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Best credit cards for football fans

close up shot of a football player about to snap the ball
Bernhard Lang/Getty Images
close up shot of a football player about to snap the ball
Bernhard Lang/Getty Images
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Football is back, and it’s possible to show your fandom and save some money with the right credit card. Here are some of the best options:

Chase Freedom Flex

From July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card is giving cardholders 5 percent cash back on select live entertainment purchases, a category that includes major professional sporting events (among other things). Major ticketing agencies such as SeatGeek, StubHub, Ticketmaster, Vivid Seats are all eligible. I suspect many college football ticket purchases will count, too, especially if they’re made through one of those intermediaries.

Gas stations, movie theaters and car rental agencies are other 5 percent cash back categories this quarter. There’s a combined spending limit of $1,500 on these Q3 bonus categories, after which cardholders earn 1 percent cash back on these categories. Activation is required by Sept. 14.

Citi Custom Cash

This popular “choose your own adventure” card gives 5 percent cash back on each cardholder’s top eligible spending category every monthly billing cycle (up to $500 in purchases; all other purchases earn 1 percent cash back).

Live entertainment is an option that appeals to football fans. What’s especially nice is that you’re not locked into a single category every month. The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card automatically adjusts to your spending habits without any action required on your part. Your top spending category could be live entertainment one month and something completely different the next (the list of possibilities includes gas, groceries, travel and more).

Capital One Savor

The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card was an early adopter of an entertainment rewards category. It gives an unlimited 4 percent cash back on entertainment, streaming and dining purchases, 3 percent cash back at grocery stores and 1 percent cash back on everything else. This card covers a wide range of football-related expenditures — everything from game tickets to food to streaming the action from your couch.

Discover it Cash Back

Another popular 5 percent cash back card with rotating quarterly categories, the Discover it® Cash Back card is rewarding 5 percent cash back on restaurant and PayPal purchases in the third quarter of this year. Following that is Amazon.com and digital wallets in the fourth quarter. Like the Freedom Flex, activation is required and the elevated earn rate applies on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases (then 1 percent cash back after that). There’s a lot for football fans to like on that list, especially PayPal and digital wallets since they’re so broadly applicable.

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express

Whether you’re tailgating in the parking lot before the big game or hosting a party at your house, if groceries factor into your football plans, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a great choice. It awards 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in annual purchases, then 1 percent cash back after that). Select streaming services also qualify for 6 percent cash back, so this card is especially advantageous if you’ll be watching the action from home and snacking while you’re at it.

NFL Extra Points Credit Card

The National Football League’s officially licensed credit card, the NFL Extra Points Credit Card, is worth considering as well, but it’s important to note that it has its limitations. The card’s website states that the product gives 3 percent in rewards on qualifying NFL and team purchases, 2 percent on groceries, food delivery, restaurants, gyms and sporting goods and 1 percent on everything else. The use of “percent” is a bit misleading, though, because the rewards are only worth half that much when applied as a statement credit.

This is really a points card. I think a better way to think about it is that it awards 3 points — not 3 percent — per dollar spent on those qualifying NFL and team purchases, 2 points per dollar on groceries, food delivery, restaurants, gyms and sporting goods and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Each point is only worth 0.5 cents apiece when used toward a statement credit.

It is possible to obtain more value from some of the other redemption opportunities (such as gift cards, merchandise and exclusive NFL experiences). For example, a cardholder can redeem 1,000 points for a $10 Fanatics gift card. In that example, each point stretches twice as far as it does when exchanged for a statement credit.

A representative from Bread Financial, which issues the card, says the exact value of each point varies. For instance, each experiential reward is valued differently. Some of these sound really fun, such as meet and greets with NFL stars, stadium tours, game day sideline passes and access to major events such as the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft. A true superfan might find them priceless in a sense, even though the math may not work out as favorably.

Bread says point values vary based on the experience. VIP Training Camp experiences are valued at around 10,000 points, as an example. Whether or not that’s worth it depends on your personal preferences and level of fandom. For instance, would you prefer that or a $50 statement credit or $100 gift card? In general, most cards tend to offer more favorable redemption rates on travel, cash back and gift cards, with merchandise and experiences bringing up the rear (at least on a cents per point basis).

If you want a true cash back card, you’re probably better off with something else. Nonetheless, for a certain type of cardholder, the NFL Extra Points Card has some interesting perks. There’s a $100 introductory bonus after you spend $500 on non-NFL purchases in your first 90 days with the card. New cardholders also get a free NFL+ subscription if they apply and are approved before Oct. 31, 2022 (NFL+ is the league’s streaming platform which provides access to live video from local and primetime regular season games).

Plus, cardholders get a 20 percent discount when they buy something from NFLShop.com with their Extra Points card. And special financing is available for cardholders who buy $250 or more in game tickets directly from an NFL team or from Ticketmaster, StubHub or SeatGeek. Finally, you can display your loyalty with your favorite team’s logo emblazoned on your card.

The bottom line

A key theme of any good credit card rewards strategy is to match the right cards with your lifestyle. Think about how you spend your money and what you want to get out of your rewards. If you’re a football fan, for example, then look to earn rewards on money you would have spent anyway as you watch and snack your way through the season.

Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at ted.rossman@bankrate.com and I’d be happy to help.