Google Stadia could revolutionize cloud gaming or end up a total flop. Either way, picking the right rewards credit card will ensure you come out on top.
Unlike most gaming systems, however, which can be bought at a variety of online and brick-and-mortar stores, Stadia hardware and games are only sold online via the Google Store. While this may limit your options for earning credit card rewards, there are still a few strategies to consider.
We’ve pulled together some of the best cards to use, both when you first buy Stadia and for all the Stadia games you’ll need in the future.
See related: A financial guide to the gaming season
How much does Stadia cost?
The free version of Stadia is now available, and anyone with a Gmail address can sign up and start playing. That said, if you want to play on your TV, you’ll need a Chromecast Ultra ($69) and a Stadia controller (another $69). But you can also play on a computer via the Google Chrome browser with a keyboard and mouse or compatible USB controller at no additional charge.
What’s more, all Stadia customers can get two months of a Stadia Pro subscription for free. This comes with 4K streaming and the ability to claim free games each month. After this trial, the service will switch to the free Stadia service, with games running at 1080p resolution and 60fps using stereo sound.
If you want to continue using Stadia Pro, it’ll cost you $9.99 per month. Existing Stadia Pro subscribers are also eligible for this promotion and will not be charged for the next two months.
Best credit cards for Google Stadia
Your best long-term option for earning cash back on Stadia purchases may be the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, which offers 3% cash back in a category of your choice, including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores and home improvement/furnishings.
You’ll also get 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on all other purchases (up to $2,500 in combined 3% and 2% categories). When you enroll in the card’s online shopping bonus category (you can change your 3% bonus category once per month), you’ll get 3% back on all Stadia hardware and game purchases.
If you set your bonus cash back category to online shopping and bought a Chromecast Ultra and two Stadia controllers (totaling about $207), you’d earn a little over $6 in cash back with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card – almost enough for an extra month of Stadia Pro.
You’d also get 3% back on every game you purchase, so if you bought one $60 game per month, you’d earn about $21 cash back in a year. That’s not to mention all the cash back you could earn on everyday purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
See related: Make the most of an online shopping bonus category
Since PayPal is accepted at the Google Store and on the Stadia app for Android, you can also take advantage of cash back cards that offer bonuses on PayPal spending. The Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom cards both regularly include PayPal as one of its bonus cash back categories. Discover already has PayPal slotted in a bonus category (along with restaurants) for July to September of 2020. Chase Freedom included it in its bonus categories for Q4 of 2019.
Both cards earn 5% cash back on rotating categories upon enrollment on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1% back. In either case, when the time comes, you can simply link an eligible card to PayPal and set it as your preferred payment method, then select PayPal at checkout when you buy Stadia.
If tracking rotating bonus categories sounds like a headache, a flat rate cash back card is another option. The Citi® Double Cash Card, for example, offers 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off your purchases). If you only used your Double Cash Card to buy one $60 Stadia game per month, you’d earn around $15 cash back in a year, enough to pay for a month and a half of Stadia Pro.
Additionally, several cash back cards charge no annual fee and come with a decent welcome bonus, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card or the American Express Cash Magnet® Card, both of which offer unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. You can earn a $200 statement credit for spending $500 in the first three months with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card or a $150 credit for spending $1,000 in the first three months with the Cash Magnet card. That bonus alone is enough to effectively “erase” your initial Stadia purchase.
Can you pay for Stadia with a Google Play Store gift card?
No. At this time you can only purchase Stadia hardware and subscriptions with a credit or debit card or via PayPal.
But don’t worry if you have a gift card or a chunk of Google Play Credit burning a hole in your pocket: In a recent Reddit AMA, a member of the Stadia product team confirmed that you will be able to pay for Stadia games with a Google Play Store gift card via the Stadia app on Android. This could be especially useful if you’re buying Stadia as a gift and want to let the gamer in your life pick out their own favorite Stadia titles.
Google Play Store gift cards are widely available online and in-store at supermarkets, gas stations and retailers like Best Buy and Target. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll earn cash back or points on gift card purchases, plenty of people have had success, so it’s worth a try.
See related: Rack up extra reward points with gift cards
Take advantage of Google Play Points
Another great way to earn rewards on Stadia purchases is to take advantage of Google’s recently-launched Play Points program. This loyalty program allows you to earn Play Points every time you make an Android app or media purchase in the Google Play Store.
You can then redeem your points as Google Play credits to get a discount on Play Store and in-app purchases. Currently, you can apply Google Play credits toward the purchase of apps, books, movies, music and subscriptions.
Even better, the more points you earn, the more benefits you receive, including special earn rates on purchases, weekly prizes and premium support, which gives you priority status when you call or chat Google’s support team.
If you regularly purchase Stadia games, you should rack up points quickly and have little trouble reaching Gold or Platinum status in the Play Points program.
It’s still too early to say whether Google Stadia will revolutionize cloud gaming or flop harder than Google Glass, but choose the right credit card and at least you’ll know you’re earning rewards and saving money while you play.