Sam’s Club® Mastercard® review

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Garrett Yarbrough  in  Gas How we rate our cards  | 

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Best wholesale club card

Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.90% - 22.90% Variable
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Bankrate Rating

 

Best for frequent Sam’s Club shoppers

  • Rewards rate: 5 percent cash back on gas (up to $6,000 per year, then 1 percent), 3 percent back on dining ($5,000 cash rewards maximum per year), and 1 percent cash back on all other eligible purchases.
  • Welcome offer: Get a $30 Statement Credit when you open a new account and make $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days
  • Annual fee: $0 (with a Sam’s Club membership)
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 14.9 percent to 22.9 percent variable APR

Bulk buyers that are curious about the potential rewards and benefits that might come with the Sam’s Club Mastercard might be a bit disappointed, unless feeding their gas tanks is a bigger expense than feeding their households.

This card’s main benefit is its 5 percent cash back rate on gas, where it beats the rival Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi as one of the best credit cards for gas. The dining cash back is great too, Plus members earn 3 percent back on eligible purchases when shopping in-club or digitally through Sam’s Club when they use their Sam’s Club Mastercard and another 2 percent back from their Plus membership, for a total of up to 5 percent rewards on eligible purchases. However, cash back is only issued once per year and you need to redeem in-store if you want to use it outside Sam’s Club.

Continue reading to see whether the Sam’s Club credit card is the best wholesale club card for your wallet.

Current sign-up bonus

Retail credit cards aren’t known for stellar sign-up bonuses, and the Sam’s credit card is no exception. You’ll receive a  $30 Statement Credit when you open a new account and make $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days.

Essentially receiving $30 in free Sam’s Club merchandise isn’t a bad deal, but it isn’t the best we’ve seen among store cards. Its cousin card, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard, offers 5 percent cash back when using Walmart Pay in-store for the first 12 months, and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card gives you a $70 Amazon gift card instantly upon approval.

Cash back

The Sam’s Club Mastercard cash back categories are pretty flexible—especially compared to the Costco card’s category restrictions. While there’s a strange limit of $5,000 cash back per year, this likely won’t be a problem since you’d need to spend more than $150,000 across your gas and dining categories to accomplish this feat. However, there are a few key caveats around your rewards redemption to take note of.

Earning cash back

Your primary sources of Sam’s Club credit card cash back are the 5 percent cash back on gas (up to $6,000 per year, then 1 percent) and 3 percent back on dining and takeout bonus categories. Sam’s Club Plus members can earn 3 percent back on eligible purchases when shopping in-club or digitally through Sam’s Club when they use their Sam’s Club Mastercard and another 2 percent back from their Plus membership, for a total of up to 5 percent rewards on eligible purchases.

For what it’s worth, this card doesn’t have the same bonus category restrictions that the Costco card does, such as Costco’s bakery and bed-and-breakfast exclusions for dining. And unlike the Costco card, the Sam’s Club Mastercard doesn’t exclude other store-branded gas stations from its gas rewards category. Plus, some credit card restaurant reward categories exclude caterers, which the Sam’s Club card’s terms specifically state it accepts. This can be especially helpful if you run a small business or if you use your Sam’s Club membership to prep for events.

Redeeming cash back

Perhaps the biggest deal-breaker to consider before taking the plunge on this card is its reward redemption process. Unfortunately, Sam’s Club cash back also works like the Costco card’s rewards program, with cash rewards only issued once in February each year. However, unlike Costco, Sam’s Club automatically loads your rewards to your membership account.

Since Sam’s Club no longer issues cash back in the form of checks and you can’t immediately deposit them into a bank account, you have only until Dec. 31 of each year to redeem your rewards. Sam’s Club cash back can go toward Sam’s Club purchases online and at the register in-store, membership upgrades or renewals or statement credits on your card. But if you want cold, hard cash, you’ll have to trek to a Sam’s Club location and redeem in person at a staffed register or the Member Services desk.

You should weigh these obstacles carefully before applying because you’ll lose all your hard-earned rewards if you cancel your card or Sam’s Club membership before February rolls around.

How much are rewards worth?

The Sam’s Club credit card earns cash back as a percentage of your spending, not points. For example, 5 percent back on gas purchases will earn you 5 cents back per dollar of your total purchase. But in this case, you have to decide whether the personal value of your rewards is worth the hassle of redeeming them.

Benefits

The Sam’s Club credit card doesn’t carry any benefits worth writing home about. Besides your Sam’s Club membership perks, you can use your store credit card as your membership card and the automatic benefits as a Mastercard holder.

The Mastercard benefits you receive can vary depending on your credit limit, so you should check with your network for the full list of features. Standard Mastercard credit cards offer basics like $0 liability protection for unauthorized purchases and identity theft protection, but World and World Elite Mastercards offer a range of premium perks like purchase and travel protections, cellphone insurance and complimentary subscription services.

Rates and fees

You won’t take on big fees with the Sam’s Club Mastercard since there are no annual or foreign transaction fees. The most notable cost is the $45 minimum yearly cost of the Sam’s Club membership required to apply and hold your card.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any zero-interest offers to keep the 14.90 percent to 22.90 percent (variable) APR at bay. Luckily, the ongoing APR doesn’t live up to the notoriously high interest rates retail cards are known for. Your rate may actually be below the current average credit card interest rate, depending on your creditworthiness.

How the Sam’s Club Mastercard compares to other wholesale club cards

As far as cash back cards go, the Sam’s Club Mastercard offers excellent all-around category coverage and a hard-to-beat rewards rate on gas. Even its biggest (and most similar) competitor, the Costco Anywhere Visa®Card by Citi, can’t match the Sam’s Club card’s gas rewards program. If you’re already a road-bound Sam’s Club member and you don’t mind a trip to the store to get your rewards in bulk too, then this card is a no-brainer.

However, if you’re primarily looking for a grocery shopping card with cash back centered around wholesale clubs, the Sam’s Club Mastercard will be a good choice with a Plus membership since Plus members earn 3 back on eligible purchases when shopping in-club or digitally through Sam’s Club when they use their Sam’s Club Mastercard and another 2 back from their Plus membership, for a total of up to 5 rewards on eligible purchases.  A flat-rate cash back card that offers at least 1.5 percent would be another choice in that regard.

The highest wholesale club reward rates you’ll likely find will be on a rotating category card like the Discover it® Cash Back. From April to June of 2021, the card earns 5 percent cash back at gas stations and wholesale clubs upon activation (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases that quarter, then 1 percent). Its PayPal category, valid from July to September of 2021 could also be used to earn cash back online at wholesale clubs. But the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card can offer a bit more consistency with year-round 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, plus 3 percent back on one of six choice categories (on up to $2,500 in combined 2 percent and 3 percent category purchases per quarter, then 1 percent).

Card name Rewards rate Annual fee Welcome offer
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
  • 4% cash back at eligible gas stations, including at Costco (for the first $7,000 per year, then 1%)
  • 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on all Costco and Costco.com purchases
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$0 (minimum $60 annual Costco membership required) N/A
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
  • 3% cash back on a choice category (can be changed monthly): gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement/furnishings
  • 2% cash back at wholesale clubs and grocery stores (up to $2,500 in combined 3 and 2 percent category purchases each quarter, then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$0 $200 online cash bonus after spending at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days
Discover it® Cash Back $0 All cash back earned in the first 12 months is matched

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card last updated on 05.03.21

Best cards to pair with the Sam’s Club Mastercard

The best combinations with the Sam’s Club Mastercard will provide high-yield cash back on categories that the Sam’s card doesn’t already cover.

A flat-rate cash back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card could shore up the Sam’s Club Mastercard’s in-store weaknesses, or, a grocery powerhouse could come in handy. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express would rake in 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 percent) and unlimited 3 percent on transit and at U.S. gas stations when your 5 percent category rewards cap out.

Bankrate’s take—Is the Sam’s Club Mastercard worth it?

The Sam’s Club Mastercard is an excellent, low-cost engine for cash back on gas with admirable coverage across dining purchases, too. But if you’re not a Sam’s Club member (or there’s not one near you) or you’re looking for hefty rewards on bulk products at Sam’s Club, then this card isn’t a good fit.

The once-per-year in-store rewards payout and lackluster rewards rate on purchases in its own store make the Sam’s Club Mastercard a difficult sell for anything but its bonus gas category.

Pros

  • Excellent 5 percent cash back on gas (on up to $6,000 in yearly purchases, then 1 percent)
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • Acts as both a credit card and your Sam’s Club membership card

Cons

  • Rewards issued only once per year in February, and you must redeem in-store for physical cash back
  • No boosted rewards or benefits to shopping at Sam’s Club
  • Sam’s Club membership required (starting at $45 per year)