|Cash Back Rating:||2.9 / 5|
|Annual Percentage Rate:||3.0|
Account opening offer
$30 statement credit if you spend $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days of opening the account
Average Yearly Savings ($1,325 monthly spend)
Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fees, special financing deals (beware deferred interest), $0 fraud liability, identity theft protection, EMV chip, doubles as your membership card
While there’s no shortage of credit cards for people who spend a lot on gas and dining, there aren’t many cards that offer great rewards on all three. Surprisingly enough, the Sam’s Club Mastercard does just that, with rewards rates that rival some of the top cards in those particular categories.
However, the retail card’s unexciting in-store rewards and APR as high as 23.65% mean cardholders who want to maximize their cash back should avoid using the card to pay for other kinds of purchases.
Supersized gas rewards
Ironically enough, you don’t have to be an especially loyal Sam’s Club member to benefit from the Sam’s Club Mastercard, as the card’s true values lies in its generous rewards on gas and dining purchases. It comes with a whopping 5% cash back rate on gas purchases (up to the first $6,000 per year) made at Sam’s Club and other fuel stations. The card also earns high marks for its strong 3% rewards on dining — a rate competitive with other cash back cards such as the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card.
On the downside, the card offers a disappointing 1% cash back rate on other purchases, including Sam’s Club merchandise, which means cardholders may be better off using an alternate rewards card with a higher rewards rate for their in-store purchases. However, you can earn a much better 3% cash back on Sam’s Club purchases with this card if you’re a Sam’s Club Plus.
There is another way to boost that your rewards during your routine Sam’s Club shopping trips: by upgrading to a Sam’s Club Plus membership. Plus members’ 3% bonus also applies to purchases through the Sam’s Club Scan & Go app, which expedites your shopping experience by beating the checkout lines. Here’s how:
- Use the app to scan item barcodes while you shop.
- Pay directly from the app using your Sam’s Club Mastercard.
- Skip the checkout lines and show your e-receipt on your way out.
See related: How much can you really make with a cash back card?
No annual fee, but there’s a catch
Though the card doesn’t technically have an annual fee, you’ll have to purchase a Sam’s Club membership (at an annual cost of $45) if you don’t have one already. The silver lining, however, is that you can get a $30 statement credit when you open a card and spend $30 in purchases within 30 days of opening the account, which reduces your total cost to just $15 for the first year.
Similar to the credit card offered by rival Costco, the Sam’s Club Mastercard has a restrictive redemption program, but the Sam’s Club card is offers a bit more flexibility. Cash back rewards are issued just once per year, in February. But unlike Costco’s rewards program, your cash back is automatically added to your Sam’s Club account. Sam’s Club doesn’t offer cash back in the form of checks anymore and you can’t directly deposit your rewards into your bank account like other cash back programs. If you want physical cash back, you’ll have to go to a physical Sam’s Club location and visit a staffed register or the Member Services desk. Otherwise, your cash back can only go toward online or in-store Sam’s Club purchases, statement credits or membership upgrades and renewals.
But make sure not to hoard your cash back – your rewards will go down the drain if you don’t redeem them by Dec. 31 each year. In addition, cardholders whose memberships lapse before February will lose all the cash rewards they built up throughout the year. It’s also important to note that if you cancel your membership after getting your check, you’ll need to obtain a one-day pass to gain access to a Sam’s Club for redemption purposes.
These limits on receiving and redeeming rewards may be a turnoff if you don’t want to be locked into a Sam’s Club membership or you’d rather use your cash back rewards immediately.
No foreign transaction fees
One nice surprise with the Sam’s Club Mastercard is its lack of a foreign transaction fee, a feature typically missing from retail cards.
Like most store-branded cards, the Sam’s Club Mastercard offers little in the way of cardholder protections and benefits, although you will have access to occasional promotional financing on certain transactions. If you decide to take advantage of this benefit, be sure to read the fine print and take note of whether the language includes “no interest for X months” or “no interest if paid in full within X months.” The former is considered true no-interest financing — in which no interest accrues during the promotional period, so long as you make minimum monthly payments — while the latter denotes a deferred-interest deal, which means interest is retroactively applied from the date of purchase if you don’t pay your entire balance by the end of the term.
Other benefits include $0 fraud liability, identity theft protection and an EMV chip for added security. The credit card also doubles as your Sam’s Club membership card, so you won’t have to worry about remembering a separate piece of plastic.
Why get the Sam’s Club Mastercard?
- You’re already a Sam’s Club member or otherwise like to shop at bulk superstores
- You put a lot of miles on your car and stand to earn considerable rewards with the card’s 5% cash back rate on gas purchases
- You eat out frequently and want to cash in on the card’s dining rewards
- You plan to maintain your Sam’s Club membership past next February
- You care more about long-term rewards than the immediacy of a large sign-up bonus
- You’re a Sam’s Club Plus member
How to use the Sam’s Club Mastercard:
- Keep your Sam’s Club membership current through February (you’ll lose your rewards if you cancel your membership before then)
- Cash your rewards before they expire on Dec. 31 each year
- For maximum cash back, use the card to pay for gas and dining purchases
- Carry the card with you when traveling overseas to take advantage of no foreign transaction fees
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