The credit card from Toyota has been out a few years now but their timing with it couldn’t have been worse. At the start of 2008 they announced the Toyota Rewards Visa card and that it would be launching later that fall. Sure enough, they stuck to the schedule and it went live in October 2008… literally just as the stock market was crashing and the credit markets locked! Man, I feel bad for their unlucky timing with that one!
But that’s history, so let’s talk about the Toyota credit card as it stands today.
Issuer: Toyota Financial Savings Bank. This is a bit unusual (in a good way) that their card is issued by their own bank. Most companies outsource their card management to one of the big issuers, so it’s nice to see Toyota is keeping their card program in-house.
Annual Fee: none
Interest Rate: As I write this review the APR is 12.99 to 22.99 percent for both the Visa Platinum and Visa Signature tiers. Balance transfers are the same and unfortunately I don’t see any zero interest promos currently being offered.
OK now let’s take a look at the part we all care about the most…
As you could probably guess, the Toyota credit card’s reward program is geared toward Toyota owners. Here’s how it operates:
- 5 points per dollar spent at Toyota dealers (called “Dealership Premium Points”)
- 1 point elsewhere (called “Purchase Activity Points”
Now there are some caveats that go along with these rewards which you will find in the fine print:
- For spending at Toyota dealerships the max number of points that can be earned is 200,000 annually. That works out to be $40,000 so it should be plenty sufficient for most people, unless you manage a whole fleet of cars!
- This caveat is important because it is far more likely to affect you – for all other spending outside of dealerships, a max of only 5,000 points can be earned per billing cycle. Translation: If you ever spend more than $5,000 in a monthly cycle, you won’t be earning any rewards on the spending which exceeds $5k! Even if you’re not a big spender, a few large purchases (tuition payments, for example or wedding expenses) might bring you to that threshold.
- Points expire 5 years after they are earned. Be especially careful of this one — if you’re saving all your points toward new car, and you wait more than five years to redeem, some of your points could be gone.
- Not all dealers participate in the rewards program. The phone rep I spoke to said “most do” but not all of them.
The website for the Toyota Rewards credit card says you can spend the points toward parts, service, accessories, rentals for Toyota Rent a Car and the purchase/lease of an eligible Toyota vehicle. Which vehicles are eligible you ask? Both new and certified used.
Points are worth 1 cent each. So, if you’ve got 1,000 points, that’s good for $10 toward whatever you choose to redeem for.
The Toyota Rewards card seems to be a respectable choice. The interest rates are reasonable and for the low/moderate spender, the caps on earning points shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember that your points expire after five years.
One more thing: If you’re hoping to earn a ton of points by using the card to purchase a car, please realize that dealers usually limit the amount of a vehicle purchase that can be charged to a credit card. So if you want to get the 5x points that way, you will probably be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Other high cash back opportunities for 2014: Get 6 percent on the first $6,000 spent per year at US supermarkets with the Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner.
Updated August 14, 2014