Store Credit Cards That Don't Suck
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In order to increase loyalty, many retailers will offer a store credit card, or partner with payment processors like MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover to offer co-branded credit cards. You can reap significant benefits with these cards, enjoying special discounts and perks at your favorite stores.
However, before you sign up for one of these, it's important to note the difference between store credit cards and store co-branded credit cards.
- Store credit cards are cards that only work at the store. You might have access to some discounts and rewards, but the programs aren't usually generous, and the APRs are notoriously high.
- Store co-branded credit cards feature the logo of a major payment processor as well as the store logo. These are Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express cards that can be accepted anywhere the payment processor is used. These cards often have special rewards programs.
Should You Use a Store Credit Card?
It can be tempting to sign up for a store credit card. Many store cards offer big discounts to get you to apply. But this is usually a one-time perk. These types of department store credit cards have a few disadvantages:
- Store credit cards can't be used at other retailers.
- Interest rates are often higher than other credit cards..
- Credit limits are usually lower than other credit cards.
- Redemption might not be in cash back, but in store credit.
- These cards don't have the same positive affect on your credit score as a card from a major bank card.
If you decide to get a store credit card, consider how often you shop at the store. The only way you can even begin to justify getting one of these cards is if you are a frequent shopper. It's also a good idea to avoid carrying a balance, since the cost of doing so can easily offset any perk you received for signing up. If you know you're going to carry a balance, use a credit card with a low APR instead.
Best Store Cards
These are the store credit cards with the best benefits for frequent shoppers.
A popular choice is the REDcard from Target, which offers 5% off all your purchases at Target and Target.com. You also receive free shipping when you buy from Target's website and an extra 30 days to return items. You can also get a debit card version of the REDcard, which works like a check, and draws on your checking account. There is no annual fee for either card.
Lowe's Consumer Card
Making large purchases for your home can be difficult to take in all at once, but that's where the Lowe's Consumer Card can help. Cardmembers have a few neat options to choose from when it comes to this card's benefits. First, they can choose to take 5% off their Lowe's purchase. But if they spend $299 or more on a purchase, then they can also choose to take the 6-month special financing plan, where they won't pay any interest on the purchase as long as it's paid in full within 6 months.
If $3,500 or more is spent on a purchase, cardholders have an additional choice of a 84-month special financing plan, where the purchase can be repaid at a reduced APR of 5.99% until it's paid in full within 84 months. The special financing offers cannot be combined with the 5% purchase discount. There is no annual fee.
Best Co-Branded Store Credit Cards
Co-branded credit cards can be great choices for regular shopping, especially if you already shop a great deal with that merchant. Purchases you spend outside of the store will help you build rewards to use at the store. Here are some of the best co-branded store credit cards.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
The new Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi from our partner Citi awards 4% back on gas purchases at Costco and other gas stations (on up to $7,000 per year), 3% back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on purchases at Costco and online at Costco.com, and 1% back on all other purchases. Your cash back reward coupon must be redeemed at Costco, but you can redeem the coupon for cash and spend your cash back elsewhere. There is no annual fee with a paid Costco membership.
Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card
If you are an avid shopper on Amazon.com, then the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card might be for you. You get 3% cash back for each dollar you spend on Amazon.com, 2% back for each dollar spent at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores. All other purchases get 1% cash back. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can qualify for 5% back on Amazon.com purchases. There are no earning caps and no point expiration. There is no annual fee.
Shop with Points allows you to pay for Amazon.com purchases with your rewards, and you also have the option to redeem for cash back, gift cards, and travel. This card is ideal for consumers who shop Amazon frequently.
The biggest retailer in the world offers a Walmart MasterCard with a 10% savings on purchases when you open an account (valid on purchases up to $250), 3% back on Walmart.com purchases, 2% back on Murphy USA and Walmart gas, and 1% at Walmart and anywhere else your card is accepted. You receive these savings as statement credit. Cardholders can also print out a certificate for special in-store financing for 6 or 12 months depending on the size of their purchase. Finally, all cardholders receive a free monthly FICO credit score so that they can keep track of the credit. There is no annual fee.
Sam's Club MasterCard
Sam's Club, the warehouse arm of the Walmart empire, offers a MasterCard that features 5% back at U.S. and Puerto Rican gas stations and on gas at Sam's Club (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year). 3% cash back is offered on all dining and travel purchases, and 1% cash back is earned elsewhere. Get a $40 statement credit when you open a Sam's Club consumer credit card and make a $100 purchase on the same day (offer valid through December 31, 2016). There is no annual fee for this card.
Nordstrom Visa Signature Card
This high-fashion department store offers a $20 Nordstrom Note (store credit) after new applicants spend $100 at Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, or HauteLook on the day you're approved. Earn double points both online and in-store, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else. Cardholders also receive access to the annual Nordstrom Anniversary Sale before the general public. There is no annual fee for this card.
SaksFirst World Elite MasterCard
If you want to earn rewards beyond the department store attached to the card, the SaksFirst World Elite MasterCard can work for the more upscale consumer. Not only can you earn 6 points for every dollar spent on purchases as Saks Fifth Avenue stores, you'll earn 3 points for every dollar spent on purchases at spas and salons, 2 points for every dollar spent on dining, gas, and grocery purchases, and 1 point for every dollar spent on your other purchases.
Cardholders will also get to enjoy some other nice benefits, including free shipping on Saks purchases made online and at their retail stores, advance notice of sales, invitations to exclusive events, and special offers and promotions from Saks Fifth Avenue available just for cardholders. You'll even receive $25 Saks Welcome Gift Card after you make your first purchase outside of Saks. This card offers no foreign transaction fees and no annual fees.
Gap Inc. Visa Card
The Gap Inc. Visa® Card is a great card for those who enjoy shopping at the Gap retail clothing stores. New applicants will receive 15% off their first purchase from a Gap store or from Gap.com that's made within the first 90 days from their account opening. Cardholders will also earn 5 points for every dollar spent on Gap purchases, along with 1 point for every dollar spent on every other purchase. Every 1,000 points earned will give them a $10 Gap Reward card, which they can use at any Gap or Gap-affiliated store, which includes Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, and Athleta. There is no annual fee.
My Best Buy Visa
With the My Best Buy™ Visa, cardholders can earn reward points on both their Best Buy purchases as well as everyday purchases made outside of Best Buy. You can earn 5% back when you shop at Best Buy (or 6% back if you're an Elite Plus member), 2% on dining out and grocery purchases, and 1% on other everyday purchases. Plus, get 10% back on your first purchase upon approval.
You can also choose to receive special financing on your Best Buy purchases. Get 6-month financing on storewide purchases that total $199 or greater, 12-month financing if the total is $399 or greater, 18-month financing on major appliance purchases that total $599 or more, or 24-month financing on home theater purchases that total $799 or more. This card has an annual fee that ranges from $0 to $59 based on your creditworthiness.
TJX Platinum Rewards Credit Card
This credit card is offered by TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading post as both a store charge card and a MasterCard. You get 10% off of your first online purchase and five points per dollar spent at all of their stores and at tjmaxx.com. You receive a $10 rewards certificate for every 1,000 points earned. There is no annual fee for this card.