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Last updated on August 9th, 2021
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At a Glance
The SBI Cash Rewards American Express® Card is the gas rewards cash back card from State Bank of India (California). The card offers exceptional everyday value, making it a smart choice for Californians who plan to use their card on their weekly shopping trips – and their daily commutes.
Ideal for Those Who:
- Plan to use their card to pay for gas on their daily commute
- Want to earn rewards for using their card to purchase groceries
- Are planning a significant purchase and want six months to pay down the balance
- Don’t want to pay an annual fee
SBI Cash Rewards American Express® Card Review
State Bank of India (California) is the American arm of State Bank of India (SBI), and their SBI Cash Rewards American Express® Card provides the real value Californians need to save on their daily commute and at the grocery store.
Earn 3% Back at the Pump
The SBI Cash Rewards AMEX Card earns an impressive 3% cash back on the first $6,000 of net purchases at gas stations each year. Making 3% back at the pump Is always a welcome perk in a cash back card, but the limit on the first $6,000 in net purchases is somewhat frustrating.
The $6,000 cap on gas station purchases means the card can only amass $180 in cash back in the 3% category each year – a huge letdown. Fortunately, $6,000 works out to approximately $115 per week on fuel, so the limit probably won’t be surpassed by all, with the exception of the road warriors who put some serious miles on their cars for work (or family time) every year.
How does the 3% back with the SBI Card compare with other options? The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature earns 5X points on every dollar spent at gas stations, though PenFed limits how these rewards can be spent – with cash back not being an option. The Ducks Unlimited Visa, on the other hand, earns 5% cash back on every gas station purchase, with no limits on how much a cardholder can earn.
Earn 2% Back at Grocery Stores and 1% Back on Everything Else
The SBI Cash Rewards American Express® Card also earns 2% cash back on net grocery store purchases, which is another nice perk. Fortunately, there are no limits to the amount of cash back cardholders can earn hen using their card at supermarkets – a marked improvement over the 3% category with the card.
Unlimited 2% back on supermarket purchases makes the SBI Cash Rewards a reliable everyday card for those who plan to use their credit card for their weekly shop, as frequently using the card in this category will result in some serious rewards. Spending $200 on groceries each week will result in a $4 cash back reward every seven days, worth $208 in rewards just from 2% cash back on groceries alone.
Every other net purchase with the SBI Cash Rewards AMEX Card earns 1% back, again, with no limits to the amount of cash back an account can make.
How to Redeem Cash Back
While the SBI Cash Back Card may have “cash back:” in the title, that’s not entirely how the Elan Rewards Program works. One percent cash back really equates to a single rewards point. This means that the gas rewards category with the card earns 3X points and supermarket purchases earn 2X points.
Of course, as the card is a cash rewards credit card, the options for redeeming points is minimal. In fact, the options are limited to cash back, which makes the points vs. cash back confusion even more strange. Rewards points are applicable towards a cash deposit into a linked checking or savings account with State Bank of India (California) or as a statement credit to the card account.
The redemption options are frustrating – beyond even the confusion of points and cash rewards. The program doesn’t offer the possibility of a physical check, for example, limiting the rewards to SBI only. Conversely, the Ducks Unlimited Card provides the possibility of a check, letting cardholders use their rewards how they want – and not how the bank chooses.
$25 Cash Back Rewards – With a Catch
New accounts with the SBI Cash Rewards American Express® Card receive a one-time $25 cash back bonus when they use their card to make the first purchase. Since there are no restrictions on the minimum amount required for the first spend, the reward could have a value of up to $24.99, which is about as cushy a reward as is possible.
Unfortunately, getting your $25 reward isn’t as straightforward. The funds aren’t applied to the account unless $1,000 in purchases are made with the card within the first three months. After that hurdle is cleared, the cardholder will have to wait six to eight weeks to receive their bonus. All told, this is a lot of work for $25.
While it is understandable that SBI would want their new accounts to use their cards regularly, the $1,000 spend requirement is buried in the terms and conditions, making it a slightly misleading offer. Still, the card offers more than enough value as an everyday credit card that most cardholders will likely surpass the $333 per month minimum needed to reach the $1,000 bonus threshold.
A Competitive Everyday Rate Plus 0% Intro APR
The typical APR with the Cash rewards AMEX Card won’t set the world on fire, but it is in line with the national average for a cash back rewards credit card. This means that those with the best credit scores can expect an APR of around 15%, while those at the opposite end of the spectrum can anticipate an interest rate in the mid-20s.
Fortunately, SBI boosts this decent (but uninspiring) APR with introductory interest-free periods on both balance transfers and purchases. New accounts benefit form 0% intro APR for the first six months. The six months with the AMEX card won’t match with the 15 months that come with the SBI Visa Platinum, but that card doesn’t earn any rewards.
The six months interest-free probably won’t be enough to pay off an existing credit card balance, but for those with smaller balances, or those planning on making a large purchase, the six months should be enough to significantly reduce the financial strain these balances can have on an individual’s finances.
Benefits of Banking with State Bank of India
State Bank of India (California) also makes the process of sending money back to India much more accessible for customers, meaning being associated with the bank can significantly ease some of the hurdles Indian nationals must go through to send money home. This convenience for Indian nationals who live or work in California can’t be overstated, as it reduces the hoops sending funds home can cause.
Should You Apply for the SBI Cash Rewards American Express Card?
The SBI Cash Rewards American Express® Card offers impressive value for it’s no annual fee price tag. Earning 3% back (3X points per dollar spent, in reality) is a very impressive perk – and one of which almost every Californian will make full use. While the $6,000 cap on gas rewards is disappointing, the reality is that with regular use, the $180 cash back maximum from the 3% back category will help ease the burden of filling up somewhat.
Equally impressive is the 2% back at grocery stores, which (thankfully) is unlimited as is the 1% back on all other net purchases. Using the card for the weekly grocery run can quickly add up to some impressive rewards, with a reasonably standard $200 grocery bill equating to over $200 cash back over the year.
As with other SBI California Credit Cards, another critical draw towards the bank is the stress they help take out of the process of sending money back to India. Since the bank will have considerable appeal to Indian nationals living or working in California, this is a perk that may be overlooked by others but is of real importance to those who need it.
Overall, the SBI Cash Rewards American Express® Card provides Californians the rewards they need to make it a potent everyday tool. If, however, your sole goal with the SBI AMEX Card is to earn maximum savings at the pump, the Ducks Unlimited Visa from First Bank & Trust may offer greatly enhanced value. Unlimited 5% cash back at gas stations is very impressive – and for the serious commuter is tough to beat.