Is the PNC Points Card a Good Deal for Travel?

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Million Mile Secrets reader, John Young, commented:

Do you have any information about the PNC Points Visa from PNC bank?  I was targeted to earn 50,000 PNC points after spending $500.  But there is NO information on their website about how many points it takes to redeem for an airline ticket.

I called them and was transferred to 3 different people.  None of them gave me any information on the value of the points when redeemed for an airline ticket.  All they told me was it takes a minimum of 50,000 PNC points to redeem for an airline ticket.

This may be a good card or it could be the biggest credit card sham going on.  I can’t tell because they won’t give me the information.

Excellent question, John!  There’s a reason you don’t hear about this card very often.  That’s because it’s NOT a good deal.

Is The PNC Points Card A Good Deal For Travel

The PNC Points Card Is NOT Good for Big Travel

I’ll explain why.  And give you better options for cash back and travel rewards cards!

The PNC Points Visa Is NOT a Good Deal

PNC has branches in 19 states and offers the PNC Points Visa card.

The card offers 4X PNC points on all purchases.  And you earn bonus points if you have certain PNC checking accounts, a minimum amount of direct deposits, and/or a minimum balance in your account.

Is The PNC Points Card A Good Deal For Travel

You’ll Earn 4X PNC Points Per $1 Spent On Purchases with the PNC Points Visa

You can redeem the points through their online rewards catalog for airline tickets, gift cards, merchandise, and more.

Is The PNC Points Card A Good Deal For Travel

You Can Redeem PNC Points for Gift Cards, Travel, and More… but the Rate You’ll Get Is Terrible

Even though you’ll earn 4X PNC points per $1 spent, each point is worth ~1/5 to ~1/4 of 1 cent, depending on how you redeem them.

So that effectively makes this card a 1% cash back card at best.  Even with the 75% bonus you’ll receive with certain checking accounts, it still doesn’t compare to other cash back credit cards that do NOT have those strict requirements.

And as John already found out, the customer service with PNC is bad.  They wouldn’t give John (or me!) any information about their PNC points program.  I recommend sticking with banks that make their award redemption policies easily available!

Is The PNC Points Card A Good Deal For Travel

You Can Redeem PNC Points for 1/5 of 1 Cent Each for Travel, Which Is Awful! I Do NOT Recommend This Card!

I was able to find out (after speaking with multiple people, as John found out) that 50,000 PNC points are worth $100 toward the cost of a coach flight on any US airline.  At that level, the value you’ll receive is 1/5 of 1 cent per point.  So this is NOT a good card to use for Big Travel!

Other bloggers and folks on FlyerTalk have found similar results.

How Do PNC Points Compare to Other Cards?

According to PNC, the most popular points redemption is for gift cards, including hotel gift cards.

Is The PNC Points Card A Good Deal For Travel

Some of the Bad Gift Card Options for PNC Points

Let’s take the Hyatt gift card as an example.  You can redeem 47,000 PNC points for a $100 Hyatt gift card.

At 4X PNC points per $1 spent, you’d have to spend $11,750 on purchases to earn a $100 Hyatt gift card.  And even if you jumped through hoops for the bonus points, the least you’d have to spend is close to $7,000.

I’ve written about other cash back cards and how much you can get back.

Here a few better options:

1.   Chase Freedom

Link:   Chase Freedom

You’ll always earn at least 1% cash back with the Chase Freedom.  The best perk of this NO annual fee card is 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories.

All of the points earned are worth at least 1 cent per point.  You can increase their value when you pair the Chase Freedom with another card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus, or (the no longer offered) Chase Ink Bold.  That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are valuable for Big Travel.

Even without the bonus categories and transfer options, you’d still earn more cash back than the PNC Points card.

2.   Citi Double Cash

Link:   Citi Double Cash

With the Citi Double Cash card you’ll get 1% cash back on all purchases.  Then another 1% cash back on payments, as long as you meet the minimum payment.  Get all the details on this card and see how it stacks up to other cash back cards in my review.

Because it earns 2% cash back, it offers a better earning rate than the PNC Points card.

3.   Discover It

Link:   Discover It

The Discover It card recently announced double cash back for the 1st card year for new members.  You’ll have the opportunity to earn up to 10% cash back.  And currently you earn $50 after your 1st purchase.

When you consider the double cash back and quarterly 5% bonus categories, it comes out way ahead of the PNC Points card.  Especially the 1st year.

Check out my review of the card.

4.   US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa

Link:   US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa

This card earns 3X points when you give to a charity and 2X points on the category where you spend the most (airline, gas, or grocery) and most cell phone expenses.

If you want to redeem FlexPerks for flights, you’ll get a far better value than the PNC Points card.

5.   Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Link:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus

And if you want a points system with easy award redemptions, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a good choice.

The Arrival miles you earn with the Barclays Arrival Plus card can be redeemed starting at 10,000 miles for $100 as a statement credit towards a $100+ travel purchase (plus 5% miles back).

You effectively get 2.1% cash back on travel purchases with this card.  So if you have a lot of $100+ travel expenses, this is probably the best cash back card!  Although, I prefer cards that earn miles & points for Big Travel.

Bottom Line

The PNC Points Visa card is NOT a good option for cash back OR travel rewards.  There are many better cards available that earn more valuable points.  Like the Chase Freedom, Citi Double Cash, or Discover It cards.

When you compare how much you’ll have to spend in purchases on the PNC Points card to similar cards, the terrible value of PNC points becomes clear.

I love to get Big Travel with Small Money and I’ll always tell you about the best deals.  The PNC Points card is NOT 1 of them.

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10 responses to “Is the PNC Points Card a Good Deal for Travel?

  1. I occasionally get the same offer from PNC in the mail (pre-qualified for 50,000 points). I just rip-up the envelope and throw in the trash. No need to get a hard-pull on one’s credit report for this.

  2. I have this card, and I will admit it is a pretty meh deal. The points accrue at 4 points/dollar for regular accounts. If you can maintain a higher status account, you will get either 6 points/dollar or 7 points/dollar. I have the second level of account, which requires a minimum $2k in your checking account or direct deposit of at least $2k every month. The higher level bank account reimburses a set number of ATM fees, including PNC-imposed fees, non-network bank fees, and foreign withdrawal fees.

    I got this card because, at the time, you could earn some points on debit card purchases as well, which I used for Venmo frequently. I earned 2 points/dollar spent on my debit card and 6 points/dollar spent on my Visa. Also, they have various deals that you can activate during set periods. Right now you get 12 points/dollar at Whole Foods and 40 points/dollar at several other places, like Sports Authority, Starbucks, Zappos, Panera, and Embassy Suites (there are 20-40 of these offers at any given point in time). For some perspective on value of points, a $100 amazon gift card costs 40k points in the portal. I have never used this for travel rewards, so I can’t speak to that.

    Basically, this isn’t actually isn’t a bad card if you bank with them. I have always had great customer service and I really like their online banking tools. This card isn’t my go-to at this time, but this card was a great deal when I got it. Holding onto it now for the Visa Signature benefits with no annual fee.

  3. I also kept getting offers of 50,000 PNC points for spending $500 and threw those out. Earlier this year, an offer came with 75,000 PNC points for spending $500, so I applied. Got a total of 77,000 points after spending $500, figured that was worth around $170.

  4. i totally disagree. I have used and taken advantage of the PNC Points sign up bonuses on both personal and business cards and it was worth it. Besides the personal sign up bonus they have a low to moderate income business card that gives you 50,000 points after u spend 1 dollar and you have 18 month 0 interest for both purchases and balance transfer. That is an awesome deal for a no annual fee business card. AND u get 5 points for every dollar you spend any time, every time.
    Referring to the rewards on the personal card it is very easy to get 6 points for every purchase every time for having a personal dda that gives you unlimited FREE foreign ATM transactions WORLDWIDE and free overdraft protection from a sav account and free checks for life. This is much better that most of you readers get from your bank right now. And if you use the points for travel you get a 2.1% cash back equivalent on a no annual fee card without any blackout dates and using whatever airline you want while getting miles for it(if you use AA flights or their partners). See below an itinerary on a coach ticket with Turkish Airline from Chicago to Rome. I think it is worth to have and use on everyday purchases that do not give you 5% cash back on other cards.
    Your Itinerary
    Thu, October 15, 2015

    Number of Connections: 1

    Total Duration: 18hr 10 min

    Departs:
    Arrives:

    10:40 PM
    5:05 PM

    Chicago OHare Intl Arpt (ORD)
    Istanbul Ataturk Arpt (IST)

    Flight: #6
    Class: Economy
    BOEING 777-300ER

    Flight Arrives +1 day(s) from departure date.

    Number of stops: 0
    Fare rules

    Departs:
    Arrives:

    10:15 PM
    11:50 PM

    Istanbul Ataturk Arpt (IST)
    Rome Leonardo Da Vinci (FCO)

    Flight: #1361
    Class: Economy
    AIRBUS INDUSTRIE 320 JET

    Number of stops: 0
    Fare rules

    Thu, October 22, 2015

    Number of Connections: 1

    Total Duration: 17hr 10 min

    Departs:
    Arrives:

    7:10 AM
    10:40 AM

    Rome Leonardo Da Vinci (FCO)
    Istanbul Ataturk Arpt (IST)

    Flight: #1362
    Class: Economy
    AIRBUS INDUSTRIE 320 JET

    Number of stops: 0
    Fare rules

    Departs:
    Arrives:

    1:40 PM
    5:20 PM

    Istanbul Ataturk Arpt (IST)
    Chicago OHare Intl Arpt (ORD)

    Flight: #5
    Class: Economy
    BOEING 777-300ER

    Number of stops: 0
    Fare rules

    Trip Cost
    Passenger 1 $812.10
    TOTAL $812.10
    Ticket Type E Ticket
    Determine The Number Of Points To Use
    Flight Cost In Points

    Don’t want to use all your points? No problem! There is a 50,000 points minimum and the rest can be paid with your enrolled card.
    232,029
    Number Of Points To Use

    Enter the number of rewards you’d like to use and click CALCULATE. The number of rewards entered changes the total dollars owed
    50,000 points minimum
    Review Your Selection

    Need to recalculate? Go right ahead! Change the number of points you’d like to use and click CALCULATE again.
    Total Points 232,029
    Total Dollars $0.00
    Ticket Points

  5. Artemio Herrera

    By far the worse credit card rewards program out there. I wouldn’t touch this card at all. Andrei must be a PNC employee. How else would he know about LMI credit card.

  6. I disagree completely, I am a regular credit card user, have been for years, I am always looking for the best card. I use PNC because I bank with them and combined with my account I rack up points pretty quickly. I have all my bills automatically paid, on top of earning the 75% bonus each month, and not mentioned anywhere in the comments , is how the PNC adapts to your shopping habits and offers tons of bonus points based on your spending habits. For example I currently have over 38 offers for extra points, most offers are in the 40 points for every dollar range, Some offers include Starbucks, Popeyes, sports authority, etc. I use this card often and have done my research. This is a good card. Not to mention the 12 months interest free on purchases. I paid for my vacation and I did not have to pay any interest and I earned my points.

  7. I have had the PNC points card since before it was PNC (National Bank). The first time I found the card was a bad deal was when I inadvertently had a very low blood sugar when I booked a flight to, and immediately from, Orlando. No one was willing to help to fix the mistake (due to a disability), so I had to purchase a return fare on another airline as well as a hotel stay the night of departure. Between USAir (at the time) and PNC, it was a miserable experience, and PNC was useless.
    This time I am attempting to book a first class flight to/from Orlando, and can select a first class seat between Cincinnati and Atlanta, but it says “first class seats are reserved for those in the Elite part of our frequent flyer program. Yet PNC is readily willing to let me spend those points on a seat in the economy section. I cancelled the transaction, and will call tomorrow to see if they can help in any way. If not, I am switching to a credit card with points that go towards an airline.
    Finally, PNC does not offer any kind of discounted rate on mortgages for loyal customers, either. We went with another bank for a refi because of this. I have lost faith in PNC and am shopping for a more user friendly organization.

  8. As always, thanks for great review – I have a checking account with PNC and they keep sending me offers and even calling my cell with this PNC Visa offer. The first time I heard about 50,000 points, I assumed these points are similar in value to MR or UR, tried looking what I can get and didn’t find any information whatsoever (the link to redemption catalog on PNC website didn’t work). This made me think that it was something shady going on here – and here I found your review… Thanks, you saved me a wasted pull.

  9. Thanks so much for this article. I just received the 50k offer from PNC and this was an incredibly useful breakdown of the card!

  10. PNC is a big scam!!!! The 50,000 points gets you nothing and when you go to use the points – the travel agency charges $25 fee per ticket!!!! CLOSED my account after this waste!