About Sam’s Club MasterCard
The Sam’s Club MasterCard is a cash rewards card available to Sam’s Club members. The card offers cash rewards rates of 5%, 3% and 1% – a pretty hefty bonus for a credit card with no annual fee.
Though the Sam’s Club MasterCard has great cash rewards rates, it’s important to look at the overall benefits of the card as well as some of the drawbacks.
For example, standard cash-back rewards cards allow you to cash in on your rewards at any time. Is that the case with the Sam’s Club MasterCard.
Also, there are some store credit cards that only let you use your credit card at their locations. Does the Sam’s Club MasterCard force you to use their card at Sam’s Club and Walmart locations?
These are the types of questions that we may make the mistake of answering before we do the research and find out if we really have the right information.
Taking the time to figure out what the credit card offers is even more important considering how easy it could be to walk into Sam’s Club, sign up for a membership and then, almost like second nature, sign up for the Sam’s Club MasterCard.
So, in order to prepare you to make a wise decision about the Sam’s Club card, we’ve done the research on the card’s strengths, weakness and some of the details that may slip past you if you just did a basic browse of the Sam’s Club credit card pages.
Here’s how we’ve organized our review:
- The benefits
- The rates and fees
- Expert and consumer reviews
We’ll wrap up the review by summarizing the card’s pros and cons.
A Quick Note About Sam’s Club Credit Cards
Sam’s Club offers two types of credit cards: the Sam’s Club MasterCard and Sam’s Club credit card. The non-MasterCard credit card has higher APRs, does not have cash-back rewards and can only be used at Sam’s Club and Walmart. It’s no guarantee you’ll get the MasterCard, so keep that in mind.
The Benefits of the Sam’s Club MasterCard
We read through the Sam’s Club MasterCard’s fine print to figure out what this card can offer you.
The Sam’s credit card’s biggest benefit is its three-tier cash rewards system. You’ll be given 5% cash back on gas purchases, 3% cash back on dining and travel, and 1% cash back on everything else.
5% Cash Back on Gas
Whenever you make qualifying gas purchases, Synchrony Bank, the bank who issues the card through Sam’s Club, will credit 5% of your gas purchases to your rewards balance.
The purchases can be made at Sam’s Club or Walmart gas stations as well as other gas stations, provided they’re not on the premises of a wholesale club or a superstore.
What this means is that when you make a $50 gas purchase, for example, you’ll earn cash rewards of $2.50. Basically, you’ll earn $5 for every $100 you spend on gas.
Gas Rewards: The Fine Print
Now, this benefit comes with some restrictions. First, Synchrony caps your rewards spending at $6,000, which means that your rewards rate goes down to 1% once you spend $6,000 in gas in a year.
At a 5% rewards rate, $6,000 in gas spending will get you $300 cash back.
Now, this type of spending cap isn’t unique to the Sam’s Club MasterCard. In fact, there are major credit cards out there that handle 5% cash back the same way.
How Much Cash-Back Can You Earn on Gas?
The Chase Freedom and the Discover it Cash credit cards have 5% rewards categories that change every three months. You get that awesome rate for the first $1,500 you spend and, after that, the rate goes down to 1%. When you combine all four quarters of bonus spending, the cap is $6,000.
Of course, the real question is how much you’ll spend each year on gas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spent around $2,000 a year on gas in 2015. Rewards-wise, that’s $100 in cash back per year.
3% Cash Back on Dining and Travel
Unlike the gas category, the dining and travel cash rewards category has no cap. One of our first reactions to this category was a surprise – the 3% on travel is among the best in the industry for rewards cards and matches the bonus you get on the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
We read through the Sam’s Club MasterCard’s fine print and found that the following categories qualify as “travel” purchases:
- Rental cars
- Passenger rail travel
- Bus lines
- Cruise lines
- Travel tour operators
Here’s a list of approved “dining” locations, according to the fine print:
- “Drinking places”
- Fast food places
According to the BLS stats we referenced earlier, the average American families spent around $3,000 on eating out in 2015. And, according to a 2017 article from Conde Nast, the average American family spends about $1,800 on their summer vacation.
That totals out to $4,800, or $144 in cash rewards with the Sam’s Club MasterCard. So, when you add together our projected gas rewards of $100 to the travel/dining cash, you’re looking at a total balance of $244 in rewards.
1% Cash Back
Anything that doesn’t fall into the gas, travel or dining category is going to earn 1% cash back. Exactly how much a family will spend in a year is best understood by the family itself.
Take a look at your spending habits over the past few months and come up with an average amount you think you could spend on your card.
Based on the BLS’ stats, we believe you could spend at least $25,000 a year if you’re a family of three. But, remember, you’ll have to subtract the $6,800 of gas, dining and travel spending from that, which puts you at $18,200, or $182 in cash rewards.
The grand total of all three rewards categories on your yearly Sam’s Club MasterCard spending? Around $426, which is within $74 of what you’d earn from the Citi Double Cash card ($500) and around $51 more than what you’d earn from the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card.
The One Drawback to the Sam’s Club MasterCard’s Rewards Program
The biggest downside to the Sam’s Club credit card’s cash back is that you only get it once a year when Synchrony sends it out to you in February. Also, the check is made payable to Sam’s Club, which means you’ll have to go to a Sam’s Club location to cash it. You can’t deposit it into your bank account.
Here’s how Synchrony words it in the card’s fine print:
“Cash Back earned during a Reward Period is paid out in the form of a check made payable to Sam’s Club as the payee (‘Cash Back Check’), that is distributed annually via U.S. Mail in February of the following year, separate from your Card Account statement. Unredeemed Cash Back Checks will expire as listed on the front of the Cash Back Check.”
Also, you won’t be able to cash your check if you close your credit card account before the check is sent out, if you have two past-due payments and if your cash back is less than $5.
Zero Fraud Liability and $45 Bonus
The Sam’s Club MasterCard comes with a few other benefits common to most credit cards. For example, you aren’t liable for any fraudulent purchases made to your card.
The final main benefit of this card is that, if you can spend $100 or more on one receipt the same day you’re approved for the card, you’ll get a $45 cash bonus added to your statement within one to two months.
The $45 is important to note because that’s the cost of a Sam’s Club basic membership.
The Sam’s Club MasterCard’s Rates and Fees
What you need to keep in mind is that the most important number on this card, its annual percentage rate (APR), has two different tiers: 15.90% and 23.90%. In these cases, the cardholders with the best credit scores get the lowest rate.
You’ll know what your APR is when you’re approved for the card.
Here’s a quick list of the other interest rates and fees you might have to pay if do a cash advance or pay late:
- Late fees: Up to $38
- Cash advance fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
- Cash advance APR: 20.90% or 26.90%
These fees are pretty standard, as many mainstream credit cards also charge a fee and a higher APR for cash advances.
Expert and Consumer Opinions About the Sam’s Club MasterCard
Overall, experts other than HighYa have a pretty high opinion about this card and a lot of that has to do with the Sam’s Club credit card’s rewards rates. They point out that the card’s main drawback, from a rewards perspective, is that there isn’t an up-front cash bonus like what you’d get from the Quicksilver from Capital One or the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express.
The claim that there’s no upfront bonus isn’t true, though. We pointed out earlier that you can get a $45 credit if you make a single-receipt purchase of at least $100 the day you open the card.
As for consumer opinions, the feedback has been pretty negative. The card gets an overall rating of 1.4 stars on Credit Karma, where many of the 31 reviews complained about awful customer service.
Pros of the Sam’s Club MasterCard
Based on our research, the Sam’s Club MasterCard’s greatest strength is the 5%/3%/1% rewards structure that can earn the average family at least $400 in cash back, not including the $45 bonus we mentioned.
Cons of the Sam’s Club MasterCard
The negatives of this card are the check-based cash rewards disbursement and the many complaints we read about Synchrony’s customer service.
Who Is This Card Good For?
Our research indicates this card is good for Sam’s Club customers who aren’t concerned about getting their cash back right away and who spend an average or above-average amount on gas every month.
The Final Word: A Good Cash Back Card for Sam’s Club Loyalists
The Sam’s Club MasterCard has great rewards that can really pay off, especially if you have a long commute to work and spend a decent amount of money on gas every month.
While the way they send you your cash rewards every year is really cumbersome, you may not mind that if you head to Sam’s Club once a week to shop. Getting your cash back, then, is just part of your normal weekly trip.
If you’re on the fence about the card and you want to explore other options, check out the Citi Double Cash. It’s one of the best cash rewards cards on the market because it gives you a flat rate of 2% cash rewards.