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Is a retail store credit card right for you? Here’s a basic rule that applies to all store credit cards: If you really like Store X, you might get value from the Store X Credit Card. But maybe not. Check out our card picks to learn more.
Store cards are relatively easy to get, but that doesn’t mean you should apply for them whenever you see an offer. Like other credit cards, they’re powerful financial tools that could have significant effects on your finances and your credit.
Consider the following points before applying.
Fits your lifestyle: It should offer rewards and benefits with a merchant where you frequently shop.
Spending rewards: The best store credit cards provide rewards every time you make a purchase, rather than just giving you a one-time discount.
Valuable extra benefits: The better store cards offer merchant-specific benefits that shoppers will find useful over and over again, like free clothing alterations.
Good customer support: Many store cards are known for having poor customer service, but some, like cards from the major issuers, are generally better than others.
Easy way to build credit: Since store cards generally have lower credit requirements, you can use them to improve your credit if you can’t qualify for better cards.
A store card might be a good fit if you consistently spend a lot of money with a particular store — as long as the card offer is relatively good, of course.
When used responsibly, store cards will let you earn rewards, take advantage of benefits, and build your credit at the same time. Just be sure to never carry a balance and make all your monthly payments on time.
Some merchants provide their own co-branded store credit cards to entice shoppers with discounts when checking out, or with offers to pay over time. These cards are often instant approval, so you can use them immediately for that purchase. It can be tempting to save a few bucks, but are these cards really worth it?
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card (Review) is an easy way to get 5% back for everything you buy on Amazon. Since Amazon has one of the broadest product ranges of any marketplace ever, this is probably the most versatile store card you can get.
It has no annual fee but requires an Amazon Prime membership, which currently costs $119 per year ($59 for an Amazon Prime Student membership). There are also a few interesting features you won’t usually get with store cards.
5% cash back at:
2% cash back at:
1% cash back on all other purchases
$70 Amazon.com Gift Card as soon as you’re approved for the card
Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Perks at over 900 hotels around the world, like automatic room upgrades and complimentary WiFi.
Concierge Service: Call for non-emergency assistance at any time, like travel planning or making reservations.
Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Travel Accident Insurance, Lost Luggage Reimbursement, and Purchase Protection.
No foreign transaction fees (rare for a store card)
Annual fee: $0 (must have an Amazon Prime membership)
Issued by Chase:Chase is a major credit card issuer with relatively good customer support.
The Target REDcard™ Credit Card (Review) is a good card for everyday spending, as Target carries a little bit of almost everything. But take note that certain products and services won’t be eligible for the 5% back.
This is a closed-loop card, and you can only use it at Target or Target.com.
5% back at:
That 5% back also applies to Starbucks stores in Targets, which is a pretty good deal for Starbucks compared to other cards.
Take note that the 5% back does not apply to several types of purchases:
Prescriptions and over-the-counter items
Target Optical eye exams and other clinic services
Target gift cards and prepaid cards
Certain restaurant purchases within Targets
Shipping and handling charges from Target.com
Wireless protection programs
10% Off Coupon: Every year on your cardmember anniversary.
Free shipping: For eligible items at Target.com
Extra time to decide: 30 extra days for returns
Early access: To special events, products, and promotions
Exclusive offers: Cardholders get access to exclusive deals and special items.
Stack discounts: The 5% cash back can be combined with other Cartwheel and Target Subscription discounts.
Annual fee: $0
Issued by TD Bank: We don’t have much information about TD Bank, but we haven’t heard any complaints about the Target REDCard.
It provides 2% back at Costco, which is not too bad but not exceptional either. There are also some other bonus categories that make this card pretty useful for several different types of purchases. This is actually one of the better cards for earning rewards on gas.
4% cash back on eligible Gas worldwide, including gas at Costco; up to $7,000 per year (then 1%)
3% cash back for:
2% cash back on all other purchases from:
1% cash back on all other purchases
$20 Costco Cash Card: If you join Costco by purchasing a new Executive Membership you’ll get a $20 Costco Cash Card.
Just pay with the Costco Visa: Your credit card will be counted as your membership card when making Costco purchases.
Shopping Protections: Like Purchase Protection and Extended Warranties.
Annual fee: $0*
Issued by Citi:Citi is a major credit card issuer with relatively good customer support.
Using Retail Store Cards
Many store cards are limited in some ways, like where you can use them or how you can redeem rewards. And they typically have worse terms than the normal rewards cards you can get from big banks.
There are two basic types of store credit card, which are sometimes referred to as:
Open-loop cards: These cards can be used anywhere, and have the Visa or Mastercard logo in the bottom-right (sometimes American Express or Discover).
Closed-loop cards:These cards can only be used with the co-branded merchant, and sometimes with its affiliates. There is no Visa or Mastercard logo.
Open-loop cards are obviously more useful, because you can use them anywhere credit cards are accepted. But you might still find a closed-loop card useful if it has some features that you value highly.
Store credit cards are pretty much like any regular credit card, except for the open-loop and closed-loop distinction. You can usually apply for them either in-store or online. You don’t always need excellent credit scores— on the contrary, many store cards are attainable for people with average or even poor credit scores.
Retail store credit cards are actually a fairly good option for building your credit scores if you’re a huge fan of a certain store. But you should consider other options if you’re planning to carry a balance, as their interest rates can get pretty high.
If your card doesn’t provide good rewards at a particular store and you don’t have the store’s co-branded card, you may still be able to earn decent rewards in a less direct way. Use a credit card at a different store to buy a gift card for that first store, earning rewards on the gift card purchase instead. Then you can use that gift card to shop at the first store. But watch out, because some cards have terms that prevent you from earning rewards on gift cards.
Best Store Card Categories
There are hundreds of retail cards, and we’ve only listed our best card picks for certain categories. If your favorite store isn’t listed below, it might still offer a credit card — check out its website or call to find out.
3% cash back at BJ’s (5% back with a BJ’s Perks Elite membership, an extra $55 per year)
2% cash back at other Gas stations and Restaurants
Annual fee: $0 (BJ’s membership required)
Store credit cards can provide some valuable cash back and benefits, but for the most part they’re only useful at their co-branded stores. For some more flexible card options, offering rewards for a variety of different purchases, check out our picks for the Best Rewards Credit Cards and Best Cash Back Credit Cards.
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