Walmart and Sam’s Club are two of the largest retailers in the U.S. and are both under the Walmart Inc. family. Whether you’re in it for the free samples or for the endless aisles of options, if you’re a devoted Walmart or Sam’s Club shopper, you may be eyeing the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® or the Synchrony-issued Sam’s Club® Mastercard® for the potential savings either could offer.
Both $0-annual-fee cards feature 5% cash-back categories and bonus tiered spending, meaning they can be lucrative — and also high-maintenance.
But the two co-branded cards differ significantly in terms of spending flexibility, spending caps and rewards redemption, among other distinctive features. In the end, it all depends on your typical spending habits and what kind of shopper you are.
Here’s what each card offers.
How they compare, at a glance
$0, but a Sam’s Club membership is required
Earn 5% back on purchases in Walmart stores when you use this card in Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval. Walmart Pay is Walmart’s digital wallet, which you can use at checkout via your phone.
The card often offers a statement credit, in varying amounts, when you open an account and meet a spending requirement with Sam’s Club within a certain number of days.
The ongoing APR is 17.99% – 26.99% Variable APR.
The ongoing APR is 14.90% – 22.90%, Variable.
Foreign transaction fee
Nerd tip: Walmart and Sam’s Club also offer closed-loop products, meaning credit cards that can be used only within their respective brands — unlike the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® and the Sam’s Club® Mastercard®, which can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
Strengths of the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®
Super-rewarding for online shoppers
If Walmart is your go-to store and you can do most of your shopping online, then no other card can beat what the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® offers. You’ll get an unlimited 5% back on purchases at Walmart.com and on items you buy through the Walmart app. That’s a stellar rate.
And even if you mostly shop inside brick-and-mortar Walmart stores, you’ll still earn 2% back on every purchase there. Your incentives to shop within the Walmart brand are solid.
The same can’t be said for the Sam’s Club® Mastercard®. Yes, you’ll earn 5% back at Sam’s Club-branded gas stations. But beyond that, whether you shop inside a physical Sam’s Club or at samsclub.com, you’re going to get only 1% back on your shopping.
Pretty paltry for a co-branded card.
No membership requirements
The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® has an annual fee of $0, and you don’t have to join a club to get it.
Conversely, although the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® also doesn’t charge an annual fee, it does require cardholders to have a Sam’s Club membership. Annual membership fees start at $45.
Paying to be a Sam’s Club member might make sense if the card’s rewards are worth it for you and match up with your spending (more on this below). Plus, the card frequently offers a sign-up bonus, in the form of a statement credit, that may cover the cost of that membership fee for the first year.
But the Walmart credit card has no such membership hurdle at all.
No caps on rewards
The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® earns unlimited cash back in its 5%, 2% and 1% categories. You don’t have to worry about bumping up against a cap on rewards.
On the other hand, your total combined rewards on the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® are capped at $5,000 per year. And the card’s 5% category is also capped: You can earn that high rate on up to $6,000 in gas purchases each year, but once you hit that limit, you’ll drop down to earning 1% back on gas purchases for the rest of the year.
This may be a moot point for many, as $6,000 is still well above what the average American spends on gas per year. And even if you were to max that out, you’d still earn $300 in rewards each year on gas alone, not including the card’s other bonus categories and the 1% you’d earn on gas after hitting the cap. That’s a good chunk of change.
But a cap is a cap, and the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® doesn’t have any.
With the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®, you can redeem your points for cash back in any amount and at any time (at a rate of a penny per point). Points can be redeemed for statement credit, credit toward online purchases, gift cards or for travel through Capital One’s travel portal.
By comparison, rewards redemption is more restrictive for the Sam’s Club® Mastercard®. For starters, your rewards will be issued only once a year — in February, for the previous year’s spending — and will be automatically loaded onto your Sam’s Club membership at that time.
Those rewards are redeemable for cash back or toward Sam’s Club merchandise. But you’ll have to earn at least $5 in rewards to receive cash back — and rewards below this amount will not be carried over.
Strengths of the Sam’s Club® Mastercard®
Exceptional rewards on gas
The Sam’s Club® Mastercard® is an excellent credit card for gas guzzlers. Its 5% rate in that category is on par with, if not better than, what’s offered by the best gas credit cards on the market.
As noted, there’s a cap on those rewards, but the average American household won’t come anywhere close to hitting it.
With the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®, the best you’ll be able to do on gas purchases is 2% back for eligible brands.
Pretty darn good for dining and travel, too
The 3% back on dining and travel that the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® offers is also among the very best rates in those categories, at least among credit cards with no annual fee.
And indeed it’s better than the 2% back you’d earn in those categories with the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®.
Does it make sense to have both?
Probably not for most people. For starters, both cards already have complicated rewards tiers of their own; keeping track of both of them may make it even more complex.
Secondly, having both cards would be worthwhile only if you’re both an avid Walmart shopper and already a Sam’s Club member who spends a lot on gas.
But it’s more likely that you’re either a big-box shopper or a wholesale club shopper. If you’re the former, the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® is the superior pick. And if you’re the latter … well, the answer isn’t as clear-cut.
That’s because the Sam’s Club® Mastercard® is not worth getting just because you shop a lot at Sam’s Club. In fact, you’d earn the same rewards rate there with either card — 1% back — so it’s a wash.
The Sam’s Club card makes sense only if you’re an existing club member and a large portion of your budget is devoted to gas, travel and dining out.
If you’re not tied to either Walmart or Sam’s Club and just want a straightforward card that can reward you well no matter where you shop, consider a general flat-rate rewards card like the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. It earns 2% cash back on everything, no matter where you shop or what you purchase there: 1% back when you buy, 1% back when you pay it off.
Information related to the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.