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Last updated on August 9th, 2021
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At a Glance
Earning cash back on the daily commute is a breeze with the Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card. The card earns enhanced rewards on gas and groceries while enjoying a 0% intro APR for six months.
Ideal for Those Who:
- Want a no-annual-fee card that earns rewards on their daily commute
- Plan to pair the card with SNB’s Platinum Visa as a one-two financial punch
- Use their credit card to frequently purchase gasoline
- Prefer cash back rewards to other redemption options
Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card Review
The Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card is a no-annual-fee cash back rewards card that offers reliable value every day. The card features a 0% introductory APR and a special enhanced cash back category on gas purchases.
Who Is this Card Right For?
Sterling Bank credit cards appeal to those who live in the Greater NYC area. This is particularly true of those who already bank with SNB. For these individuals, the Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card offers tremendous value. Since it is a no-annual-fee card, it can be happily held in tandem with the Sterling Visa® Platinum Card. The latter is excellent for paying down balances and larger purchases. The Amex card, on the other hand, is great for everyday use. And, best of all, neither has an annual fee.
Enhanced 3% Back on Gas Purchases
The major headline with the Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card is the 3% back the card earns on gas station purchases. The 3% categories MCC 5541 and 5542, which covers service stations (with or without ancillary services). These ancillary services include convenience stores, which can further boost the cash back potential of the card. However, the 3% back category comes with the caveat that it only applies to the first $6,000 in purchases yearly. Despite this, 3% back is a very favorable rate, indeed.
The 3% cash back offers much better value than most gas rewards credit cards. This is especially true of cards like ExxonMobil Smart Card or BP Visa. These cards offer savings at specific brands of filling stations, but little else.
The $6,000 cap on gas rewards may worry some, but it shouldn’t be after breaking down the numbers. The $6,000 cap amounts to $500 in spending per month, which is a relatively high threshold for most drivers and commuters. This cap is, therefore, unlikely to bother many with regular use. And, since the entirety of those $6,000 earns 3% back, that amounts to $180 in cash back every year.
2% Back on Groceries
The Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card also earns a solid 2% cash back at supermarkets. There is no cap to the total amount of rewards cardholders can earn on groceries, which is nice. The combination of 3% back on gas and 2% back on groceries is the perfect opportunity to fill up the car – and your shopping cart – and stack rewards. Even better, this stack is repeatable. It’s important to note, however, that purchases made at wholesale clubs or larger stores, like Target or Walmart, may not qualify.
Earn with Every Purchase
Every other purchase with the Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card earns an unlimited 1% cash back.
The ability to earn enhanced rewards on gas and groceries makes the card a versatile, everyday rewards card. The card works seamlessly during the daily commute and on the weekend shopping trip. In this regard, the card may offer more value than a similar product that goes heavier on gas rewards, like the Ducks Unlimited Visa. That card offers a huge – and unlimited – 5% back on gas. Unfortunately, the only other bonus category is sporting goods. The Sterling Card, on the other hand, offers fewer rewards in gas, but more in groceries, making it much more practical for daily life.
Cash Back Reward After First Purchase
Statement credits after a first purchase are common with no-annual-fee cash back cards. Fortunately, the trend continues with the Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card. New accounts receive $25 in cash back after making a first purchase with the card. This reward is only redeemable as a statement credit to the account, but $25 is still $25. The $25 credit also doesn’t come with a requirement for a minimum spend. This means the initial purchase can be as low as one cent – making the reward as much as $24.99. As long as the purchase is less than $25, however, and this bonus is easy cash.
How to Redeem Cash Back Rewards
Rewards with this card are straightforward and are redeemed via Elan Rewards, who issues Sterling National Bank credit cards. In the program, 1% of cash back equals 1X points. Points are the currency of the program, though the best redemption value remains with cash back.
Cash back award options include statement credits to the credit card account or direct deposits to any Sterling National Bank savings, checking, or wealth management accounts.
Overall, however, the redemption options with Elan Rewards are limited. Elan doesn’t offer deposits to external accounts, for example, limiting rewards to the bank only – in this instance, Sterling National Bank. Other card options, like the Ducks Unlimited Visa, provide the choice of a check, letting account holders use their rewards how they want.
Points and cash back rewards expire after five years. While five years is a considerable amount of time, nobody likes their rewards to go bad. Fortunately, the card is an everyday earner, meaning many cardholders will have no trouble banking a substantial amount of rewards. Using the card daily is the best way to build-up rewards, but as long as the cardholder has a grasp on their rewards plan-of-attack, they should be okay.
Introductory Interest-Free Period
The Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card comes with 0% introductory APR period of six months. This initial period applies to both purchases and balance transfers.
The interest-free period on balance transfers won’t match up to something like the Sterling Visa® Platinum Card, but that is an entirely different animal. That card comes with 15 months of 0% intro APR but features no rewards. The six months with the AMEX Cash Rewards Card, on the other hand, also comes with solid rewards on everyday buys. That half-year of 0% intro APR might not be enough to pay off an existing credit card balance but, for those with smaller balances, it can help reduce existing debts considerably. Ultimately, however, a card only works if the holder understands what they want out of it. Understanding your priorities is key to getting the right card. If it’s savings on everyday purchases, the answer may be the Sterling Bank AMEX Card.
A Competitive Regular APR
Once those six interest-free months expire, the card also enjoys a competitive standard APR. The rate falls firmly in line with the average low for a cash rewards card, with excellent credit scores receiving a rate in the 15% to 16% range. While the actual APR varies, the card is a decent option for those who need to carry a balance.
By comparison, the PenFed Platinum Rewards offers a typical APR almost 4% lower than the Sterling Bank Card, with a similar rewards structure. That card, however, is a federal credit union offering, which gives it a much more distinct applicant base.
Should You Apply for the Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card?
Gas rewards credit cards are very popular, as that is a category millions of Americans spend on daily. The Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card is a worthy addition to this stable of cards, offering solid rewards and a moderate introductory APR.
As stated, the card struggles when compared with competition like the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature. The latter, however, has restrictions on eligibility. Sterling National Bank has no such limitations, making it a card with much more availability. Additionally, PenFed restricts the 5X points the card earns on gas to rewards other than cash back. Sterling’s offering, meanwhile, does not. This makes the card an excellent option for those who want to save on gas and pocket those savings.
The Sterling Cash Rewards Amex also offers more value than the aforementioned Ducks Unlimited Visa – one of the kings of gas rewards cards. That card earns a whopping 5% back on gas but provides no real savings elsewhere (besides sporting goods). The Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card offers additional savings on grocery stores, making it a versatile card for everyday use.
The cap of $6,000 on gas may turn some applicants off to the card, but it equates to approximately $115 per week on gas. This is a reasonable amount of which many can make good use. Sure, that may limit the rewards for road warriors out there, but remember that $6,000 equals $180 in cash back every year.
Overall, the Sterling National Bank Cash Rewards American Express® Card is the type of card that earns rewards for the types of purchases we make every day, with the added benefit of a 0% intro APR for six months on purchases and balance transfers.