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Americans spend more on entertainment each year than they do on gas or clothing. They spend nearly as much on entertainment as they do on health insurance costs and dining out. In other words, amusing ourselves is a big part of the typical household budget.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average US household spent $3,203 on entertainment purchases in 2017, the last year for which data is available. However, entertainment is a broad spending category. As such, there’s no one credit card you can use to maximize the entertainment category because some that spending will inherently code as other categories, such as travel or dining.
For example, when you are on a ski trip it can be difficult to predict how lift tickets, ski rentals and dining on the slopes will code. Luckily, TPG has a full post on the best cards to use on ski trips.
Amusement parks like Disney are another entertainment category that deserves a special mention. Generally, amusement park tickets purchased from the parks themselves code as entertainment — and some of the cards discussed below explicitly include amusement parks in their definition of entertainment.
As you can see, finding the best credit cards for entertainment spending depends on the types of entertainment that you prefer. In addition to our article on the best cards to use on ski trips, we’ve covered the best credit cards to pay for streaming services, Amazon purchases and sporting events. So, in this article we discuss cards for more general entertainment expenses.
TPG Intern Benji Stawski contributed to this report.
Here’s a quick run-down at what you’d earn per dollar spent on entertainment purchases with six different cards.
|Category Bonus||Value of the Rewards||Total Earned per Dollar Spent||Annual Fee|
|U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card||5% cash back||1 cent||5 cents||$0|
|Sony Card from Capital One||5x||1 cent or less||5 cents or less||$0|
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card||4% cash back||1 cent||4 cents||$95 (waived the first year)|
|Citi Premier Card||2x||1.7 cents||3.4 cents||$95|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||1.5% (1.5x)||2 cents (when paired with an Ultimate Rewards-earning card)||3 cents||$0|
|Marvel Mastercard||3% cash back||1 cent||3 cents||$0|
As you can see, the US Bank Cash+ Visa has the greatest return per dollar spent. But it does carry some restrictions. Let’s look at them, along with each card more in depth.
Rewards: 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined two categories you choose, 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category (currently grocery stores, gas stations or restaurants) and 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases. The current 5% categories that would fall under entertainment include TV, internet and streaming services, electronics stores, sporting goods stores, movie theaters and gyms/fitness centers.
Welcome bonus: Earn $150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Keep in mind: You must enroll each quarter into the categories of your choice to earn 5% and 2% cash back, and the category options are subject to change quarterly. Although most Americans probably don’t have to worry about the quarterly spending cap, the most you could earn with the 5% bonus is $100 per quarter.
Sony Card from Capital One
Rewards: Earn 5x points for select entertainment purchases and for purchases of Sony products at authorized retailers with purchase confirmation and 1x points for all other purchases.
How Entertainment is Defined: Select entertainment purchases are defined with the following merchant category codes: music downloads and record stores, motion picture theaters and tickets, sports, theaters, bands, orchestras, video game amusement supply and arcade, continuing subscription services, digital games, digital books, digital movies, digital music and select merchants that provide digital TV/radio services.
Welcome bonus: Earn 500 Sony rewards points after making your first purchase in the first 90 days after account opening.
Keep in mind: Points can only be redeemed for Sony products, gift cards and other items available at SonyRewards.com. Points are typically worth 1 cent apiece or less depending on your redemption choice.
Rewards: Earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else.
How Entertainment is Defined: Capital One defines entertainment purchases pretty broadly. According to the Capital One website, entertainment purchases include tickets to movie theaters, plays, concerts, sporting events, tourist attractions, theme parks, aquariums, zoos and dance clubs as well as purchases made at bowling alleys, pool halls, record stores and video rental locations.
Welcome bonus: Earn a $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
Keep in mind: Thanks to a new partnership with Taylor Swift, Capital One cardholders have the chance to pre-order an exclusive album bundle that includes a one-of-a-kind Taylor Swift t-shirt. Additionally, Capital One only allows you to carry two personal Capital One branded cards at a time and also tends to restrict you to one new card every six months, including both business and personal cards. If you’re interested in this card, keep these restrictions in mind as you plan an application strategy.
Rewards: Earn 3x points on travel (including gas), 2x points on restaurants and entertainment purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
How Entertainment is Defined: According to Citi, eligible entertainment purchases for 2x earning include “live entertainment, live theatrical productions, concerts, live sporting events, movie theaters, amusement parks (including zoos, aquariums, circuses and carnivals), tourist attractions (including museums and art galleries), record stores, video rental stores and on-demand internet streaming media.”
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. That bonus is worth $1,020, according to TPG’s latest valuations.
Rewards: Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, or 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent if you have a full-fledged Ultimate Rewards earning card — Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred.
Welcome bonus: Earn 3% cash back on the first $20,000 of spending in your first year after account opening.
Keep in mind: The earnings on this card become impressive when you have a full-fledged Ultimate Rewards earning card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, as this converts your 1.5% cash back earning to 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. Otherwise, the return from this card can be beaten by other flat-rate credit cards.
Rewards: Earn 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, online purchases at Marvel.com and purchases at Marvel’s official merchandise booths.
How Entertainment is Defined: For 3% cash back earnings, entertainment includes “movie theaters, video rental and game stores, theatrical and concert promoters, amusement parks, digital entertainment, games, and software merchants, music, books, and newsstands, and toys and hobby stores.”
Welcome bonus: Earn a $25 statement credit after your first purchase.
Keep in mind: Cash back is paid as a statement credit.
The US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card is a surprisingly strong no-annual-fee card, if you’re willing to sign up for new bonus categories each quarter and have diverse enough entertainment spending to consistently maximize the 5% cash-back categories each quarter. Alternatively, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card is a good card for broad entertainment spending — especially if you prefer cash-back cards and can also benefit from 4% cash back on dining.
If you’re looking for a simple return on your entertainment dollar — or don’t know whether a purchase will code as entertainment or not — a general spending card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Citi® Double Cash Card might be a better option. The Citi Prestige Card, which previously offered 2 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent on entertainment (and will continue offering 2x points until September 2019 for card holders that applied before September 1, 2018), also deserves a special mention because it offers missed event ticket protection. So, it might be worth using your Citi Prestige when you purchase event or concert tickets even if the Prestige doesn’t get you the best return.
Featured image by Pimpap Suvanarat / EyeEm
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This cash back card has a focus on dining and entertainment where you can earn unlimited 4% cash back in those spending categories. You can also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
- Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020.
- Receive a monthly statement credit for a Postmates Unlimited monthly membership through Dec. 2019 with the Capital One Savor Card
- No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- Capital One cardholders get access to premium experiences in dining, entertainment and more
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that