Is the Amazon Prime Rewards credit card still worth the cost?

Aug 15, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information. 


Amazon is the giant in the room for easy, instant access to hundreds of thousands of different products.

While the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is technically free to own, one of the caveats is that you have to be an Amazon Prime subscriber to qualify. In 2018, Amazon increased the price of a Prime membership from $99 a year to $119.

It’s hard (and actually foolhardy) to assess the value of the Prime membership based solely on the return you might get using the online retailer’s credit card — because membership includes so many other tangible benefits — but for argument’s sake, I’m going to try.

The information for the Amazon Prime Rewards 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.

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First, let’s look at what the Prime Rewards card pays:

  • 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores.
  • 1% back on all other purchases.

There’s no cap on the cash-back value you can earn, and you can redeem your rewards to pay for all or part of your Amazon purchases. In addition to cash back, you can also redeem for gift cards or travel. Currently, new cardmembers receive a $100 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval. With Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market and the millions of items ready to be delivered to your home, let’s see if this card is still worth the cost.

Related: Best cash-back credit cards

How should you use the card?

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Compared to many other travel credit cards, the Amazon Prime Rewards card offers fewer earnings on both bonus and non-bonus category spending.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets you 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants, while the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi earns 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and 1% thereafter.

You even can beat the 5% cash back at Whole Foods by using the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1%). Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits. Terms apply.

However, if grocery and household spending is a significant chunk of your budget, virtually no card can top the Prime Rewards bonus on spending at Amazon.com.

So let’s look at how much you’d have to spend annually with Amazon to justify the subscription price.

Earning your membership fee back

Dania Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Photo by Dania Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Let’s figure out your break-even cost for signing up for Prime and using the Prime Rewards card.

The $100 gift card you receive for signing up goes a long way toward paying off the first-year cost of the Prime membership. You’d have to spend about $380 at Amazon during your first year to earn enough cash back to pay off the remainder of your Prime subscription cost. Here’s the breakdown:

$119 (Prime membership) minus $100 (sign-up bonus gift card) divided by $0.05 (5% back with card) = $380

During subsequent years, you’d have to spend about $2,400 on Amazon merchandise to earn enough cash back to pay for your Prime subscription. Here’s the breakdown:

$119 divided by $0.05 = $2,380

A 2017 Consumer Intelligence Research Partners analysis found that the typical Amazon Prime member spends about $1,300 a year with the retailer. That’s not enough spending to justify getting a Prime membership for the sole purpose of getting the credit card.

I spend even less than average, it turns out. I spent $615.62 on Amazon last year, buying both merchandise and digital content. Had I used the Prime Rewards card, I would have earned $30.78 in cash back or Amazon credit, well short of the $119 Prime membership fee.

Another Amazon card option

I might be better off with the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. You can get this card without subscribing to Prime. The Amazon Rewards card pays:

  • 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores.
  • 1% back on all other purchases.

New cardmembers receive a $50 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

I could get a slightly better return, but I’d have to use the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which earns 1.5% cash back on most purchases (plus 3% on dining and drugstores and 5% on Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel), and transfer those points to my Chase Sapphire Reserve account, where each point is worth 2 cents on average when you redeem them with travel partners, according to TPG’s latest valuations.

Bottom line

This exercise to determine whether it’s worth paying the Prime membership fee to get the Prime Rewards card is extremely subjective. Some of us may find incredible value from 5% back on Whole Foods deliveries.

I’m an Amazon Prime member — and I don’t even buy that much from Amazon. But for people who enjoy perks like free two-day shipping and Prime streaming services, those benefits alone could justify the cost of a membership. Essentially, membership is already a sunk cost and with no annual fee, adding the Prime Rewards card is just icing on the cake.

I find value in the membership because of the Prime Video and Amazon Music streaming services. Those alone are worth the $119 a year to me. Throwing in a rewards credit card on top of that doesn’t hurt, either.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong.

Featured photo by Julie Clopper/Getty Images. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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