Unless you’re spending $5,000+ per year at Saks Fifth Avenue, their cardholder rewards won’t be worth it. And even then you should wait until next year, to apply for it.
Recently, I was with a friend at this department store. She was buying some clothes for a wedding and wanted to apply for their MasterCard in order to get the rewards.
I looked at the application and advised her not to.
Why not? There are two major reasons.
First of all the rewards program is only superior if you’re spending a minimum of $5,000 per year at their stores. And even then, the points may not be competitive.
You may be getting as little as 2% rewards
Whether you have the Saks MasterCard or the store card, this is how the points work:
Note: This references purchases at their stores only. MasterCard purchases made elsewhere do NOT count towards these tiers.
That means on the first $4,999 spent annually at Saks Fifth Avenue, you’re only earning 2 points per dollar on regular shopping days.
You get a $25 Saks gift card for each 2,500 points, which means each point is worth a penny.
Translation: You’re earning as low as 2% on the first $4,999 spent annually.
It’s not that this is bad, it’s just not competitive when you compare it to the Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express. That card gives 3% cash back at the following department stores:
So let’s see… you can get a Saks credit card that gives 2% rewards on the first $5k spent. Or you can get the Blue Cash Preferred that gives 3% rewards not just at Saks, but also a slew of other U.S. department stores. I think the choice is obvious.
Saks card is really only suitable for big spenders
Assuming you’re buying on regular shopping days, in order to earn rewards worth 3% (like the Blue Cash Preferred earns) you would need to use the Saks card to spend $10,000 per year at their stores.
Here’s the math to prove it…
x2 points on the first $4,999 = 9,998 points
x4 points on the second $5,000 ($9,999 total minus the first $4,999 equals $5,000) = 20,000 points
x6 points on $1 ($10,000 minus $9,999 equals $1) = 6 points
Grand Total = 30,004 points earned for spending $10,000 at Saks
Since there is a $25 gift card per 2,500 points, this equals $300 in gift cards (with 4 points left over). That’s only 3% rewards.
So even if you’re buying $10,000 worth of merchandise at their stores each year, you might not be much better off than what the Blue Cash Preferred gives.
However, if you’re someone who’s spending $20,000 or $30,000 per year at their stores, then the credit card from Saks will definitely make sense for you since you will be earning significantly above 3%. Also, those who spend less can also come out ahead with their card as long as they do a lot of their shopping on double or triple point days.
Another caveat: when the rewards calendar starts and stops
So when they say you earn 2x points on the first $4,999 spent per year, when does that year start? The day you sign up? Or does it go by the calendar which means January 1st?
With most credit card programs, when they say “annually” and “per year” they start the year on day one your account is opened. For example, if you opened a card with a $95 annual fee on May 20th, that would pay for the card until May 20th of the following year.
With the Saks program though, the year goes by the calendar: January 1st thru December 31st. On the application it is printed in the disclosures:
This schedule can be a drawback. Think about it… even if you are someone who spends $10k annually at their stores, if you opened the account in June, then only the next 6 months of spending would count for that rewards year. Assuming you spend roughly the same amount each month, that would leave you with only $5k in purchases counting for the year… which would yield as little as 2% rewards, as shown above.
This means if you are going to apply for their credit card, it would be best to wait and do it in January or February, right after the rewards year resets. Doing it in the middle of the year won’t be the smartest timing.
The MasterCard vs. store card
The Saks Fifth Avenue MasterCard does have a respectable rewards program for purchases made outside their stores. It gives 1 point per dollar on regular purchases; 2 points per dollar at gas stations; grocery stores and restaurants; and 3 points per dollar at Fifth Avenue spas and salons. Meanwhile the store-only version doesn’t have that since you are not allowed to use it elsewhere. That’s the biggest difference between them.
The MasterCard version is lot better than most department store credit cards which only give 1 point per dollar elsewhere. At least they’re giving a few 2x points categories that most people should get a lot of use out of. However as a reminder, the Blue Cash cards also feature supermarkets and gas stations in their categories with extra cash back.
Lastly, with qualifying credit scores, Saks does use the MasterCard World Elite. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s their highest tier of benefits (comparable to the more well-known Visa Signature tier). Here is a PDF file outlining the World Elite benefits. Those with lower credit scores or a limited credit history might not meet the approval requirements. Instead they might get the lower tier Saks Platinum MasterCard, or neither version.
One word of caution those: the rules and restrictions on MasterCard benefits are often times more restrictive than comparable AmEx and Visa benefits. For example, the MasterCard Purchase assurance is inferior to the purchase protection you get on American Express cards, in my opinion at least.
The take away: Saks MasterCard is for diehard shoppers only
The store-only version should be avoid altogether, unless your credit isn’t good enough to qualify for major credit cards. Meanwhile the MasterCard version can make a lot of sense for the right spender; those who spend more than $10,000 per year at Saks should seriously consider it. But they should wait and apply in January since the rewards program runs on a Jan 1st thru Dec. 31st calendar.
On the other hand, those who spread their spending across several department stores might want to look elsewhere. The rewards on the Saks credit card aren’t enticing enough if you’re only spending a few thousand per year at their stores. In that scenario my favorite are the Blue Cash cards.