The best credit cards for sports fans

Nov 28, 2019

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Pardon the pun, but it’s easy to strike out when it comes to earning points and perks on sports-related purchases. Most rewards card aren’t tailored to sports fans looking to earn more than a pittance on that $500 ballpark experience. In fact, just one major credit card issuer offers a rewards category explicitly for sporting event purchases.

That said, most of the major sports leagues offer co-branded credit cards for fans to show off their team loyalty — and potentially earn extra rewards on ticket purchases. And some cards — particularly premium travel rewards cards — also offer exclusive packages for cardholders to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences or special access to sporting events.

Choosing the right sports-related credit card depends on what benefits you want most. There’s really no one-size-fits-all card, although some of the top prospects could find a place at the front of your wallet. Let’s break down the all-star cards in three categories: cards that offer sport-related perks and rewards, sport-specific cards and cards with loyalty programs fit for a fan.

Cards for all sports

If you’re looking to earn more than the 1 point per dollar or 1% cash back that most cards offer on sporting ticket purchases, either the Capital One Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Citi Premier℠ Card may be a good fit. The information for the Citi Premier Card and the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Capital One Savor pays 4% cash back on entertainment purchases, including tickets to sporting events. You’ll also earn that top bonus multiplier on tickets to movies, plays, concerts, tourist attractions, theme parks, aquariums, zoos, dance clubs, pool halls and bowling alleys. In addition, you’ll earn 4% cash back on dining purchases, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. New cardholders can earn a $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Related reading: Credit card showdown: Capital One Savor versus SavorOne

Meanwhile, the Citi Premier Card earn 3 ThankYou points per dollar spent on travel and 2 points per dollar spent on dining out and “select entertainment.” The issuer has crafted a pretty broad definition of what qualifies as entertainment purchases, and it includes “live sporting events” and “live entertainment.” That should cover most, if not all, sports-related ticket purchases you may consider.

Related reading: 4 reasons to get the Citi Premier

You can also earn 2x points on concerts, movie theaters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, record stores, video rental stores and on-demand internet streaming media. New cardholders will also earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.  The card has a $95 annual fee.

Image by Getty Images
Catch an NBA basketball game and earn points on certain credit cards. (Photo by Getty Images)

TPG doesn’t value ThankYou Rewards quite as high as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards due to Citi having somewhat less-valuable travel transfer partners. But if you want to earn a top return on your sports spending, this is the best program available. According to TPG’s most recent valuations, Citi ThankYou points are worth 1.7 cents. You’ll get the most redemption value by transferring your points to one of the program’s travel partners, which include Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Virgin Atlantic.

Cards for your favorite league

If you’re dying to show off your devotion to your favorite team — let’s say the Cleveland Browns — you could buy a jersey, a No. 1 foam finger key chain and a Dawg Pound button using a credit card decked out with the Browns logo.

The NFL Extra Points Credit Card issued by Barclays is a stand-out among the co-branded sports league cards because it offers bonus rewards on football-related purchases. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on NFL and team purchases, including game tickets, in-stadium purchases, on NFLShop.com (where cardholders receive a 20% discount) and team pro shops. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.

(Image courtesy of NFL Shop)
(Image courtesy of NFLShop.com)

Points are worth just 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back, but you’ll find better value when redeeming for game tickets or exclusive offers. For example, cardholders can get free tickets to the NFL Draft starting at 5,000 points. Just this month, Barclays announced that it would be offering up to 10 exclusive Super Bowl experiences cardholders can redeem their points for. These experiences range from meet-and-greet all the way to the coveted Super Bowl tickets themselves.

The no-annual-fee card comes with a 10,000-point sign-up bonus when you make $500 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. You’ll also receive a 0% promotional APR for 6 billing cycles on NFL ticket purchases made at any participating team ticket office — after the introductory period, a variable APR of 15.99% to 25.99% will apply.

Similarly, the MLB Cash Rewards Mastercard from Bank of America has a similar rewards program to its non-branded sibling, the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card. Unlike the NHL card, you won’t receive any special baseball-related discounts with the card — just your team’s logo displayed on the card. However, you’ll earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, for the first $2,500 in combined spending each quarter among those three categories. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Members of the bank’s Preferred Rewards program can boost their rewards earnings even further.

The MLB Cash Rewards Mastercard has no annual fee and new cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after spending $1.000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, also identical to the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card.

Cards for exclusive sports experiences

If you’re the kind of sports fan looking for more than just a seat at the game, consider cards that offer special experience programs as a rewards redemption option or loyalty perk. Many of the major issuers offer exclusive access to sporting or fan events, although these programs may not be found on all cards from a particular issuer.

Users of any card that earns Delta SkyMiles can register for SkyMiles Experiences, an online auction platform that lets you bid your miles on events and experiences. Some offers eschew the auction in lieu of a fixed charge. For example, at the time of publishing you could bid as little as 5,000 SkyMiles for an LA Kings game at STAPLES center. The package include two ticket and two passes to the Wells Fargo Chairman’s room, an exclusive VIP lounge.

Citi Private Pass offers entertainment, music and sports experiences for purchase. All Citi cardholders can enroll, although some events are exclusive to premium cards like the Citi Prestige. Some of the available sports-themed experiences include a discounted football clinic hosted by former New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski.The information for the Citi Prestige card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Chase Inside Access is open to select cardmembers, including those who own cards that earn United miles, such as the United℠ Explorer Card. This program offers exclusive access to premium events, however, at the time of publishing there weren’t any sports related experiences available.

If you own The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Centurion Card and you’re an NBA or NHL fan, you can score free access to the Centurion Suite at Barclays Center in Brooklyn or the Staples Center in Los Angeles for NBA basketball games or other stadium events. The suites are open to any cardmember with an event ticket. Amenities include:

  • Premium food and beverages available for purchase
  • Dedicated servers
  • Flat-screen TVs
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access
  • Phone-charging stations

Bottom line

If you’re a sports fan looking to earn extra rewards on your ticket purchases, your options are limited to the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Citi Premier Card. But if rewards aren’t your concern — and getting access to exclusive sporting events and meet-ups appeal to you — there’s a host of other cards that can offer the unique experiences you may be looking for. And if you want a card that includes the logo of your favorite sports team, just don’t expect to receive much in the way of rewards for your undying loyalty.

Additional reporting by Mike Cetera

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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