How much should a memory card cost?

Memory cards have become an essential piece of technology for many devices, from cameras to phones to gaming systems. With so many options on the market, it can be tricky to know just how much you should be paying for a memory card. To find the answer, let’s take a close look at what goes into memory card pricing.

What factors impact memory card pricing?

There are several key factors that influence how much memory cards cost:

  • Storage capacity – Cards with more gigabytes (GB) of storage generally cost more.
  • Read/write speeds – Faster read and write speeds allow you to access and save data more quickly but come at a higher price.
  • Build quality – Premium brands often use higher-end components and materials that increase durability and performance but also raise the price.
  • Card format – Newer card formats like SDXC tend to be pricier than older formats like SDHC.
  • Supply and demand – When a particular card is in high demand but short supply, prices typically go up.
  • Retailer markup – The store selling the card factors in an extra percentage on top of the manufacturer’s base price.

Knowing these pricing factors helps explain why memory cards can range so greatly in cost from just a few dollars to over $100. The biggest determinants are storage space and speed. Let’s take a closer look:

How storage capacity impacts memory card prices

Storage capacity is one of the biggest drivers of memory card prices. The more data a card can hold, the more it will generally cost. Here’s a breakdown of how pricing typically compares across different storage tiers:

Storage Tier Total Storage Price Range*
Basic 4GB – 16GB $5 – $15
Standard 32GB – 128GB $10 – $40
High 200GB – 400GB $50 – $250
Premium 512GB – 1TB $150 – $500

*Ranges are approximate for common SD and microSD card formats.

As you can see, the price scale generally aligns with the total gigabytes. While a 16GB basic card might cost $15, a 512GB premium card could run you $300. That’s a 20x price jump for 32x more storage. Bulk storage commands a higher price.

Of course, there are still price variations within each tier based on speed, branding, and supply availability. Let’s look at speed next.

How read/write speed impacts memory card prices

Besides storage capacity, the data read and write speed is the other major factor affecting memory card prices. Faster cards allow you to transfer files on and off the card more quickly but come at a premium. Here’s an overview of price differences based on speed class ratings:

Speed Class Minimum Speed Price Range*
Class 2 2 MB/s $5 – $15
Class 4 4 MB/s $7 – $20
Class 10 10 MB/s $15 – $35
UHS-I U1 10 MB/s $20 – $50
UHS-I U3 30 MB/s $35 – $100
UHS-II 156 MB/s $60 – $300

*Ranges are approximate for SD and microSD cards with a 32GB capacity.

The speed rating gives a minimum guaranteed speed but even cards within the same class can have variance in maximum speeds. Still, the rating tiers provide a general indication that you’ll pay almost double for a UHS-I U1 over a Class 10 card, while a UHS-II card commands anywhere from 3-10x the price of lower speed classes.

Higher application requirements, like shooting 4K video or fast action photography, demand cards with quicker read/write times to avoid lags or failures. These high-speed cards incorporate more advanced memory chips and controllers that increase the manufacturing costs passed onto the consumer. Paying extra for fast speeds is worthwhile for power users but overkill for typical phone storage needs.

When does memory card pricing not align with speed and capacity?

While speed class and capacity are the two biggest factors influencing price, there are some cases where pricing is an outlier from the typical scale:

  • Brand reputation – Leading brands like SanDisk and Samsung can charge a 10-15% premium over lesser-known brands for equal specs due to strong consumer trust and reputation.
  • New card format – Recent formats like SD Express and CFexpress command very high starting prices due to limited adoption and supply issues.
  • Short supply – Periods of high demand and tight supply, like during chip shortages, lead to spiking prices above normal rates.
  • Bundled software/accessories – Some cards include extras like customized software or USB card readers that add to the pricing.
  • Specialty cards – Niche cards built for extreme conditions may cost more than typical consumer-grade offerings.

In these cases, you may end up paying a premium beyond straightforward speed and capacity pricing. The brand reputation markup is usually modest and seen as reasonable by many shoppers. But large price spikes above normal rates due to short supply are typically temporary and should stabilize after demand catches up.

Average price by memory card type and capacity

To get a clearer sense of real-world memory card prices, here is a comparison of the average cost for popular card types across different storage capacities:

Memory Card Type Average Price by Capacity
16GB 64GB 128GB 256GB
SDHC $9 $16 $28
SDXC $12 $22 $38 $86
microSDHC $11 $18 $32
microSDXC $14 $24 $42 $95

A few things stand out:

  • SDXC and microSDXC cards cost a little more than SDHC/microSDHC at the same capacities since they are newer card formats.
  • The price per GB drops significantly at higher capacities thanks to economies of scale.
  • 256GB cards cost nearly 3x more than 64GB models for 4x the storage, reflecting the premium pricing of high capacities.

While your specific card prices may vary slightly based on speed, brand, and retailers, this table gives a good ballpark average for expected pricing.

Ideal memory card price per GB based on usage

To summarize the key factors for determining an appropriate price for a memory card, here is a quick guide to suggested price per GB based on usage:

Memory Card Usage Ideal Price Per GB
Basic phone storage $0.10 – $0.30
Point-and-shoot camera storage $0.20 – $0.60
DSLR camera storage – photos $0.50 – $1
DSLR camera storage – 4K video $1 – $2
Nintendo Switch game storage $0.50 – $1

Memory cards for phones and basic cameras only require low capacities and speeds, so cheaper pricing around $0.20 per GB is reasonable. Power users shooting lots of high-res photos or 4K footage need more performance and should expect to pay $1 per GB or more for high-end cards. Most people can find a card that fits both their price range and usage needs if they understand the pricing factors.

Finding the best memory card deals

Now that you know what goes into memory card pricing and typical price points, here are some tips for finding the best deals when buying your own card:

  • Compare prices per GB, not just card capacities. Looking at the price per GB is the best way to compare true value across different size cards.
  • Buy just enough capacity for your needs – Don’t overpay for a 512GB card if a 200GB card holds plenty of data for your usage.
  • Look for speed class sales or bundles. Retailers often discount speedier cards or bundle them with accessories to provide extra value.
  • Check lesser known brands. Cards from brands like Silicon Power and PNY can be just as good as SanDisk for less money.
  • Buy bundled multi-packs for bulk savings. You can often save up to 25% buying memory card 2, 3, or 5 packs compared to buying individually.

Following these tips when comparing card prices can help you spot the best deals even with the variation in the market.

Memory card pricing outlook

In the next few years, memory card prices are expected to decline across most segments as manufacturing costs drop and capacities continue increasing. However, supply chain issues or spikes in demand could lead to temporary price hikes.

Here are some predictions for memory card price trends moving forward:

  • Basic SD and microSD cards will become even more affordable with Class 10 64GB models approaching $10.
  • High-capacity 1TB+ cards will remain expensive but become more mainstream and drop below $100 for some models.
  • Extremely fast UHS-III spec cards will stay pricey over $100 even for 64GB models due to niche target market.
  • Competition from cloud storage providers could force brands to reduce high profit margins on memory cards.

While nothing is certain, buyers can likely expect gradually falling prices for most card capacities and speed classes over the next 3-5 years. However, premium high-capacity and cutting edge high-speed cards will remain pricey for the foreseeable future until demand rises substantially. Keeping an eye on pricing trends can help you find the best deals on new memory card purchases.


Determining the ideal price for a memory card requires looking at more than just storage capacity. While capacity is a key pricing factor, the card’s intended use and speed rating also affect cost significantly. Basic users can find very affordable options but high-performance cards come at a premium. Following price per GB for your specific needs, comparing brands and bundles, and keeping an eye on upcoming price trends can help you buy the right card without overspending. While advanced new cards will remain pricey as they debut, continued gradual declines in flash memory costs should help bring better value across all memory card segments long-term.