|Retail Rating:||3.9 / 5|
|Annual Percentage Rate:||3.8|
In a nutshell:
With the exception of ample cash back at Sam’s Club gas stations, the Sam’s Club Mastercard is best reserved for making travel and dining purchases outside the warehouse club.
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, dining or travel, 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 23.4 percent 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, travel and dining purchases. It comes with a whopping 5 percent cash back rate on gas purchases (up to the first $6,000 per year) made at Sam’s Club and other fuel stations, excluding those at other warehouse clubs and certain supermarkets. The card also earns high marks for its strong 3 percent rewards on dining — a rate competitive with other cash back cards such as the Capital One Premier Dining Rewards card.
Travel enthusiasts who aren’t tied to a particular airline or hotel chain will especially love the card’s 3 percent cash back rate on travel purchases, a rate that is equal to or exceeds the rates offered by the likes of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card and Hyatt credit card. Admittedly, the Sam’s Club Mastercard does lack the eye-opening sign-up bonuses of most (if not all) travel-specific credit cards. But, in the long term, the travel rewards you’ll earn with the Sam’s Club card will be right in line with what you can get elsewhere.
On the downside, the card offers a disappointing 1 percent 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.
There is another way to boost that your rewards during your routine Sam’s Club shopping trips: By downloading the Sam’s Club Scan & Go app, you can earn 3 percent cash back on eligible in-store purchases and beat 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.
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 the card’s sign-up bonus — which comes in the form of a $45 statement credit when you open your account on SamsClub.com and make a same-day purchase equal to or exceeding that amount — does cover the membership fee for the first year.
Similar to the credit card offered by rival Costco, the Sam’s Club Mastercard has a very restrictive redemption program. Cash back rewards are issued in the form of a check just once per year, in February — and because the check designates Sam’s Club as the payee, it can only be cashed at a Sam’s Club location. Another downside is the check’s abbreviated shelf life of 180 days, much shorter than the expiration on Costco’s rewards certificates, which expire roughly 11 months after they’re issued.
In addition, cardholders whose memberships lapse before February will lose all the cash rewards they built up throughout the year. (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 would 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 usually reserved for credit cards with high annual fees (and typically missing from retail cards altogether). What this means is you can use the card to earn rewards while traveling without having to worry about racking up excessive fees.
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 it:
- 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 percent cash back rate on gas purchases.
- You eat out frequently and want to cash in on the card’s dining rewards.
- You want to earn travel rewards without being tied to a particular airline or hotel chain.
- 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 want hassle-free redemption.
How to use it:
- Keep your Sam’s Club membership current through February (you’ll lose your rewards if you cancel your membership before then).
- Cash your rewards check before it expires 180 days from its issue date.
- For maximum cash back, use the card to pay for all of your gas, dining and travel purchases.
- Carry the card with you when traveling overseas to take advantage of no foreign transaction fees.
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