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The National Geographic Visa credit card offers users between 1% and 2% in cash back rewards on purchases. Unfortunately, the higher of the two is reserved solely for purchases from National Geographic's store and website. This card has unique ancillary benefits, such as $250 off travel packages and expeditions offered by the company, and a 1-year subscription to the digital edition of Nat Geo. We think it's a great supplemental credit card for Nat Geo fans and avid travelers under certain circumstances. However, we'd advise consumers to use one of our top credit cards for everyday spending to maximize their rewards. In our review below, we break down how the National Geographic card functions, from its highlights to shortcomings.
Features we like about the National Geographic Visa Credit Card:
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fee and an EMV Smartchip
- $250 off National Geographic Expeditions
Where we think this card falls short:
- 2% cash back limited to National Geographic purchases
- Poor rewards potential on general everyday spending
- Short 0% intro APR period
National Geographic has partnered with the First National Bank of Omaha to bring consumers a new credit card that can help save money on travel packages. The card’s defining characteristic is its $250 discount on National Geographic expeditions and trips. For these travel packages, which can cost up to $12,500, that is a 2%+ savings! It’s hard finding a credit card that, for no annual fee, can provide you with better rewards. Once the travel package starts costing more than $12.5k, however, however, the $250 stretches thin, and you begin getting diminishing returns. In those cases, a good cash back card, like the Citi® Double Cash Card, will provide a better value. At the moment, its unclear if the $250 discount is a one-time benefit, or a per trip benefit.
As far as rewards earned from spending, this card is nothing special. The National Geographic credit card generally provides 1% cash back on all purchases, with the exception of Nat Geo purchases, which allow you to squeeze out an additional 1% on top of that. Most decent cash back credit cards will provide you with better overall savings, and we recommend going with those as your primary credit card.
The National Geographic Visa card is equipped with an EMV smartchip – this coupled with the fact that it has no foreign exchange fees, makes it a decent choice for international travelers who don’t want to pay an annual fee. When travelling to Europe and Asia, it is difficult to use old magnetic-strip cards, with many vendors accepting EMV cards instead, for added security. If you are solely interested in this feature of the Nat Geo card, however, we recommend going with the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card instead. It also has an EMV chip, no foreign exchange fees, no annual fee, but a higher general rewards rate (1.5%).
It’s also worth noting that National Geographic credit card users get to enjoy a variety of reward redemption options. You can use the points earned from spending and bonuses on cash back, travel (airfare, hotels, car rentals), gift cards, and merchandise. Out of these options, the safest bet, as far as value is concerned, is cash back through First National Bank of Omaha. The value of using your points on travel will vary by itinerary. We recommend avoiding redeeming points when the value is worse than $0.01 per point.
Nat Geo credit card users earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases made through National Geographic stores or its website, and 1 point per $1 everywhere else. These points can be redeemed in many different ways, including cash back (the best option), gift cards, merchandise, and travel. How you choose to redeem your points will determine their value. As noted, we consider the cash back redemption to be the best option for consumers. When used in this way, the value of a single rewards point is $0.01.
National Geographic Visa cardholders also have the ability to earn bonus points, when they first sign up for their credit card. If you spend $1,500 on your card within the first 3 billing cycles, you will be awarded 5,000 bonus points – a potential value of $50. Just as with your rewards from spending, we urge to use your bonus points in a way that maximizes their value. To that end, you can view the full list of redemption options, and our estimated value for each, in the table below.
|Usage||Example||Value Per Point|
|Cash Back||$25 Cash Back: 2,500 points||$0.01|
|Cash Back (through Nat Geo)*||$25 Cash back: 3,500 points||$0.007|
|Gift Cards||$25 Starbucks Gift Card: 3,000 points||$0.008|
|Redeem for Flights||$396 Flight: 35,000 - 50,000 points||$0.008 - $0.011|
Note that you can redeem cash back rewards through both First National Bank AND National Geographic. Only use your points for cash back using the former! If you go through Nat Geo for the reward, you will be getting a worse value (30% less). You can get cash back only through $25, $50, $100, and $250 – that equates to 2,500, 5,000, 10,000, and 25,000 points respectively.
How much value you can get out of redeeming your points on travel will vary based on the itinerary. Things like time of day, date, and destination will influence the number of points required to purchase a flight. National Geographic estimates that a domestic flight will cost roughly between 35,000 to 50,000 points. According to the Department of Transportation, the average US domestic itinerary costs $396. As you can see, the actual value of your points when used in this way will vary greatly – but, as noted, one can expect the value to fall between and $0.008 and $0.011.
You can book airline tickets on most airlines, except Spirit or Southwest – these are the biggest major airlines not participating in Nat Geo’s rewards program. Note, you can also redeem points for booking hotels and renting cars, though we were unable to obtain a reliable range of values.
Signing up for the National Geographic Visa credit card comes with a series of additional bonuses. While the card’s rewards earned on spending are nothing to write home about, these additional features are where the card shines most. The following benefits are unique to this credit card (due to its affiliation with the National Geographic brand):
Our favorite feature of the card, and by far the most valuable, is the $250 discount on National Geographic Expeditions and Adventure trips. It's unclear as of press time whether this is a one-time benefit, or a per trip benefit for National Geographic credit cardholders.
If you are unfamiliar with their service, Nat Geo offers one-of-a-kind travel experiences. These are vacation packages that include Africa, Asia, Australia & the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Polar region, and more. You can also book packages to travel around the world! These packages are usually very expensive. The cheapest 24-day epic voyage across Antarctica and the Falkland Islands will cost approximately $22,430. The $250 discount you get with the National Geographic card doesn’t scratch the surface of this cost, and equates to a 1.1% discount, but in other packages it makes a bigger difference. An expedition to Australia, for example, costs $7,990 per adult – with this card’s savings that’s 3% discount!
Cardholders will receive 12 digital issues of National Geographic magazine, and access to the online archive. This subscription costs $19.99 normally. If you’re someone who would normally sign up for this membership, and have good enough credit to get approval for this card, you could apply for just that reason. Since the card has no annual fee, it’s a nice way to save a couple of bucks.
When using the card, you get 2x the points and 20% off qualifying purchases in the Nat Geo catalog and online store. The store offers a variety of item categories, from books to gadgets, and cannot be combined with other offers. For instance, the site currently has a 20% off promotion on all items due to Earth Day. Using the card for a purchase will still only get you 20% off items, not 40%. In addition to not being able to combine offers, National Geographic excludes certain items and purchases from qualifying for this discount. Here's what the 20% Discount DOES NOT APPLY TO:
- Genographic kits
- 10th Edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World
- Around the World in 125 Years 3-volume collector’s edition book
- Digital products
- Gift Boxes
- Shipping and handling
- Barton Cotton
- NG Art Store Merchandise
- Weekend Photo Workshops
Finally, the National Geographic card also advertises the ‘Inside Nat Geo’ newsletter. However, this is a free feature, which anyone can sign up for. We see no value in this.
To get an idea of the true value of the National Geographic Visa card, it’s best to see how it stacks up against the competition. We have found that most travel and cash back reward cards provide the better overall value to a consumer when it comes to everyday spending. The only place where the Nat Geo credit card shines is when you're taking advantage of its $250 expedition discount. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of this benefit, the cards below will provide you with the better value.
The Citi® Double Cash Card provides users with better long-term rewards over the National Geographic Visa card. The former rewards consumers with 1% cash back when they make a purchase, then adds another 1% back on top of that when paying it off at the end of the billing cycle. What makes the Citi® Double Cash Card special is the fact that users get that amazing rate on all purchases. The only way you can match it with the National Geographic Visa card is through purchases specific to the National Geographic catalogue or online stores. That puts a fairly limited scope on the card's utility. One advantage of the National Geographic card, is the fact that it provides users with a 5,000 point bonus. This gives it an initial boost in value. However, this is quickily over come by the Citi® Double Cash Card, after just $5,000 in general purchases.
The Citi® Double Cash Card is not good for use abroad. It charges users a 3% foreign transaction fee, anytime it is used internationally. If you have significant spending that passes through foreign banks, we recommend making those purchases with a card like the National Geographic Visa.
If you’re interested in the best mix of short-term and long-term cash back rewards, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Card is the way to go. The Capital One® Quicksilver® Card comes with a $150 cash back bonus. To earn it, a cardholder must spend at least $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of the account opening. This bonus is 200% greater than that of the National Geographic Visa card - the value of which is just $50. As far as long-term savings are concerned, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Card's 1.5% cash back rate on all spending outperforms the National Geographic Visa Card. The Capital One® Quicksilver® Card is not quite as good as the Citi® Double Cash Card we discussed above, but it makes up for that in the short term thanks to the superior bonus.
The Capital One® Quicksilver® Card, like the National Geographic Visa card, has no foreign exchange fee, and an EMV chip. This means it is just as useful as the Nat Geo card when it comes to international travel.
Consumers interested in having a credit card to use abroad should consider the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card – it’s one of our favorite credit cards for international travel. Just like the National Geographic Visa card, the BankAmericard Travel rewards is a no-annual-fee, no-foreign-exchange-fee, and EMV-ready credit card. Both cards are equally suited for use abroad.
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card comes with a 1.5% rewards rate on all purchases, and a decently sized welcome bonus of 20,000 rewards points (worth $200 as statement credit towards travel purchases) - to qualify, users must make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of card membership. This is why in this particular card match-up, we give the advantage to the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card. Like all the other cards on this list, it is a better investment over the National Geographic Visa card.
This card is an absolute must for anyone who participates in National Geographic’s expeditions, without spending more than $12,500 on them. If you buy the more expensive travel packages, then a card like the Citi® Double Cash Card will get you better savings. The Nat Geo credit card also offers good savings (20%) on select purchases from the magazine’s catalog and online store. This card is not great for everyday spending rewards, earning you at best 2% back (but just on National Geographic purchases).
How do I apply? You can apply for the National Geographic credit card online by following this link.
What are some National Geographic Expeditions? For a full list of available travel packages you can apply the card’s $250 discount on, look here.