PNC Cash Rewards Visa Credit Card Review
For more than a decade, my wife has been a loyal PNC customer. This includes holding one of their rewards credit cards — which, at one time, was our only credit card. Well, over the years, that’s changed a lot as our card mix has evolved. And, now, another change has come as the bank recently moved us over to the PNC Cash Rewards Visa card.
So, what does the Cash Rewards card have to offer and how does it compare to our previous product? Let’s dive into the details.
PNC Cash Rewards Credit Card Review
How we gained the PNC Cash Rewards Visa
Previously, my wife and I had the PNC Everyday Rewards card — which she had for several years. Even though we barely used the card anymore (for reasons we’ll explore later), we’ve held onto it since it is by far her oldest account.
A few months back, we learned that the card was being fully discontinued (new applications were closed off long ago) and we’d be moved to the PNC Cash Rewards card instead. Then, a couple of weeks ago, our new cards arrived.
The rewards categories for the PNC Cash Rewards card look like this:
- 4% back on gas station purchases
- 3% back on dining purchases
- 2% back on grocery store purchases
- 1% back on all other purchases
Just looking at this list, it’s a pretty solid line-up. While the 2% on groceries may be moot for maximizers due to the existence of flat 2% back cards, the 4% on gas and 3% on dining categories are definitely competitive for a no annual fee card. However, there is a catch.
As it turns out, the 2%, 3%, and 4% rewards categories are capped at a combined total of $8,000 in purchases per year. To be clear, this means that any grocery store, dining, or gas station purchases will count toward that $8k maximum. Once that cap is reached, all subsequent purchases will earn 1% back regardless of category. Also, this annual cap is based on your cardholder anniversary date and not a calendar year. So, if you opened your account on August 1st, 2023, the $8,000 max would reset on August 1st, 2024.
To their credit, PNC’s site does feature a widget that will show you how much in combined category spending you’ve made toward this cap. We’ll talk more about what this limitation means for strategy later — but, for now, that’s the basics of how rewards work with this card.
With the PNC Cash Rewards card, customers can redeem their cashback for statement credits or toward deposits into qualifying PNC accounts. Like some other cards, there is a $25 minimum redemption, meaning that you’ll need to accrue at least this much in rewards before you can cash out. On the upside, rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
As existing cardholders, my wife and I didn’t get any new bonus when moving to the Cash Reward card. However, new customers can earn themselves a bonus when they open the card.
Currently, cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases on the card within their first three billing cycles. That spend to reward ratio isn’t the best I’ve ever seen… but it’s certainly not the worst either.
PNC Cash Rewards Visa versus our previous PNC card
All things considered, I think the PNC Cash Rewards card is an upgrade from our PNC Everyday Rewards. That’s really thanks to one key change: the redemption threshold. With our previous card, we’d need to reach at least $100 in rewards and then PNC would mail us a check with our statement. That wouldn’t be so bad… except that the rewards also expired after a year. Because of this, as our credit card portfolio began to diversify and we weren’t earning as many rewards on that card anymore, our rewards balance would dwindle, putting us further away from cashing out. In turn, we basically stopped using the card altogether. For that reason alone, I’m thrilled that not only will we be able to cash out at $25 but will also not repeat the past since rewards won’t expire.
Funny enough, gasoline is one of the categories that isn’t emphasized by any of our other cards. Thus, it’s great to have this in the mix once again. Meanwhile, dining and groceries are spending categories we do have covered by the Amex Gold, so we won’t really be making much use of those categories.
Nevertheless, like I said, I’m quite pleased that we’ve been moved over to this product from our previous one.
Final Thoughts on the PNC Cash Rewards Card
Overall, there are a number of attractive aspects of the PNC Cash Rewards Card. What’s more, the redemption structure of the card makes it quite an upgrade from our previous PNC card. However, the spending cap imposed on the top three reward tiers could seriously dampen the card’s appeal.
Because PNC’s cap combines the 2%, 3%, and 4% categories, optimizing rewards with the card basically means avoiding putting grocery or dining spending on the card. Then again, I’m guessing most consumers aren’t spending $667 a month on gas, so perhaps a mix of dining and gasoline purchases is more likely. Either way, it’s almost as though the card’s structure discourages consumers from using it for groceries. Perhaps that’s a bit too wonky of a way to think about it, but I think it’s notable nonetheless.
For those reasons, if dining and groceries are important categories for you, I have a different suggestion: the Capital One SavorOne card. With that option, you’ll earn 3% back on dining, 3% on entertainment, 3% on streaming services, and 3% on groceries. What’s more, none of those reward categories are capped.
As for the gas category, while there are some other options, the PNC Cash Rewards happens to be one of the better picks — at least in terms of a no annual fee card. So, if this is a key category for you, then perhaps the card is worth it for you despite the other limitations.
Ultimately, when assessing the PNC Cash Rewards Visa card for yourself, I’d recommend running the numbers based on your personal spending and determining whether the card makes sense for you.