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Sam's Club Mastercard Review

Dayana Yochim

Written by Dayana Yochim
Fact-checked by Andrea Coombes
Edited by Carolyn Kimball

December 22, 2023

Why trust us? Investor.com has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

The 5% cashback on gas and EV charging is a standout in the rewards card realm, and the 3% rewards rate on dining is tasty. But if you’re not a Sam’s Club “Plus” member, your “Sam’s Cash” earning potential is limited with this warehouser’s Mastercard.

You can tell by the number of asterisks on the Sam’s Club Mastercard splash page (17 before you even get to the “Apply now” button) that the reward program rules, requirements, ifs, ands, and buts are going to be a slog.

After grinding through the fine print and running the numbers through our credit card rewards calculator, our conclusion about whether the Sam’s Club Mastercard, issued by Synchrony, is worth it is: Yes, if you drive a gas guzzler. Maybe, if you’re a Sam’s Club “Plus” member (its premium membership tier) and dine out a fair amount. Probably not, if you have just a basic Sam’s Club membership, spend less than $5,000 a year there, and seldom take road trips.

The basics: Earn 5% back on gas and EV charging stations on the first $6,000 per year, then 1% after. Earn 3% back on dining and 1% on everything else. Basic Club members earn 1% back on Sam’s Club shopping. “Plus” members can earn up to 5% on eligible Sam’s Club purchases. Total cash back is limited to $5,000 per year. For a limited time get a $50 statement credit when you open a new account and use it to make $50 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days.

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Sam's Club Mastercard

Sam's Club Mastercard Logo
Cashback Per Year
$...
Annual Fee
$0
Welcome Bonus
$30
Want to compare more cards? Use our full calculator.

Sam's Club Mastercard pros and cons

thumb_up_off_alt Pros

  • 5% cashback on gas/EV charging (limits apply)
  • 3% back on dining
  • 1%-3% back on Sam’s Club purchases (based on membership tier)
  • Offers prequalification
  • No foreign transaction fees

thumb_down_off_alt Cons

  • Requires Sam’s Club membership to cash in
  • Pays just 1% back on Sam’s Club purchases
  • Requires “Plus” membership for higher Club reward rates
  • Annual rewards cap will stifle big spenders
  • Limited redemption options

Sam's Club Mastercard cashback rewards spending categories

The following table shows the cashback rewards rate per $1 spent in the six most common spending categories. The “Bonus Rate” refers to the amount you can earn in excess of the card’s standard rewards rate.

Some cashback cards limit the spending amount eligible for the bonus rate (aka the “Spend Cap”). Once you hit that cap (e.g., $1,500 spending in a particular category during a defined time period), the rewards rate on future purchases in that category reverts to the lower “Default Rate.”

Category Default Rate Bonus Rate Bonus Spend Cap Bonus Spend Period (Months)
Gas 1.00% 5.00% $6,000 12
Travel 1.00% - - -
Dining 3.00% - - -
Entertainment 1.00% - - -
Pharmacy 1.00% - - -
Groceries 1.00% - - -
Other Purchases 1.00% - - -

Note: In addition to bonus rewards rates on gas and dining, the Sam’s Club Mastercard pays 1% to 3% cashback on qualifying Sam’s Club purchases based on your membership tier. Sam’s Club “Plus” members earn 3%; “Club” members earn 1%.

Calculator tip: For the most accurate results from the cashback credit card calculator: If you are a Sam’s Club “Plus” member, input the amount you spend each month at Sam’s Club into the “Wholesale Clubs” spending category field. Use the “Other” spending category field if you have a basic “Club” membership.

One final note (because it’s complicated): Sam’s Club imposes a $5,000 limit on the amount customers can earn in “Sam’s Cash” rewards per calendar year. Earnings from using the Sam’s Club Mastercard as well as “Sam’s Cash” earned via the “Plus” rewards program (using any payment method) count towards the $5,000 ceiling.

Tip: Expand the “Spend Categories” in the investor.com credit card rewards calculator above to incorporate additional rewards categories (e.g., Transit, Wholesale Clubs, Utilities) into the cash back per year total.

What we like

You can use it anywhere. Not to be confused with the Sam’s Club Credit Card — which is only accepted at Sam’s Club and Walmart stores — the Sam’s Club Mastercard can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted. It also serves as your membership card when shopping at Sam’s.

Sam’s Club Plus members earn 3% back (versus 1% for basic members) when using the Mastercard on eligible online and in-store warehouse club and “Scan & Go” purchases.

The 5% cashback rate on gas is 🤌. That full-octane rewards rate applies to the first $6,000 you spend at gas stations and EV charging stations per year, which equates to up to $300 cashback in this category. After that, you’ll earn the base 1% cashback rate. That’s even better than the Costco Anywhere Visa’s 4% on up to $7,000 in gas/EV charging per year, which nets you a maximum of $280 cashback annually. (For other gas card options, see our guide to the Best Gas Rewards Credit Cards.)

The 3% reward rate on dining is higher than the 1%-2% offered by the majority of cashback credit cards. (FYI, the Costco Anywhere Visa also offers 3% cashback on dining.) True foodies, however, can score higher rates with other dining-focused rewards credit cards like the Capital One Savor Rewards Card, which pays an unlimited 4% cashback on dining and 3% on groceries.

5% cashback on gas and 3% on dining do not require a “Plus” membership. Cardholders who have a basic-level Sam’s Club pass earn the same rewards rates on fuel and dining/takeout as those who pay for the pricier Sam’s Club Plus membership.

What we don't like

The “earn up to 5% back” wording used to advertise the Sam’s Club Mastercard. The warehouse club’s legal eagles are careful to cover their tushies with fine print and liberal use of asterisks with every bold come-on. But it’s easy to get the impression that you’ll earn 5% back all your Sam’s Club purchases through this card. At best, you’ll earn 3% back using the Sam’s Club Mastercard. The additional 2% (which feeds into the “up to 5%” claim) is part of a completely separate rewards program for “Plus” members. “Plus” members are eligible for the extra 2% when using any payment method — not just the Sam’s Mastercard.

1% cashback on Sam’s Club purchases for basic “Club” members is breathtakingly basic. Simply covering the $50 annual membership fee with the rewards you earn on Sam’s Club purchases requires spending at least $5,000 a year at the store. For comparison, Costco offers all of its cardholders — regardless of membership tier — 2% back on their shopping hauls. Breaking even on the $60 basic membership fee requires just $3,000 in annual purchases with the Costco Visa.

You’ll need a “Plus” membership to earn 3% back on Sam’s Club purchases when using the card. It’ll cost you an extra $60 to upgrade your membership. On the “Plus” side, leveling up a membership tier makes you eligible to earn an additional 2% back through the “Plus” rewards program. (Small print: The maximum you can earn per 12-month membership period is $500.)

Meh welcome bonus. The limited-time-only signup bonus gets you a $50 statement credit after you make $50 in Sam’s Club purchases within 30 days of account opening. For what it’s worth, Costco doesn’t offer any signup bonus for its Anywhere Visa card.

There’s a $5,000 overall rewards cap per calendar year. It’s unlikely that your average shopper will exceed that threshold. But it could happen, especially if you have multiple card accounts — personal or business accounts — attached to the same Sam’s Club membership. Rewards earned via purchases on all of the cards are aggregated to determine the annual total. Once you hit the $5,000 rewards earning ceiling, your purchases will earn $0 in Sam’s Cash until the next calendar year.

Cashback = “Sam’s Cash.” The Sam’s Club Mastercard pays out rewards differently than a typical rewards credit card. Your earnings are applied to your Sam’s Club account as “Sam’s Cash,” which is co-mingled with any Sam’s Cash you earn under the “Plus” rewards plan. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the redemption rules were identical, but they’re not.

Redeeming Sam’s Cash requires a trip to the warehouse if you want to cash out those earnings for actual cash back. (Make the request at Member Services or at any register manned by a human.) Otherwise, you can use your earnings to offset your card balance or cover Sam’s Club purchases.

Requires a Sam’s Club membership, which will run you $50 a year for a standard “Club” membership and $110 annually for the “Plus” tier. It might sound like we’re stating the obvious, but it’s important to note that if you let your membership expire, any unredeemed earnings will be forfeited.

P.S.: Booze, tobacco and prescription purchases don’t earn rewards. And on that note …

The bottom line

Is the Sam's Club Mastercard the best rewards card for your wallet? The answer depends entirely on your spending patterns. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Use the investor.com Cashback Credit Card Calculator to see which credit card pays back the highest rewards based on how much you spend each month.

Sam's Club Mastercard fine print

With multiple rewards programs and different membership tiers, reviewing the fine print is essential, especially if you’re on the fence about whether the Sam’s Club Mastercard is a good choice. Start with this overview about earning and redeeming Sam’s Cash when using the Sam’s Club Mastercard. Here are the rules on Sam’s Cash earned/redeemed through the “Plus” program.

Does the Sam's Club Mastercard charge an annual fee?

No, the Sam's Club Mastercard charges an annual fee of $0.

tips_and_updates Trivia time!

Roughly 14% of the consumer cashback cards we track in our database charge an annual fee. The average annual fee is $72.60, while the median is $95.

Does the Sam's Club Mastercard offer a welcome bonus?

Yes, the Sam's Club Mastercard has a welcome bonus of $30.

tips_and_updates Fun fact

Of the more than 60 cashback credit cards in our database, 66% offer a welcome bonus. Currently, the average sign-up bonus on a new cashback card is $210.71, with the median being $200.

How much cash back can I earn with the Sam's Club Mastercard?

The average American that spends $1000 per month will earn $222.00 in cash back per year using the Sam's Club Mastercard. For comparison, the average annual rewards payout from the cashback credit cards in the investor.com database is $191.26, and $180 is the median.

These calculations are based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the reward payout rates from the providers we track. Of course, you’re so much more than an average data point (aka “consumer unit,” in BLS parlance). The amount you can earn in cashback rewards using the Sam's Club Mastercard depends entirely on your unique spending habits.

Find out exactly how much you’ll rake in with the Sam's Club Mastercard by tailoring the spending inputs in the calculator above.

Even more good stuff



Methodology

The results of the investor.com Credit Card Rewards Calculator are based on the monthly spending amounts you enter and the annual dollar value of the rewards each credit card program pays per $1 spent. Credit card companies often express this payout amount as a percentage (e.g., 1.5% of every dollar spent) or on a points basis (e.g. ,1.5 points for every dollar spent). We converted all of them to a dollar amount (“Cash Back Per Year”) to make comparing offers easier.

To calculate the amount of cash back you could earn per year, we factored in:

  • Spend category inputs: The default dollar values for each “Spend Category” in the Best Cashback Credit Cards tool — gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment, pharmacy, other — are based on average American spending data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also include additional spend categories (such as streaming services, online shopping, utilities, transit, Amazon and more) to help you see which rewards cards are most closely aligned with your actual spending patterns. We encourage you to customize the monthly spend inputs for the most accurate results.
  • Tiered rewards rates: If a rewards credit card pays higher cashback rates on certain spending categories (also called “Bonus Rewards”), that difference is reflected in the total “Cash Back Per Year” tally.
  • Rewards spending caps: Some cards impose category- or time-based limits (monthly, quarterly, annually) that affect the amount of rewards you can earn. For example, a card may pay 3% cash back on groceries on up to $1,000 of spending each quarter, then revert to the base/default rewards rate until the following quarter. We accounted for bonus spending caps and timeframe in the calculations.
  • Default rewards rates: Purchases that exceed a spending cap are usually subject to a lower default rewards rate (e.g., 1% or 1.5%). We mathed that out too.
  • Annual fees: If a rewards card charges an annual fee, we deducted that amount from the “Cash Back Per Year” total to provide a true accounting of a card’s annual rewards payout.

What’s not included in the “Cash Back Per Year” total is the cash value of any sign-up/introductory bonus. We highlight any Welcome Bonus separately. While sign-up bonuses can be the most lucrative part of getting a new cashback rewards credit card, not everyone will want or be able to do what it takes to earn the extra cash. (It usually requires spending a certain amount in a specified time period after the card is activated.)

About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool, HerMoney.com, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on investor.com. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

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