An Unheralded Yet Lucrative Cash Back Card

The Shop Your Way Mastercard® is offering an elevated welcome bonus through Jan. 28, 2023: a $ 75 statement credit for every $ 500 spent in a cardholder’s first 90 days. The promotion is capped at $ 225 in statement credits, which would require spending $ 1,500. This is an attractive deal.

Typically, $ 200 represents a strong introductory bonus for a no annual fee cash back card. For example, that’s the current offer from the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, the US Bank Cash + ® Visa Signature® Card, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.

Note that almost all of those cards have lower spending thresholds: $ 1,000 in three months on the Active Cash ($ 200 cash rewards), $ 1,000 in 120 days on the Cash + card, $ 500 in three months on the Quicksilver, $ 750 in three months on the Custom Cash, $ 1,000 in 90 days on the Customized Cash Rewards card and $ 2,000 in six months on the Blue Cash Everyday.

Still, $ 225 in exchange for spending $ 1,500 in 90 days on the Shop Your Way Mastercard is enticing. That’s a 15 percent return right off the bat, not even including the card’s standard rewards categories. And those are intriguing as well.

Shop Your Way cardholders get 5 percent back (in points) on eligible purchases at gas stations and 3 percent back (in points) on eligible purchases at grocery stores and restaurants. There’s a combined spending limit of $ 10,000 per year on these three bonus rewards categories. Cardholders get an unlimited 2 percent back (in points) on eligible purchases at Shop Your Way merchants (such as Sears, Kmart, Sears Hometown Stores and Sears Home Services). The earn rate on all other purchases is 1 percent (also in points).

These points essentially represent cash back that can be redeemed for gift cards or Sears purchases. There are hundreds of gift card options, including Applebee’s, Banana Republic, CVS, Hotels.com, Lowe’s, Pottery Barn, Uber and many, many other retailers. Two exceptions are rewards earned via Sears and Kmart purchases; those need to be redeemed on future purchases with those brands.

The $ 10,000 cap on bonus gas, grocery and restaurant rewards is generous. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends $ 1,568 per year on gas, $ 4,942 on groceries and $ 2,375 at restaurants. That’s a grand total of $ 8,885.

With a 5 percent (in points) rewards rate, the Shop Your Way Mastercard is one of the best credit cards for gas. That’s especially important with gas prices currently at record highs. And it’s rare to get 3 percent cash back on groceries and dining purchases on the same card. These are popular categories that are also experiencing rapid inflation.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom Flex℠ cards are worthy competitors because they each give a $ 200 bonus after new cardholders spend $ 500 in their first three months, plus they give 5 percent cash back on up to $ 6,000 in gas purchases during each new cardholder’s first year. Note that this welcome offer is only available to those who apply directly through Chase.

The Freedom Unlimited’s standard rewards are 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3 percent cash back at restaurants and drugstores and 1.5 percent cash back on everything else.

The Freedom Flex has the same travel, restaurant and drugstore categories plus rotating quarterly categories that earn 5 percent cash back. Activation is required, and that rate applies to up to $ 1,500 in quarterly spending. Cardholders earn 1 percent cash back after that and on all other purchases.

Those are two of my favorite no-annual-fee cash back cards, but the Shop Your Way Mastercard is also a sneaky contender. Its 5 percent earn rate on gas extends beyond the first year, plus 3 percent cash back at grocery stores is a sweet deal. These cards could actually complement each other quite nicely.

The bottom line

The Shop Your Way Mastercard flies under the radar, probably largely because of its affiliation with a couple of retail brands that have been struggling for years, but it’s much more than a store credit card. It’s actually a very solid and versatile cash back card.

Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at ted.rossman@bankrate.com and I’d be happy to help.

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