Sam’s Club® Mastercard® review: Bulk gas rewards, but basic Sam’s Club cash back
The Sam’s Club Mastercard is great for maximum gas cash back, but it lacks easy access to rewards.
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Sam’s Club® Mastercard® Overview
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, Sam’s Club 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, you need to redeem your cash rewards in a physical store if you want to use it outside Sam’s Club. Granted, the May 2022 redemption process update will, fortunately, eliminate the once-per-year cash back issuance (that then expired by the end of the year), but it’s still a pain to use your rewards outside Sam’s Club.
Here’s what you need to know when considering the Sam’s Club credit card for the best wholesale club card for your wallet.
What are the pros and cons?
- Until May 2022, rewards are issued only once per year in February. Even afterward, you must redeem in-store for physical cash back toward non-store purchases–which may make the rewards process too inconvenient for many cardholders
- No boosted rewards or benefits to shopping at Sam’s Club without a Sam’s Club Plus membership
- Sam’s Club membership required (starting at $45 per year), which eats into your rewards
- There are spending caps on all of your bonus categories, and your total cash back potential is limited to $5,000 per year
A deeper look into the current card offer
- 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: $30 statement credit after making $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within the first 30 days
- Annual fee: N/A (at least a $45 annual Sam’s Club Membership fee required)
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
- Regular APR: 15.65 percent or 23.65 percent variable APR
Current welcome offer
Retail credit cards aren’t known for stellar bonuses, and the Sam’s Club 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 the first 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 $100 Amazon gift card instantly upon approval.
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.
How you earn
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.
How to redeem
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–at least until May 2022. However, unlike Costco, Sam’s Club automatically loads your rewards to your membership account.
Fortunately, Sam’s Club has revitalized the cash back redemption process and it will leave behind the once-per-year issue date and Dec. 31 expiration deadline. Starting in May 2022, Sam’s Club will dispense your cash back one to two billing cycles after you’ve earned it and it won’t expire for the life of your store membership. This gives it a big leg up and certainly widens the appeal compared to attentive Sam’s Club shoppers, but you still have the same redemption options as before.
Your cash rewards 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.
Although the redemption process isn’t as frustrating as it was before, you should still weigh this red tape carefully before applying because unless you shop at Sam’s Club frequently enough to merit store-based statement credits, you’ll still have the visit a physical store to get tangible cash back.
Other cardholder perks
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.
How much are the 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.
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, which should take spending $125 on dining each month or $75 on gas each month to recoup with rewards spending.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any zero-interest offers to keep the 15.65 percent or 23.65 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 may only be a good choice with a Plus membership. That’s because Plus members earn 3 percent back on eligible purchases when shopping in-club or digitally through Sam’s Club with your card and another 2 percent back from their Plus membership, for a total of up to 5 percent back on eligible purchases. Regular Sam’s Club members earn just 1 percent back, so a flat-rate cash back card that offers 1.5 percent or 2 percent could be a better choice.
Sam’s Club Mastercard vs. Costco Anywhere Visa
While they share some similarities, the Costco Anywhere Visa has a couple of key advantages over the Sam’s Club Mastercard, including the fact that it doesn’t impose nearly as many rewards earning restrictions as the Sam’s Club card. While you’ll still face a cap on gas rewards (up to $7,000 in gas purchases per year, then 1 percent back), there’s no limit to the total amount of rewards you can earn with the Costco card (the Sam’s Club card imposes a $5,000 maximum).
You also don’t have to have a higher-tier membership to earn more than 1 percent back on purchases at the wholesale club–all cardholders get 2 percent back at Costco stores and Costco.com. Additionally, you can earn travel rewards (at a rate of 3 percent back) with the Costco card—a category that earns just 1 percent back with the Sam’s Club Mastercard.
On the downside, if you do opt for the Costco “Executive” membership, you can boost your rate to just 4 percent back. The Executive membership is not only more expensive ($120 total per year) than Sam’s Club’s Plus membership ($100 per year), but also offers 1 percent less cash back than the Sam’s Club card’s 5 percent back for Plus members. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that the Costco card still uses the old once-per-year cash back redemption process in February that must be redeemed in-store by Dec. 31 of that year. The Sam’s Club Mastercard’s redemption process will be much more flexible by May 2022.
Sam’s Club Mastercard vs. Bank of America Customized Cash card
If you’re looking for a bit more variety and flexibility with your bonus categories, but don’t want to give up earning bonus rewards at Sam’s Club and other wholesale clubs, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card can be a great alternative to the Sam’s Club card.
A popular “choose your own bonus category” card, the Customized Cash lets you pick one 3 percent cash back category (from gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvements and furnishings), while also earning a consistent flat rate of 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1 percent back on all other spending. You can also switch up your choice category once per calendar month to match your spending habits. While there’s a $2,500 combined spending limit for earning the top rate in the card’s 2 percent and 3 percent categories per quarter (after which you’ll earn just 1 percent), this flexible rewards program could help you maximize your earnings based on how your spending habits change.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card last updated 4/18/2022
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 Club 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 in-store rewards payout for non-Sam’s Club cash back 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.