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Sam's Club Mastercard: Are the Gas Rewards Worth It?

While lucrative at first glance, this card has a few strings attached.

The Sam's Club® Mastercard®* -- not to be confused with the more limited Sam's Club Credit Card* -- offers great rewards on gas and competitive rewards on restaurants. But it's really only worth your while if you shop at Sam's Club regularly. And if you want your rewards redeemed as cash, you'll have to have a branch nearby.

The Sam's Club Mastercard has no annual fee, but requires one of the two tier of Sam's Club membership -- a basic club membership for $45 annually or a Sam's Club Plus membership, designed for frequent shoppers, for $100 annually. You can earn an extra 2% rewards rate on Sam's Club purchases with the Sam's Club Plus membership, but unless you shop at the wholesale retailer frequently, you won't see a lot of benefit from the additional cost.

There is a welcome bonus with the Sam's Club Mastercard, though on the smaller side: You'll get a $30 statement credit when you open a new account and make $30 in purchases at a Sam's Club within the first 30 days. This isn't a very competitive welcome bonus, but it's in-line with other retailer-branded credit cards.

Rewards redemption is not as straightforward as with most other credit cards and can easily make or break your decision to apply for the card. We'll outline the rewards program, redemption process and offer alternative picks that may be a better fit for you.

Sam's Club® Mastercard®

Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR15.90% or 23.90% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good Credit
Reward Rates
  • 5% cash back on gas anywhere (up to $6,000)
  • Plus members earn 3% 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% back from their Plus membership, for a total of up to 5% rewards on eligible purchases.
  • 3% cash back on dining and takeout
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 5% cash back on gas anywhere (up to $6,000)
  • Plus members earn 3% 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% back from their Plus membership, for a total of up to 5% rewards on eligible purchases.
  • 3% cash back on dining and takeout
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.

Rewards program

With the Sam's Club Mastercard, you'll get cash back on Sam's Club purchases, both in-store or online, but how much you'll earn depends on your membership level. Club members earn 3% Sam's Cash when using the Sam's Club Mastercard, and 1% on other purchases, while Sam's Club Plus members earn a total of 5% back in Sam's Cash on all Sam's Club purchases, and 1% on other purchases.

You'll also earn rewards outside of the Sam's Club ecosystem. You'll get a very notable 5% cash back on your first $6,000 spent on gas per year, then 1% after. This is one of the highest rewards rates for gas available, and will cover the average American's annual gas budget, which typically hovers at around $2,000. Plus, you'll earn a competitive rate on dining -- 3% cash back at restaurants, with no spending cap, and 1% back on all other purchases.

The question is, is Sam's Cash easy enough to redeem to make the Sam's Club Mastercard worth getting for the gas rewards?

Redeeming Sam's Cash

When you earn Sam's Cash (previously known as Cash Back Rewards) on your purchases, your rewards show up in your Sam's Cash Loyalty Rewards Program balance.

Sam's Cash can be used in club or online at Sam's Club, or it can be redeemed for cash in Club at the member service desk. Your rewards will not expire as long as you are a Sam's Club member. So you'll want to have a Sam's Club nearby if you're looking to get gas rewards but aren't a regular at the wholesaler.

Comparable cards

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is the most flexible alternative where you can earn up to 5% cash back on gas stations. You'll earn 5% back on up to $500 spent on your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle, automatically. After that, you'll earn 1% -- the same rate for all other purchases.

Eligible spending categories include gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. And redeeming your rewards for cash back is simple and reliable compared to the Sam's Club Mastercard.

For more details about the rewards program, redemption and the welcome bonus, check out our full review of the Citi Custom Cash Card.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi* is for those who prefer Costco to Sam's Club. You'll get 4% back on eligible gas, including at Costco, for the first $7,000 spent per year (then 1%). Though this rate is a little lower than that of the Sam's Club Mastercard, the spending threshold is a bit higher. You'll earn 3% back on restaurants, which is directly competitive. However, you'll only earn 2% on Costco and costco.com purchases. And, as is standard, 1% on all other purchases.

The Costco Anywhere Visa has similar limitations when it comes to redeeming your rewards. They're only issued once a year in February, and they expire if not used in the calendar year they are issued. For more details on the rewards program and redemption, check out our full review of the Costco Anywhere Visa.

FAQs

How should I choose a credit card?

Ultimately, the right credit card is unique to each person's goals and preferences. Decide what features you're looking for: maximized rewards, spaced-out payments on a large purchase, credit building, an emergency credit card or other benefits. From there, you can decide the type of card you're looking for. You can then use CNET's online reviews to further narrow down what terms will work best for you.

Do you need to be a member to shop at Sam's Club?

Yes, you'll need a Sam's Club membership to shop at Sam's Club. Basic membership costs $45 per year, or you can become a Sam's Club Plus member for $100 per year. You'll need to have at least the basic Sam's Club membership to successfully apply for the Sam's Club Mastercard. Sam's Club Plus members regularly earn 2% cash back on their Sam's Club purchases, and they'll get 5% back on purchases with the Sam's Club Mastercard. 

What types of cash-back credit cards are there?

Cash-back credit cards generally fall into four primary categories: flat rate, tiered, rotating or choose your own. 

Flat-rate cards offer the same rate for every purchase. Tiered cards offer a different rewards rate for different categories of spending. Rotating category cards offer different rewards each quarter, determined by the card issuer. Choose-your-own category cards allow you to choose your rewards category.

Our approach

We review the cards that are in the highest demand and offer the best benefits. We scour the fine print so there aren't any surprises when you open an account. We find the key factors that make a card stand out and compare them to other top cards. That way, readers can opt for a different card with similar features if our pick isn't right for them. Our reviews are regularly checked and updated to incorporate new recommendations, as well as to reflect changes in offers and the market. 

*All information about the Sam's Club Mastercard, Sam's Club Credit Card and the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.