About PNC Cash Rewards Visa

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Published on: Jul 17, 2017

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa is a credit card with cash-back rewards offered by PNC Bank, a financial institution based in Pittsburgh, PA.

PNC’s Cash Rewards card has a series of bonus categories you can use to rack up rewards points for the things you purchase the most: gas, eating out and groceries. However, this impressive series of bonuses has a big drawback we’ll talk about later in this post.

Picking the best credit card for the way you spend can be tricky if you don’t have a system you use to make a decision.

Our review is going to walk you through a simple system we use that’s based on a series of questions about the PNC Cash Rewards Card:

  • What are the short-term benefits?
  • What are the long-term benefits?
  • What are the rates and fees?
  • What are experts and consumers saying about it?

As with all of our credit card reviews, we’ll finish up with a really quick section on the card’s pros and cons, as well as our thoughts on who might be a good fit for this credit card.

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa’s Short-Term Benefits

The credit cards we usually review tend to push big up-front rewards to get you to sign up for them. This is especially prevalent with airline rewards cards.

These cards, which are usually linked to a particular airline, offer you a big chunk of free frequently flier points/miles if you can spend a certain amount on your new card within 90 days of the approval of your application.

Cash rewards credit cards are a little different because they don’t tend to offer much money up front. Instead, they entice you on the long-term benefits of earning bonuses that can rack up free cash.

The PNC Cash Rewards is one of several new bank-affiliated cash-back cards that tries to find a good mix between an up-front bonus and long-term perks.

10,000 Free Rewards Points

The first perk you should know about is the PNC Cash Rewards’ 10,000-point bonus you get if you can spend $1,000 in the first three months of owning the card.

The average person can easily hit that spending mark, but just remember that the three-month deadline starts the day PNC approves you for the card, not the day you get the card in the mail.

0% Interest for 12 Months on Balance Transfers

For the first 12 months of owning your PNC Cash Rewards, you won’t pay any interest on balance transfers.

Just in case you’re not familiar with the phrase, balance transfers are what happens when you move a balance from one credit card to another.

People usually make balance transfers because they have a better interest rate on another credit card or, in many cases, because they have a new credit card with a 0% interest offer for balance transfers.

There are only two rules for this benefit. You have to make your balance transfer within the first 90 days of being approved for the card and you have to pay the balance off in full by the end of 12 months or you’ll be charged interest on the remaining balance.

Reduced Balance Transfer Rate

The third main up-front benefit you get with the PNC Cash Rewards Visa is a 3% balance transfer fee the first 90 days you own the card. After that, the fee jumps to 5%.

So, if you transfer $3,000 to your new PNC card in the first 90 days, you’ll be charged a $90 fee that’s added to your balance. After the first 90 days, that fee would be $150.

While it definitely stinks that you have to pay a fee for your balance transfer, you do get the consolation of knowing that you won’t pay interest on it for 12 months.

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa’s Long-Term Benefits

When you get into some research about cash back rewards credit cards, one thing is going to jump out at you: cash back rate.

These rates are usually expressed in percentages: 1%, 1.5%, 2% and so on. The Citi Double Cash card is the only mainstream card with a 2% cash back rate and so it usually gets a lot of praise for its enticing rewards percentage.

However, there are plenty of smaller players that offer some formidable alternatives even though they may not be able to match the Double Cash year in and year out.

The Unique 4%, 3%, 2%, 1% PNC Cash Rewards Bonuses

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa has a very unique rewards structure. Instead of offering a flat rate for all purchases like the Double Cash or the Quicksilver from Capital One, the PNC card gives you varying bonus rates depending on what you’re buying:

  • 4% at gas stations
  • 3% on restaurants/fast food
  • 2% cash back on groceries
  • 1% on everything else

Now, if you’ve spent any time checking out cash back cards, then you’re probably freaking out a little bit over the 4% you get back at the gas station.

However, like we mentioned in the introduction to this review, there’s one big catch to all these bonuses. Once you spend $8,000 combined in the 4%, 3% and 2% categories, all rewards rates go down to 1%.

What does all this mean in a practical sense? We’re going to explain that in the next section.

Average Monthly Spending on Gas, Restaurants and Groceries

The USDA estimates that a family of four (two adults, one toddler, on pre-K) will spend around $885 a month. That $885 is what the USDA considers a “moderate” spending plan. A thrifty grocery budget, by contrast, is about $561 a month and low-cost is $716.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say you spend $885 a month. On groceries alone, you’ll hit the $8,000 spending limit 10 months into the year.

Now, the Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) says in 2015 the average family spent around $2,000 on gas. Those numbers are probably higher now because the price of gas has increased since then, but we’ll just go with $2,000, or $166 a month.

Those same numbers form the BLS say the average family spends around $3,000 a year eating out, or $250 a month.

Here’s a summary of the monthly numbers you’d spend with your PNC Cash Rewards Visa:

  • Gas: $166/mth x 4% rewards = 498 rewards points
  • Eating out: $250/mth x 3% rewards = 750 rewards points
  • Groceries: $885/mth x 2% rewards = 1,770 rewards points
  • Total rewards for an average month = 3,018 points

The conversion rate for points is 1 cent for every point. So, 100 points equals $1, 1,000 points equals $10 and so on.

According to the numbers we just crunched, this card could make you about 36,000 points a year, or $360.

The Average Family Will Hit Their Spending Cap After Six Months

Unfortunately, the $8,000 cap drastically reduces that number. Based on our very basic budget above, you’d hit $8,000 the first week of the seventh month after your cardmember anniversary.

To keep things simple, we’ll say the PNC Cash Rewards card limits the average family to six months of bonus awards, or 18,000 points, more or less. The next six months you’ll get 1% rewards, which totals out to 7,806 points, for a grand total of 25,806 points each year.

So, while all the different bonuses seem amazing, the spending cap ends up severely limiting your rewards earning potential.

To really maximize this card’s potential, you’d have to pair it with another card (more on that in a few minutes).

Points Redemption

We talked with a PNC phone rep who told us that you have to have a minimum of $25 in rewards to redeem them. However, you aren’t limited to redeeming in increments of $25 like you are with Wells Fargo’s rewards cards.

You can apply those cash rewards to your credit card statement or deposit them in your PNC checking or savings account.

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa’s Rates and Fees

Based on our research of dozens of credit cards, we believe the most important rates a credit card offers is the purchase APR because most consumers use their credit card to make purchases.

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa’s APR ranges from 13.99% to 23.99%. The better your credit scores, the better interest rate you’ll get. Remember: APR’s only kick in when you don’t pay your balance in full every month.

If you make one late payment, PNC may hit you with a 29.99% penalty APR and will only remove it when you make six consecutive on-time payments.

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa has no annual fee and late/returned payments will incur a charge of up to $38.

Expert and Consumer Reviews of the PNC Cash Rewards Visa

The reviews of this card are pretty sparse – we only found one good expert review of the card. The site, Doctor of Credit, took only a mild interest in the PNC Cash Rewards, noting that other cards have better rewards rates for grocery purchases.

It’s true – the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express has a 6% bonus on groceries but the rewards are capped at $6,000. Based on normal spending habits, the average family will hit that cap, resulting in $360 in rewards cash.

Summing It Up: The PNC Cash Rewards Visa’s Pros and Cons

Based on our research of the PNC Cash Rewards Visa, we believe the card’s strengths lie in its cash-back bonus structure. Our calculations show that the average family can earn around $460 in the first year and $360 in following years.

The downside to this card is the fact that there’s a cap on bonus spending, but that’s not a unique drawback. Several other cards have spending caps on their bonus categories.

For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited caps their quarterly 5% bonus categories at $1,500, which means they cap their 5% rewards at $6,000.

Who is the PNC Cash Rewards Visa Good For?

We believe the person who will benefit from this card the most is someone who spends more than the average consumer on gas. If that’s you, then you’ll really enjoy the card’s 4% bonus on gas purchases.

Maximize This Card By Pairing It With the Citi Double Cash

Because the PNC Cash Rewards card gives you 4% on gas and 3% on groceries, we believe this card’s value is maximized if you use it only for gas and groceries. If your spending is average, then you’ll drop around $2,000 on gas every year, which is 8,000 points or $80.

But spending $2,000 a year on gas leaves you with another $6,000 in purchases that are eligible for bonus rewards, so we’d say use that remaining $6,000 on groceries (3x bonus). If you follow this method, you’ll earn 18,000 bonus points on groceries.

Grand total of gas and grocery bonuses? 26,000 points, or $260.

This method requires that you use another credit card for purchases that aren’t gas and groceries, though.

The Citi Double Cash is a good fit because it gives you 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you buy something and another 1% when you pay it off.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers, we believe the average family could charge about $16,000 of purchases that aren’t gas and groceries – that’s 32,000 points when you use the Double Cash, or an additional $320.

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