Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Hits the road often, whether for work or play See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
At first glance, the PNC points Visa Credit Card has a pretty impressive rewards rate: 4 points for every $1 you spend, and even more if you are an eligible PNC banking customer.
But PNC points are worth a fraction of a penny each, so for most people, the rewards are quite meager. In fact, 4 points per $1 wouldn’t even get you 1% cash back—the baseline value for most rewards cards.
If you have an eligible PNC checking account, you can earn up to 75% more points on every purchase, but even then, you’ll earn no more than 1.4% on every dollar you spend if you redeem for cash back. That’s not terrible, but definitely not compelling, especially with the hoops you have to jump through to get it. (We’ll get to the account balance requirements in a minute.)
The one worthwhile use of your points may be travel bookings, which are the most valuable of the redemption options. But even then, you’ll need the rewards boost from an eligible PNC account to get a competitive value. In other words, if you aren’t a frequent traveler and don’t keep thousands in the bank, there are plenty of more rewarding credit cards with simpler structures.
Plus, you’ll likely need an excellent credit score to qualify for this card, while many competing cards are only looking for a good credit.
One rewards rate on all purchases
Relatively low APR
Terrible redemption values
Maximizing rewards requires legwork (and money)
- One rewards rate on all purchases: Some credit cards have a tiered program that offers different rewards rates on different types of purchases. Some even cap how much you can earn in these categories. With this card, you can avoid keeping track of all that, and you’ll earn a more predictable—and unlimited—stream of points that’s less apt to fluctuate. (That is, unless you bank with PNC and your balance changes).
- Relatively low APR: While incurring finance charges is an easy way to erase the benefit of any rewards, if you have to carry a balance from time to time, it’s nice to know this card’s ongoing APR for purchases and balance transfers is so competitive. The low end of the range—offered to the most creditworthy applicants—is a good 2 percentage points lower than the average for comparable cards.
- Terrible redemption values: Points are worth a fraction of a penny: 0.2 cents each if redeemed for cash (an effective cash-back rate of just 0.8%), and in many other cases, 0.18 cents to 0.3 cents each. Even with the opportunity to earn a bunch of points on every dollar, this is well below the 1 cent per point baseline for rewards credit cards.
- Maximizing rewards requires legwork (and money): You’ll get a 25% points boost just for having an eligible PNC account, but to get 50% or 75% you have to have even more specific accounts and meet minimum balance or direct deposit requirements. Any month you don’t meet the minimums, your effective rewards rate will drop.
PNC points Visa Card Bonus for New Cardholders
New cardholders will earn 50,000 bonus points if they spend $750 on the card within the first three billing cycles. That works out to an average of $250 of spending per month, which should be manageable for most consumers. Based on our valuation of PNC points, this bonus is worth $110. That’s an OK new-cardholder bonus, but there are plenty of cash-back and general travel rewards cards that offer fatter bonuses, for less spending.
Earning Points & Rewards
The PNC points Visa Credit Card offers a flat 4 points per dollar on every purchase you make. If you have one of the bank’s eligible checking accounts and meet other requirements, you could qualify for up to 7 points per $1. Again, it may sound like a lot, but the rewards rates are misleading, since the redemption values are so meager. Here’s the breakdown:
- 25% bonus: Earn 5 points per $1 if you have a Virtual Wallet, Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend, Virtual Wallet with Performance Select, Performance or Performance Select checking account. You don’t have to meet any balance or direct deposit requirements for this bonus level.
- 50% bonus: Earn 6 points per $1 if you have a Performance checking account or Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend. Also, you’ll have to maintain an average monthly balance of at least $2,000, receive monthly direct deposits of $2,000 or more, or maintain a combined average monthly balance of at least $15,000 across your PNC consumer deposit and investment accounts.
- 75% bonus: Earn 7 points per $1 if you have a Performance Select Checking account or Virtual Wallet with Performance Select. You’ll need to maintain an average monthly balance of at least $5,000, receive monthly direct deposits of $5,000 or more, or maintain a combined average monthly balance of at least $25,000 across your PNC consumer deposit and investment accounts.
Redemption values are the other half of the equation when assessing the value of a credit card rewards program, and in this case, they are very low. You can redeem your points for cash back, travel fare, gift cards, or merchandise, and there is no limit to how many points you can earn with the card. Travel redemptions are the best bang for your buck:
- Travel: You can book airfare, hotel stays and all other eligible travel at a redemption rate of 0.30 cents per point, according to a bank spokesperson.
- Cash back: You can redeem your points for cash at a redemption rate of 0.20 cents per point. Redemption options include a statement credit or a deposit to a PNC or other bank account, according to a bank spokesperson. You can also use the PNC Pay mobile app, using your points to cover contactless purchases made in stores.
- Gift cards: Redemption values vary. We found a $25 Walmart gift card for 11,344 points, giving you a value of 0.22 cents per point.
- Merchandise: Redemption values vary. For instance, you can purchase an electric scooter for 216,437 points through PNC or $299.99 directly from the manufacturer. That gives you a value of 0.13 cents per point.
- Apple products: Redemption values vary. A set of AirPods Pro ($249.00 at the Apple Store), would set you back 120,611 PNC points. That's a value of 0.21 cents per point.
The best-case scenario—earning 7 points per $1—translates to a cash-back rate of 1.4%. Many competitors, by contrast, offer 1.5% or even 2%, and you don’t have to have a particular bank account to get that rate.
Don’t let your points go unused for too long because they expire 48 months after they’re added to your rewards account.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
The best way to maximize the value of the PNC points Visa Credit Card is to qualify for the 75% relationship bonus on points, and then always use your points to book airfare, hotels or other travel through the bank’s rewards portal. This would give you an average value of 2.1 cents per $1 spent, better than what you’ll get on some flexible travel cards.
Also, take advantage of the card’s introductory 0% APR promotion to finance a large purchase or transfer a balance from another higher-APR card. Just make sure to transfer any balances within your first 90 days to get the 12-month interest-free period, and don’t forget to make sure you’ll save on interest after factoring in the 3% balance transfer fee.
Depending on how much you finance through the 0% APR period and pay off before the period ends, the 0% promotions could save you hundreds of dollars in interest.
PNC ranked “Among the best” in regional credit card companies in the 2020 J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Survey, scoring third place among 11 issuers.
The bank provides access to customer service seven days a week (but hours are limited). Also, you can manage your account online or via the PNC Bank mobile app. In addition, you get complimentary access to your credit score through PNC’s partnership with Experian, one of the three main credit reporting agencies.
You can lock your credit card if you misplace it, a handy feature that can prevent someone from making unauthorized purchases while you look for the card.
It also contains contactless payment technology. You can tap your card on a contactless-enabled reader instead of swiping or inserting it. This method is just as secure as using your card’s EMV chip but provides a faster checkout experience.
Fees to Watch Out For
The card’s fees are pretty typical for a rewards credit card. One thing to note is that the balance transfer fee increases from 3% to 4% after the initial balance transfer promotional period expires.