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Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi – Review


Costco Consumer Card Art With No Expiry (004)

Our rating

4.0/5

Pros

  • thumbs-upNo annual fee (other than your Costco membership)
  • thumbs-upExcellent rewards program beyond Costco purchases
  • thumbs-upNo foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • thumbs-downRequires a paid-up Costco membership
  • thumbs-downOnly one redemption certificate per year
  • thumbs-downMust redeem at Costco (though you can convert part of your certificate to cash)

Do you have a warehouse club membership with Costco? If so, you probably already know about the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi.

If not, this generous cash back credit card is a good reason to take a closer look.

What Is the Costco Anywhere Visa Card?

The Costco Anywhere Visa Card is a credit card specifically designed for Costco members. It’s not available to the general public, and you have to maintain a paid-up Costco membership to remain in good standing.

The standard household (Gold Star) or business Costco membership costs $60 per year, plus any applicable local tax. Executive membership, which entitles members to special rewards and discounts on certain Costco purchases, costs $120 per year, plus applicable tax. These prices are subject to change.

Regardless of your chosen membership plan, your Anywhere Visa doubles as your Costco ID, so you don’t need to remember a separate piece of plastic when you hit the warehouse.

On paper, the Costco Anywhere Visa has an extremely generous cash back program. For example, it earns 4% cash back on the first $7,000 spent on eligible gas purchases (including at Costco gas stations, but excluding many other types of gas stations), and unlimited 3% back on travel and restaurant purchases.

However, it lacks a sign-up bonus and 0% APR introductory promotion, both of which are common features of competing cash back cards.

What Sets the Costco Anywhere Visa Card Apart?

The Costco Anywhere Visa has four standout features worth calling out before we get deeper into the details. Two are good and two are not so good:

  • Excellent Return on Gas and EV Charging Purchases. You’ll earn 4% back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases with this card, up to $7,000 spent per year. This benefit doesn’t only apply at Costco gas stations, though said stations generally have the best prices on conventional fuel.
  • 2% Back on Costco and Costco.com Purchases Without Executive Membership. You don’t need to pay an extra $60 per year (and probably more in the future) for an Executive membership to get that tier’s famous 2% return on eligible Costco and Costco.com purchases. Executive membership doesn’t pencil out unless you spend at least $6,000 annually with Costco.
  • Rewards Pay Out Only Once Per Year. On the not-so-good side, Costco Anywhere Visa rewards pay out only once per year, usually in February. This is a disadvantage relative to standard cash-back credit cards, which generally allow you to redeem your rewards monthly or more frequently.
  • Can Only Redeem Rewards at Costco. Further complicating the rewards scheme is the certificate-based redemption process. Your certificate is digital these days (unless you want one mailed to your home) but you still have to bring it into a Costco store or redeem it against Costco purchases in some other way. Needless to say, this isn’t as convenient as clicking a button and scoring a statement credit.

Key Features of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card

Let’s dive into the details of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card’s features and benefits.

Earning Cash Back Rewards

Costco Anywhere Visa has a tiered cash back rewards program with 4 distinct levels:

  • 4% Tier: Gas purchases and EV charging purchases at qualifying gas stations, including Costco pumps and merchants coded as gas stations, earn 4% cash back up to the first $7,000 spent per year. Above the $7,000 annual cap, qualifying gas and EV charging purchases earn an unlimited 1%. Purchases at non-qualifying gas stations, including stations at superstores, grocery stores, convenience stores, and warehouse clubs other than Costco, earn 1% cash back.
  • 3% Tier: Restaurant and travel purchases – including airfare, hotels, rental cars, and vacation packages (including those offered by Costco Travel) – earn an unlimited 3% cash back. This tier makes Costco Anywhere Visa a great way to save money at restaurants and on international travel.
  • 2% Tier: Non-gas purchases at Costco and Costco.com earn an unlimited 2% cash back.
  • 1% Tier: All other purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back.

Redeeming Cash Back Rewards

With every February billing statement, you receive a coupon for the full amount of the cash back you earned during the previous calendar year. You can redeem this coupon at any Costco warehouse location, either as credit against in-store purchases, or for hard cash or a paper check. If your coupon’s value is greater than your redemption transaction’s value, you receive the remainder in cash or by check, your preference.

The minimum coupon value is $1. If you fail to earn at least $1 in rewards in a given year, you’ll receive nothing the following February. But if you’re in that boat, you should probably cancel your Costco membership.

Important Fees

There is no annual fee for the card itself, but the issuer does require a paid-up Costco membership at a minimum annual cost of $60 plus applicable local tax.

Foreign transactions normally cost 3%, but the fee is waived at international Costco locations.

Additional Benefits

This card comes with some additional cardholder benefits. The most notable include:

  • Purchase protection against loss or damage for 90 to 120 days from purchase, subject to per-item limits
  • Complimentary rental car insurance on rentals paid in full with your card
  • Travel accident insurance worldwide (a bare-bones form of travel insurance that’s not a substitute for a comprehensive policy)
  • 24/7 emergency assistance for travelers

Credit Required

This card requires excellent credit. Any significant credit issues are likely to disqualify your application.


Advantages of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card

Here’s why you might want to apply for the Costco Anywhere Visa Card.

  • Excellent Dining and Travel Rewards. This card’s unlimited 3% travel and restaurant benefit is nearly unrivaled among comparable rewards cards. Even among the best travel rewards cards on the market, it’s difficult to find that sort of return. And it’s also worth noting that Costco’s now-defunct American Express credit card offered only 2% back on restaurant and travel purchases, and excluded non-U.S. restaurants from the deal.
  • Very Good Cash Back Rewards on Gas and EV Charging Costco Anywhere Visa offers very good gas and EV charging rewards. Though gas and charging purchases at non-Costco grocery stores, superstores, and warehouse clubs don’t qualify, the 4% gas benefit and $7,000 annual spending cap is still better than most competing cards. Plus, if you’re a Costco member, there’s a good chance you’ll buy much of your gas at Costco locations anyway. If you spend up to the cap, you’ll earn $280 per year from the gas benefit alone.
  • 2% Back on Costco Purchases Without Executive Membership. Costco Anywhere Visa earns unlimited 2% cash back on Costco purchases. Costco’s Executive members also get 2% back on most Costco purchases, even if they don’t have this card, but they have to spring for a $120 (plus tax) annual membership. Anywhere Visa’s 2% deal is available to regular members too.
  • No Annual Fee for the Card Itself. Though it does require cardholders to be Costco members – a $60-per-year (plus tax) expense – this card doesn’t carry its own annual fee.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. This card doesn’t charge transaction fees on foreign purchases. That’s great news for frequent international travelers, whether they have time to shop at international Costco locations or not.

Disadvantages of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card

Consider these downsides before you apply for the Costco Anywhere Visa Card, even if you’re already a Costco member.

  • Requires Costco Membership. This card requires a paid-up Costco membership, which costs at least $60 per year, plus any applicable local sales tax. Though Costco membership makes financial sense anyway for many larger households that consume groceries in bulk, the annual expense definitely eats into this card’s potential earnings. If you’re single or belong to a two-person household and don’t spend heavily on gas, restaurants, and travel, a no-annual-fee cash back card is likely a better deal.
  • Must Visit Costco to Redeem Rewards. Costco Anywhere Visa doesn’t make it easy to redeem your rewards. You need to visit Costco in person and present the coupon you’ve received with your February statement. If you live far from the nearest warehouse location or shop at Costco only once in a great while, this is a major inconvenience – imagine how upset you’d be after driving 50 miles one way to your “local” Costco, only to discover you’d left your coupon at home. Most other rewards cards allow you to redeem cash back online, often via electronic bank account deposit.
  • Can Only Redeem Rewards Once Per Year. Adding to the inconvenience of this card’s redemption requirements is the fact that you can only redeem your rewards once per year. In practice, this is likely to be on your first trip to Costco after you receive your cash back rewards coupon with your February statement. Most other cash back cards avoid artificial redemption timelines – you can redeem whenever you want, subject to minimum redemption thresholds, if any.
  • Gas Benefit Is Restrictive. This card’s gas category isn’t as good as it seems. The 4% cash back benefit (up to $7,000 in spending per year) applies only to gas purchased at Costco and merchants coded as gas stations. It doesn’t cover gas purchased at convenience stores, supermarkets, superstores, and other warehouse clubs. Gas purchases at these places earn just 1% cash back. If you can’t fill up at Costco or traditional gas stations every time (or most of the time), this is a critical disadvantage.
  • Overly Sensitive Fraud Detection. A preponderance of anecdotal evidence collected from Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi customers suggests that this card’s fraud detection mechanism is too sensitive – that is, it flags normal, everyday transactions and spending patterns as suspect. For instance, users have received fraud alerts and had their accounts frozen for spending more than $200 in a single Walmart transaction, and for making five purchases in one day within a 60-mile radius, among other innocuous behaviors. Though Citi could certainly improve its fraud detection practices in the future, they appear to lag at present.
  • Has a Penalty APR. This card carries a penalty APR that’s subject to change with prevailing rates but generally well above the regular APR. Once imposed, it remains in force indefinitely. Over time, that can really add up for cardholders who carry balances and sometimes face liquidity issues that impact their payment schedules. Many competing cards don’t charge penalty interest.

Final Word

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is one of the more generous rewards credit cards on the market. It combines the best elements of travel credit cards, gas credit cards, and store discount cards, yet still allows cardholders to redeem their accumulated rewards for cold cash. Because of its generosity, its lack of a direct annual fee, and the fact that it can be used anywhere Visa cards are accepted, there’s little downside to applying for this card if you’re a current Costco member who plans to maintain membership indefinitely. Likewise, if you’re on the fence about joining Costco, this card could be enough to convince you that it’s worthwhile.

On the other hand, this card isn’t a slam dunk for households that thrive outside the Costco bubble. If you’re perfectly happy without a Costco membership and aren’t sure that membership makes financial or practical sense for your family, you shouldn’t get one for the sole purpose of applying for this card.

Costco Consumer Card Art With No Expiry (004)

Our rating

4.0/5

Pros

  • thumbs-upNo annual fee (other than your Costco membership)
  • thumbs-upExcellent rewards program beyond Costco purchases
  • thumbs-upNo foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • thumbs-downRequires a paid-up Costco membership
  • thumbs-downOnly one redemption certificate per year
  • thumbs-downMust redeem at Costco (though you can convert part of your certificate to cash)
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.