Credit Cards for Sports Fans: Know the Score Before You Sign Up

Jul 20, 2016 | Be First to Comment!

Are you a sports fan? From Major League Baseball to the National Football League, there are countless cards for sports fans. Most of America’s big sports leagues offer team-branded credit cards. But are these cards worth it?

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It’s no secret that sports fans already spend major bucks on their chosen teams. According to an Associated Press poll, some fans would be willing to pay $10,000 to see their favorite team play in the Super Bowl. The National Football League remains the most popular sports league in the U.S., generating more than $9 billion in revenue each year. Around 67,000 fans attend each football game. Baseball is America’s next popular sport, generating about $7.2 billion. College football, basketball, hockey and auto racing are also among America’s most popular sports.

With so many fans willing to pony up big bucks to watch their favorite teams and players on the field, court, and ice, sports leagues have turned their attention to profiting away from the games as well. Many of the big sports leagues have tried to turn themselves into brands that appeal beyond hardcore fans (witness recent marketing efforts targeting women) through licensing deals. Besides buying apparel and merchandise with your favorite team’s logo on it, you might be tempted to sign up for a sports-branded credit card. But should you go the extra yard to get a credit card with your favorite team’s logo on it?

The National Football League, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, and Professional Golf Association each offer professional sports credit cards. Terms and rates vary for each sports league. The National Basketball Association doesn’t have a co-branded credit card, but it does have a partnership with BBVA Compass to provide fans with a debit card, which cardholders can use to earn rewards like gear and memorabilia. Similarly, the National Hockey League doesn’t have a co-branded card, but it does have a partnership with Discover. Cardholders can exchange their bonus rewards to attend select events and get discounts on merchandise and subscriptions.

Kickoff: Let’s get ready to shop for a sports card

Getting a sports-themed credit card certainly shows everyone which team has your heart. But if you’re not careful, you might end up purchasing a card based more on your emotional attachment to the team than one that’s actually financially beneficial. Don’t be fooled into getting a card just because your team’s logo is on it.

Penalty flag: What to watch out for

As with other rewards credit cards, you want to pay attention to the actual terms and rates of the card. The interest rate for the card you’re eying should be comparable to rates you would get elsewhere. Some credit cards might offer introductory APRs at 0 percent, but that rate will eventually expire. What rate will you pay after that happens? For the NFL Extra Points credit card, once the introductory rates expires, you’ll be stuck paying between 14.99-22.99 percent APR for purchases. If you’re likely to carry debt with your credit card, it’s probably best for you to remain on the sidelines rather than entering the ring and getting a sports credit card.

Besides interest rates, you also want to pay attention to fees. Does that card have an annual fee? Are you prepared to pay it just to have your team’s logo on your credit card? Besides the annual fee, you also want to read the fine print carefully to ensure that you’re not surprised by hidden fees down the road. How much these fees matter really depends on your lifestyle. The credit card offered by Major League Baseball through Bank of America has a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, which is pretty standard. But if you travel abroad frequently, it doesn’t make sense to get a card with your favorite baseball team on it. You should sign up for a credit card that eliminates the foreign transaction fee instead.

If the credit card you’re thinking about getting as a sports fan has egregiously high fees, that’s a major red flag. A good measuring stick for choosing a credit card for sports fans is comparing the plastic’s terms and conditions to a card you already have or one that you consider to be “good.” Are the rates and fees similar? Does something run afoul?

Score: Pay attention to the rewards

If your credit card comes out on top of the “comparison test,” and scores well on interest rates and fees, then it’s time to look at the rewards. With most sports affiliated credit cards, you’ll earn points for every dollar charged to the card, which can be redeemed for apparel, experiences, tickets, cash back, or even travel.

The biggest upside to getting a sports-branded credit card is the rewards it might give you offer a traditional credit card. At the bare minimum, your card will offer discounts on purchases from the team or league’s online store. But you probably have a ton of gear already. A decent card will offer discounts on tickets, too. In fact, getting discounted game tickets or access to premium seats is probably one of the most appealing factors of signing up for a sports-branded credit card. An amazing card will also offer you the chance to earn points you can redeem for exclusive experiences like tickets to practice sessions. It might offer exclusive perks such as signed gear and memorabilia, access to players, personnel, or the stadium, and cash back rewards. Note: if you have a rewards card already, you might want to see whether your issuer offers unique sports fan experience as a cardholder.

If the card’s rewards aren’t appealing to you as a fan, time to end the game.

Time out: Do you really need that card?

OK. So your credit card’s rewards are amazing. But what will it take for you to cash in on those rewards? How many points do you need to earn in order to get the free jersey, tickets, or fan experience? The question that you really need to ask yourself is this: How much will you have to spend in order to cash in on the rewards you really want? This is where you can really get into trouble as a fan because you might look at the rewards the card offers and experience a kind of manipulation based on your emotional attachment to your favorite team.

If you want to get a sports-affiliated credit card, make sure that you’re not forcing yourself to purchase items with it just to earn enough points to cash in on the rewards.

The extra point

If you already devote a large amount of time and money to your favorite sports team, you don’t necessarily have to add a logo onto a credit card to show your support. Make sure that the card works for you financially before signing up for it.

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