TurboCharge Your Costco Savings! TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express Review


Are you a member of Costco, or thinking about it?  Want to make your dollar go even further there?

Then the TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express may be for you.

Shopping at Costco (or any warehouse store) is one of those things you have to evaluate – is it worth it for your family at its current size and eating/spending habits?  Buying in bulk can sometimes mean great savings but it can also be deceptive and even cost more than your local grocery store when all is said and done.

If you’ve calculated that Costco is right for you, the TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express can help you earn cash back on your purchases there and elsewhere.

Let’s review the TrueEarnings Card a little more in-depth and explore how you can combine this credit card with Costco’s Executive membership for extra savings:


shopping_cartThe TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express gets you back 3% per year on gas at Costco and other gas stations.  The cap is $4,000 per year ($120 cash back).  After that, you get 1% back.

I love getting high cash back rates on basic things like filling up my car!  (We have a mini-van and that thing is a beast so every bit back helps).

Here are the stations other than Costco where the card gets you back 3%.  (It’s not a complete list so call American Express to check on a specific station not shown here.)

• Gulf
• Murphy USA
• Murphy Express
• Exxon
• Mobil
• Hess
• Shell

The 3% gas rewards DON’T work at stations at other warehouse clubs, convenience stores, superstores – including Target — and supermarkets.

With this card you also get a respectable 2% back at restaurants and 2% back on travel purchases.  Airfare, hotel, and car rentals are all included, but timeshares, banquet and events are not.

Car rentals must be from the following companies to get the 2% back:

• Alamo
• Avis
• Budget
• Dollar
• Enterprise
• E-Z
• Fox
• Hertz
• National
• Payless
• Thrifty

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You will not earn additional rewards if a car rental is purchased as part of a vacation package or purchased with a third party.

There is no limit to these 2% rewards you earn on dining and travel!

Everything else you charge on the card gets you 1% back, with NO limit.

There is no annual fee on the American Express card, but you must be a Costco member to get one, and they can cancel your account if you let your Costco membership expire.

You can also give your family members copies of the card to earn more rewards — but they must have valid Costco memberships, too.  Worried you’ll feel out of the loop?  You can set a spending limit for them, and their purchases will show up in their own section and itemized on your bill.  Also, each person has their own card number so if their card is lost or stolen, you can still use (and keep) your own card while you’re getting that one replaced.

Get More Cash Back with an Executive Membership

Combine Costco’s Executive membership with the Amex card and earn even more cash back!

As you probably know, you have to be a member at Costco in order to shop there.  Did you know they have an Executive Membership that offers up cash back on your purchases there?  With Costco’s Executive Membership, you get 2% cash back on most purchases at the end of every 12-month period.  Add that to your 1% back rewards on the Amex, and you’re getting a lot back on food and other purchases.

The cap for the 2% back is $750 in reward dollars per year – pretty high!  That’s if you spend $3,025 at Costco per month, though!  But even if you spend only $600 a month, you get back a cool $144 at the end of the year.  If you purchase your high-priced electronics, furniture, and things like cruises there, you can really rake in the rewards!  One perk you get as an Executive member is special discounts, like on vacation packages and cruises Costco offers.  Combine those with the 2% from the Executive Membership and 2% back on travel on the Amex and really save on travel!

Here’s the crummy thing about the Executive Membership: the 2% back doesn’t work when you fill up your car at the Costco gas station.  So, that’s when you break out your TrueEarnings Card and get your 3% back!

The Executive Membership is $110 (plus tax where applicable), which is $55 dollars more than the regular Gold Star or business membership.  If you have one of those already, you can upgrade now and they will prorate the cost based on the months left on your membership.  (You won’t get the 2% back retroactively for past purchases, though.)  Your rewards will probably pay for the upgrade at least a couple times over if you are already doing most of your shopping at Costco.

A 2-in-1 Card

This American Express will double as your membership card – they’ll put your photo on it and everything.  Pretty convenient…you can basically leave the house with once piece of plastic!  I appreciate having one less thing to carry in may wallet.  Since the only credit card Costco accepts in American Express, that might be one reason why you want to get this version, all else being equal, of course!

The Fine Print

How do you get your reward dollars back?

You’ll have to wait for up to 12 months for a “reward coupon” to show up on the last page of your statement.  You trade that at Costco for cash back in the form of a check, or you can use it to buy merchandise there.  Beware: The reward coupon expires on August 31st of the year of issue and you have to redeem it in person.  It would be a real shame to lose all the rewards you earned over the course of a whole year!

You also must maintain your Costco membership to receive your reward coupon from the credit card, so you definitely want to make sure a Costco membership works for you long term before you get the Amex.

This card has a 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months.  After that, your APR will be a variable rate, currently 15.24%.  But, of course, there’s no real reward when you’re carrying a balance and paying interest!

As usual, American Express has some great benefits and great customer service. But their cards aren’t always accepted everywhere due to higher costs for the retailer, which can be a hassle.

Travel Benefits

Loss and Damage Insurance — When you use your Amex to reserve and pay for an eligible auto rental, you can be covered if the car is damaged or stolen.

Global Assist Hotline – Call to help you prepare for your trip, and while you’re traveling call to get assistance for things like lost luggage and emergency legal and medical referrals. (Third party costs are your responsibility)

Roadside Assistance and Travel Accident Insurance also come with the card.

There’s a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, though, so once you get to your international destination, you may want to switch to another card.

Entertainment Access

Entertainment benefits include better access — you can purchase tickets to sporting events, concerts and more before they go on sale to the general public.

Shopping Benefits

Extended Warranty — When you use your card for eligible purchases, membership can extend your warranty up to one year.

Accidental Damage and Theft Protection – your purchases are protected 90 days from when you buy them.

Card Fraud Protection is included, and essential.

Is the TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express the right card for you?

Waiting a year for cash back is annoying, in my opinion – there are many cash back reward cards that don’t make you wait anywhere near that long.  Since you also have to have a Costco membership at the time you redeem the rewards coupon, you could possibly miss out on ALL of your rewards or even feel forced to renew your Costco membership if you’ve already decided Costco doesn’t work for you.

HOWEVER, if you spend a lot at Costco and you combine your card with an Executive membership then you can really make the most of your warehouse spending and earn cash back with all your other spending as well.  You can already save a lot when you shop wisely at Costco. Having the TrueEarnings Card can help boost those savings.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

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Published or updated March 2, 2014.

Comments

  1. My Costco membership pays for itself by just buying their gas. The hidden bonus is their gas pricing is below market compared to the lowest priced stations in the area generally by at least a nickel. So in addition, to the 3% rebate, I am buying gas at lower price too.

    • Glen Craig says:

      The Costco by me has been working to get a gas station. It would be nice to be able to fill up after I shop there.

  2. Very detailed review Glen. Thanks! I have an Executive Membership and a TrueEarning AMEX card. I’ve been getting refund checks twice a year. One from AMEX and one from Costco. The Costsco refund pays for the $110 membership and then some. I used roadside assistance as their price was the best. The service was quick and they just billed my card. Like KC, the gas benefit of 3% and the cheaper gas rate is a no brainer. My new challenge is should I consolidate credit cards? I have a Chase Freedom card with 1% everyday, but a 5% bonus quarter on select categories. Or should I use my TrueEarnings for a nice 2% all year round. Any thoughts? Thanks again!

    • Glen Craig says:

      With any card it’s all on how you are actually going to use it. If you think you’ll benefit from the quarterly bonuses more (and keeping any caps in mind too), then go with that, otherwise the TrueEarnings is a pretty sweet deal.

  3. Many people are being shut out of their earned cash back if they fail to cash the check by 8/31 of the year it is issued..Where does it say in the terms that your cash back is forfeited if you do not redeem the check by 8/31? Why cant they simply reissue this check? Where does your money go? To the bottom line of AMEX. This should be absolutely considered stealing and AMEX needs to revamp their business practice as it relates to this policy. No one should lose the money they actually EARN due to this flawed, strong arm policy. Is this government regulated?

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