[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
As many retailers do, wholesale giant Sam’s Club offers customers two credit card options: one you can use anywhere and one you can only use in their stores. While the Sam’s Club credit cards share most of the same benefits, there are a few key differences to consider if you’re interested in applying for one of their consumer cards. Before we get into those, we’re going to go over the basics.
How to Get a Sam’s Club Credit Card
Before you can get a Sam’s Club credit card, you need to get a Sam’s Club membership. Sam’s Savings (the basic membership) costs $45 a year and Sam’s Plus has $100 annual membership fee. Sam’s Plus perks include a cash rewards program (you get $10 for every $500 spent in qualifying purchases, up to $500 a year) and early shopping hours, among other things.
Regardless of the specific card you may get, Sam’s Club credit cards serve as a form of payment and your membership card, so you don’t need to carry extra plastic in your wallet. Both cards have no annual fee (outside of the aforementioned cost of membership, of course), a late payment fee of up to $37 and a minimum interest charge of $2. Synchrony Financial issues the Sam’s Club credit cards.
What You Need to Know About the Sam’s Club Credit Card
The Sam’s Club personal credit card is a no-frills piece of plastic: You can use it at one of the more than 650 Sam’s Club locations or more than 4,600 Walmarts, but there are no rewards for doing so. Per Sam Club’s website, the card carries a variable annual percentage rate (APR) of 16.65% or 24.65%. That interest rate is typical of many retail credit cards, but it’s high if you’re thinking of using the card to finance purchases.
Generally speaking, store-only credit cards tend to have lower credit score standards than co-branded cards that can be used anywhere that accepts the credit card network (Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover). Neither Synchrony nor Sam’s Club’s website specifies credit qualifications for the Sam’s Club consumer credit cards, and Synchrony did not respond to phone or email inquiries from Credit.com.
What You Need to Know About the Sam’s Club Mastercard
The Sam’s Club Mastercard gives cardholders cash back rewards: 5% back on up to $6,000 of gas purchases (1% cash back after that), 3% on dining and travel and 1% on everything else, though there are exclusions. You can earn a maximum of $5,000 annually in cash back rewards, but the redemption process is cumbersome. Synchrony issues cash back checks in February for all the rewards earned the previous year. If you cancel your Sam’s Club membership or let it lapse, you forfeit your rewards. The checks are made out to Sam’s Club and you can only cash them at Sam’s Club locations. The APR is a variable 16.65% or 24.65% for purchases outside of Sam’s Club depending on creditworthiness.
Alternatives to the Sam’s Club Personal Credit Cards
Part of what makes the Sam’s Club’s consumer credit cards appealing is the fact that they have no annual fee. If you’re interested in the rewards you can get with the Sam’s Club Mastercard, keep in mind that there are a variety of rewards credit cards with no annual fee. Sam’s Club now accepts all credit card networks in its stores, so you have many options for shopping at Sam’s Club while earning credit card rewards.
The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Card has $0 annual fee and a consistent rewards rate of 1.5% cash back on all purchases. It carries a 0% intro on purchases for 15 months, with a 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable) thereafter.
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee
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If you’re looking for higher rewards rates, the Chase Freedom (reviewed here) offers 5% cash back on specific purchase categories that change each quarter — and one of the 2016 categories was wholesale clubs. The Freedom carries an APR of 17.24% - 25.99% Variable.
Take some time to compare cards before applying, and remember to check your credit standing as part of your research. The better your credit score is, the better your chances of qualifying for a card you want. You can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.