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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Citi ThankYou Preferred CardCiti Prestige Card

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 line of cards offering Citi ThankYou Rewards points may be a good fit.

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 $500 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Meanwhile, all three main cards in the Citi ThankYou points-earning lineup earn 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. 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.

Image by Getty Images
(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. ThankYou points are worth 1.7 cents apiece, according to TPG’s most recent valuations, and 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.

Since all three cards offer the same 2x points on entertainment purchases, your non-sports spending will help determine which of the Citi cards you’re best suited for. Here’s a look at each card’s benefits:

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card: In addition to the 2x points on entertainment purchases, you’ll also earn 2 points per dollar on purchases at restaurants, including cafes, bars, lounges and fast food restaurants. All other purchases earn 1x points. There’s no annual fee.

Citi Premier Card: A step up from the annual-fee-free card, the Premier earns 3 ThankYou points per dollar spent on travel, including a wide-range of transportation vendors like airlines, car rental agencies and cruise lines. Hotels are included as well. New cardholders will also earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Citi Prestige: The issuer’s premium travel rewards credit card isn’t currently available to new applicants, but the card earns the same rewards on entertainment and food as the other ThankYou cards, though it’s not quite as generous when it comes to its 3x categories — you’ll earn that only on airfare and hotel purchases. However, when it comes to travel and entertainment-related perks, this card really shines. You’ll receive an annual $250 reimbursement for air travel expenses (which can be applied to tickets), baggage fees, upgrades and in-flight expenses. Cardholders also receive an ongoing 4th Night Free benefit at virtually any hotel when booking through ThankYou.com or the Citi Prestige Concierge. The Citi Prestige comes with a premium annual fee of $450.

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 and in-stadium purchases, and at NFLShop.com (where cardholders receive a 20% discount) and team pro shops. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.

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.

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 months on NFL ticket purchases made at any participating team ticket office — after the introductory period, a variable APR of 16.99% to 26.99% will apply.

Hockey fans won’t earn extra points on game tickets, but they can save 10% at Shop.NHL.com and on NHL.TV by using the NHL® Discover it® with their favorite team’s logo. Aside from the discounts, this card acts exactly like the standard Discover it® Cash Back, which earned a spot on our list of best cash-back credit cards.

With these two Discover cards,  you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in accordance with Discover’s 2018 Cashback Calendar after enrollment, while all other purchases earn 1% per dollar spent. There’s no standard sign-up offer, but Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year of card ownership. The cards have no annual fee.

Similarly, the MLB Cash Rewards Mastercard from Bank of America has an identical rewards program to its non-branded sibling, the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card. Unlike the NHL card, though, you’ll get no special baseball-related discounts for using this card — just get your team’s logo affixed to the front of the card. But you’ll earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas, 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, but new cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, which is 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, though 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, 65,000 miles will get you four tickets (and a VIP parking pass) to the Delta Sky360 Club at Target Field in Minneapolis to see the Twins take on the Cincinnati Reds. Club amenities include access to premium food and beverages.

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 discounted registration fees for football camps put on by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.

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 like the Kentucky Derby — for $1,500, Inside Access members can purchase a 5-ticket package for race day, distillery tours and a private breakfast.

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 during 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 ThankYou Rewards family from Citi, of which the Citi Premier Card probably currently has the best cost-to-benefits ratio. 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.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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.

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More Things to Know
  • 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
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Balance Transfer Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

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