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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 $2,913 on entertainment purchases in 2016, the last year for whch data is available.
Entertainment is a pretty broad spending category. The federal government has a typically wordy definition, which we’ll boil down to the following: fees and admission charges; television, sound equipment and musical instruments; pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment; and sports equipment and recreational boats.
There’s no one credit card you can use to maximize points on all this varied spending, but we’ll focus on what the government says more than half of entertainment spending goes toward — admission charges and in-home amusements. We’ve already covered the best credit cards to pay for streaming services and sporting events, so here we’ll discuss more general entertainment uses.
Among the seven cards on this list, Citi’s line of three cards are included because they all offer identical rewards on a broad array of entertainment spending. Here’s a quick look at what you’d earn per dollar spent on entertainment purchases.
|Category Bonus||Value of the Rewards||Total Earned per Dollar Spent||Annual Fee|
|US 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 (waived the first year)|
|Citi Prestige||2x||1.7 cents||3.4 cents||$450|
|Citi ThankYou Preferred Card||2x||1.7 cents||3.4 cents||$0|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||1.5x||2.1 cents (when paired with a UR card)||3.15 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 those and at 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, like gas stations or grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases. The 5% categories that would fall under entertainment purchases include movie theaters and electronics stores.
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% cash back. US Bank says 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 entertainment purchases and for purchases of Sony products at authorized retailers and 1x points for all other purchases. Entertainment purchases are defined as “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 a $50 statement credit after making your first purchase.
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. Capital One defines entertainment purchases pretty broadly. They include tickets to “a movie, play, concert, sporting event, tourist attraction, theme park, aquarium, zoo, dance club, pool hall or bowling alley. Also, making purchases at record store and video rental locations.” Digital streaming and subscription services, however, will not be eligible for the bonus category rewards.
Welcome bonus: Earn a $500 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
Keep in mind: Capital One only allows you to carry two personal Capital One 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, 2x points on dining and entertainment purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. That bonus is worth $850, according to TPG’s latest valuations.
Keep in mind: Boost your redemption rate by transferring your ThankYou Points to one of 15 travel partners.
Rewards: Earn 3x points on all airfare and hotel purchases, 2x points on all dining and entertainment purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. For all of the ThankYou cards, Citi defines entertainment purchases as “including 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: N/A (the Citi Prestige is currently not available to new applicants, though it’s expected to return at some point)
Keep in mind: This card is known more for its travel perks than for its rewards on entertainment spending. It comes with a 4th Night Free Benefit, a $250 air travel credit, a Priority Pass Select membership and a $100 Global Entry application fee credit.
Citi ThankYou Preferred
Rewards: Earn 2x points on dining and entertainment purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Welcome bonus: None
Rewards: Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases or 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent.
Welcome bonus: Earn $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of account opening.
Keep in mind: To boost the rewards value from a just-OK 1.5 cents per dollar spent to 3.15 cents per dollar, you’ll need to pair this card with one of the Ultimate Rewards cards in Chase’s lineup, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Otherwise, the return from this card can be beaten by other flat-rate credit cards.
Citi nearly has the market cornered on offering rewards for entertainment spending, but you’ll have to decide if one of those cards is worth it if you already have a top travel rewards credit card in your pocket. There is at least one other card that offers a specific category for entertainment spending — the Expedia+ Voyager Card from Citi— but with an estimated 0.7-cent redemption rate on hotel reservations, its 2x rewards aren’t good enough to top any of the cards on our list. If you’re looking for a simple return on your entertainment dollar, the Citi Double Cash Card might be a good option as well. You’ll earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill.
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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 $500 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
- 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