Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Wholesale clubs can help shoppers save money on groceries and other necessities. But do their store-branded credit cards offer savings? What benefits do they offer, and are they worth it?
This in-depth review examines the Sam’s Club® Mastercard®, considering its rewards, fees, APR, features, and more.
|Sam’s Club Card
|14.90% variable (account type 1)
22.90% variable (account type 2)
|Up to $40
* For this program, “cash-back” comes in the form of Cash Rewards, not true cash-back.
This rewards-earning card is issued by Synchrony Bank, and while there is no annual fee, cardholders must be a Sam’s Club member to apply. It costs $45 for an annual Sam’s Club membership and $100 for an annual Sam’s Club Plus membership.
The Sam’s Club card typically offers a sign-up bonus.
An example of a bonus is that if you open a Sam’s Club card and use your new account to make Sam’s Club purchases totaling $30 or more (excluding cash advances, gift card sales, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmacy purchases) within 30 days of the date of account opening, you will receive a 1-time $30 credit within 90 days after the qualifying purchases are made.
With the Sam’s Club card, cardholders can earn several benefits:
The 5% Cash Rewards for gas exclude purchases made at fuel stations of wholesale clubs other than Sam’s Club, certain supercenters, and supermarkets.
Cash-back on dining and all other purchases excludes purchases made at any wholesale clubs other than Sam’s Club.
You’ll only earn 1% cash-back on all in-store purchases at Sam’s Club and Walmart, though upgraded Plus members can earn 5% (2% for Plus membership and 3% with the card). With minimal in-store rewards value, there are better credit cards available to maximize rewards for in-store purchases (see the Alternative Rewards Credit Cards section below).
Also notable: the maximum cash-back amount you can earn per calendar year is $5,000.
Hot Tip: Cash Rewards are issued starting in February of the following year and are automatically loaded onto the primary Sam’s Club member’s membership account. Rewards can be used for in-club or online purchases or exchanged for cash-back.
Cash Rewards that aren’t redeemed will expire as of the date listed on the reward notification. Additionally, rewards are forfeited if the member’s account is not in “good standing,” if the member is more than 2 months delinquent on the minimum payment, or if the Sam’s Club membership has lapsed or terminated.
Club members who upgrade from the $45 base membership to the $100 Plus membership will see a 4% increase in Cash Rewards on their Sam’s Club purchases, but is the upgrade worth it?
If we evaluate a breakeven solely based on Sam’s Club purchases (not including other earning categories):
If you are frequent Sam’s Club shopper, upgrading to Plus membership could accelerate your earnings and offer enhanced benefits like:
The 2% Cash Rewards have a maximum reward of $500 per 12-month membership period and a membership can accumulate a maximum balance of $2,000 on a membership card. Earned rewards are loaded to the membership account at the end of each membership year (12-month period) and can be redeemed as cash or store credit at Sam’s Club locations.
Hot Tip: It is worth noting that for the Cash Rewards managed by the Plus membership program and the Cash Rewards managed by the Sam’s Club card, each program is independently operated and managed.
The Sam’s Club card offers special features including:
The Sam’s Club card has specific terms and conditions related to special financing. As a cardholder, if you’re going to utilize this benefit you want to pay close attention to the terminology used.
There is a significant difference between “no interest for 6 months” and “no interest if paid in full within 6 months.”
No interest for 6/12/18/24/36/48 months:
No interest if paid in full within 6/12/18/24/36/48 months:
The easiest way to avoid these is to be a consistently responsible cardholder. You should pay your balance in full every month. If you can’t pay it in full, the next best option is to pay as much as you can, leaving as small a balance as possible. You should always make at least the minimum payment.
|Sam’s Club Card
|Purchase and Quick Cash Advance APR
|14.90% variable (account type 1)
22.90% variable (account type 2)
|Cash Advance APR
|19.9% variable (account type 1)
25.9% variable (account type 2)
|Cash Advance Fee
|$5 or 3% of the amount of each cash advance (whichever is greater)
|Up to $40
With the Sam’s Club card, your given APR percentage depends on which account type you receive:
The APRs range from pretty average for a rewards card (for account type 1) to high (for account type 2). However, the APRs can add up, especially if you often carry a balance.
As mentioned previously, the Cash Rewards from the Sam’s Club card are not true cash-back. The rewards come in the form of an automatic credit to the member’s account and can only be used for Sam’s Club purchases — both in-store and online.
Alternatively, other cash-back credit cards typically give you your cash-back every month.
There are several ways to apply for the Sam’s Club card. Members can either apply digitally (online, via the Sam’s Club app, or via text message) or in-store at their local club (at the member service desk, at a register (including Scan & Go), or at specific self-checkouts). Members must sign in or create an online account with their Sam’s Club membership to apply online.
Some applicants may be approved instantly (there are many other instant approval cards as well). However, other applications may require further review, resulting in a waiting period of 7 to 10 days.
Generally, a “good” credit score is necessary to secure a Sam’s Club card. Some individuals have reported approval with scores in the upper “fair” range.
Once logged in, members have the opportunity to:
You can maximize your cash-back by using the Sam’s Club card for gas and dining purchases to earn bonus cash-back and, if you are not a Plus member earning 5% for in-store purchases, select a different credit card that offers a cash-back earning rate higher than 1% for in-store purchases.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns an unlimited 1.5% cash-back on all purchases and is a no annual fee card.
Alternatively, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ also has a $0 annual fee and allows you to earn 5% cash-back/5x Ultimate Rewards points on quarterly rotating bonus categories on up to $1,500 in purchases. These categories have a history of including wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club.
The Sam’s Club card provides generous cash-back benefits. With 5% on gas, 3% on dining, and 1% on most other purchases, it could be a decent option for your wallet if you’re going the cash-back route.
However, keep in mind that you must be a Sam’s Club member (with a $45 annual membership fee) to apply for a card and retain your benefits.
You can only get your Cash Rewards once per calendar year, and the program doesn’t offer true cash-back. This is a big drawback for those who want to take advantage of their rewards quickly or utilize their cash-back in any way they choose.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card or a card to help you earn more points and miles, this is not the card for you.
The information regarding the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
That depends on which rewards strategy you prefer.
The Sam’s Club card is generally considered a good card for earning Cash Rewards, with higher than average reward percentages in certain categories. Cardholders earn 5% cash-back on gas (up to $6,000 per year then 1%), 3% on dining, and 1% on all other purchases.
It’s important to note these Cash Rewards are only issued once per year for the previous calendar year and can only be redeemed in a Sam’s Club store or exchanged for cash-back.
In general, reports state applicants need a “good” credit score (700+) in order to be approved for a Sam’s Club card. However, while not the norm, some individuals have reported approval with scores in the top of the “fair” range.
To learn more about what makes a “good” or “bad” credit score and it’s important, check out our in-depth guide here.
Your Sam’s Club card can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted.
You can pay your Sam’s Club card in a number of ways:
The most efficient way to cancel your Sam’s Club card is to call the customer service phone number listed on the back of your card.
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