed mostly for travelers who frequent Hyatt hotels – and it gives bonus points for charges on local transit and commuting, restaurants and airline tickets. But it also gives two points per dollar spent at fitness clubs and gym memberships. It has a $95 annual fee, and the rewards come in the form of Hyatt points, which can be used for hotel stays.

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature Card is a cash back card that allows cardholders to choose 5% and 2% categories – and one of the categories you can pick is gyms and fitness centers. The cash back comes in the form of a statement credit or a deposit into a U.S. Bank account. The 5% back is capped at $2,000 of expenses per quarter, or $100 cash back.

Advances across the pond

Some cards overseas go even further. In Britain, American Express has teamed up with health insurance company, Vitality, to offer the Vitality American Express card. Its rewards depend upon a cardholder’s physical activity.

When it was announced in November 2019, it was billed as the “first credit card which rewards cardmembers for being physically active.” The cash back earning rate depends on logging healthy activities on an app synced to the cardholder’s Vitality account. Activities such as completing 7,000 steps a day, visiting the gym and going for a run all count toward boosting the amount of cash back earned.

Nothing like that is available in the United States – at least not yet. But it shows how card companies can be creative in crafting card offers that appeal to different types of people.

Better off with a flat-rate card

For U.S. cards, it might not make sense to sign up for a completely new card if your only goal is to earn points for health-related charges. It’s not worth paying an annual fee or signing up for a rewards program that isn’t otherwise right for you, just for the sake of one kind of expenditure.

Like other charges you spend money on, fitness club expenses probably make up just a small amount of your overall spending – which means it makes more sense to look at your total spending patterns when choosing a rewards card. There are probably better options, such as flat-rate cash back cards – or ones that are more in tune with your rewards goals, like frequent flyer cards.

See related: Best airline credit cards

Still, it’s nice to know that there are many different options for the types of cards that might be right for you. There might be a rewards card that helps you achieve your new year’s fitness goals. Just make sure it’s as good for your financial health as it is for your physical health.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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