Editorial Policy

Sports Rewards Cards: A Good Play for Fans?

Eva Norlyk Smith Ph.D.

October 10, 2012

QHi Eva,

I am a sports fan. What can you tell me about the NFL rewards card? I’m also looking into the MLB card. I don’t have a rewards card at this time, and it looks like these cards actually have some rewards I’d enjoy. But I wanted to check with an expert first to help me take a deeper look into these cards and see if they are a good deal or not. Thank you very much. — Dave

ADear Dave,

If you are looking for a card with rewards you can believe in, well, for sports fans, the NFL Extra Points Visa card hits the mark. For starters, you get to pay with a credit card with your team’s logo — which, my guess is, you and your pals likely will get quite a kick out of (pun intended).

And, as you probably already know, rewards earnings can be redeemed for nifty sports-related perks like sports gear with your team’s logo, preferred seating tickets, field passes and access to post-game press conferences. For high-rollers who accumulate 500,000 rewards points, there’s even the option for a round of golf with a player from your favorite team. Points can also be redeemed for the usual rewards benefits like cash back, free flights, hotel stays and more.Ask Eva

New cardholders get 10,000 bonus points after the first card usage, worth $100 in cash back, or better, enough for a pre-game sideline pass or access to a post-game press conference. Cardholders also save 20 percent on purchases at NFLShop.com when paying with the card, a pretty nifty discount.

So, is the NFL credit card a good deal? Well, it really depends on what you are looking for. If you’re looking for a rewards card that will give you the best cash-back rewards earnings, the NFL card is not your best option. The card lets you earn the equivalent of 2 percent cash back on NFL-related purchases (in addition to the 20 percent savings in the NFLShop.com) and the equivalent of 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Getting 1 percent cash back on most of your purchases isn’t bad, but you could easily get a better deal with other rewards credit cards, which let you earn as much as to 3 percent to 6 percent cash back on groceries and 2 percent to 3 percent on gas.

However, my guess is that getting the highest cash rewards is not really what you’re after. For a sports fan like you, the NFL-related perks are probably worth much more than a few extra percentage points. You could, of course, get more than one rewards card, but then you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and not earning enough points to get you the sport-related perks you want.

As for which sports credit card offers the best deal, the NFL or the MLB credit card, you’ll have to do a little digging. As far as the sports rewards go, the two cards offer pretty similar benefits. With the MLB Cash Rewards credit card from Bank of America, you also get a credit card with your team logo, a $50 cash back bonus if you make $100 worth of purchases in the first 60 days and 20 percent off purchases at MLB.com/shop.  Rewards points can be redeemed for perks like field-level or suite tickets, autographed memorabilia, World Series game tickets or access to your team’s batting practices and other unique sports experiences.

The cards also have similar annual percentage rates (APRs). Both sport a year-long 0 percent introductory period. After that, the interest rate for the NFL card ranges between 13.74 percent and 22.74 percent (depending on credit worthiness), while the interest rate for the MLB card ranges from 12.99 percent to 20.99 percent.

The two cards are issued by two different banks, so that’s a clue that, when it comes to the actual credit card terms, there might be a difference. The NFL credit card is issued by Barclays, while the MLB card is issued by Bank of America (the NFL card used to be issued by BofA, but the NFL recently switched over the Barclays).

On the face of it, the MLB card offers better value because it gives 3 percent cash back on gas and 2 percent on groceries. However, read the fine print, and there’s a $1,500 quarterly cap on the grocery and gas purchases you can earn rewards on. In other words, those extra cash-back earnings apply only to your first $500 in grocery and gas purchases each month. After that, you earn 1 percent cash back.

In short, there’s not a big difference between the two cards. So ultimately, to pick the right one, take a long, hard look at the sports perks of each card and decide which one makes your heart beat just a little faster.

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