We evaluated store credit cards offered by some of the nation’s largest retailers to find the cream of the crop. The following curated list includes all the top store cards currently available. Keep in mind that even the best offers here leave a lot to be desired. Store credit cards have limited redemption options for their rewards and outrageously high interest rates. Anyone with an average credit score or better should look at general-purpose credit cards instead.
Note: All the store credit cards listed on this page give you points that can only be redeemed for gift certificates and vouchers for more in-store purchases. Therefore, you are not getting actual cash back, like you would with regular credit cards. Be sure to also read our section on "What You Should Know About Store Credit Cards".
The Amazon Prime Store credit card comes with a 5% cash back rate on all the purchases you make through Amazon.com. While some cards can match this, they typically only do so for a few months out of the year. The Amazon Prime Store card is currently the only way to get 5% back on your purchases all year-round. This can be very useful for big shopaholics who are frequently ordering things off Amazon.
The card also comes with six, 12 and 24 month 0% APR financing options. There are several problems with this. Firstly, you will not earn any cash back rewards on purchases you choose to finance. Most importantly, however, it’s not a good idea to finance the types of things you can buy on Amazon. Even if you avoid paying interest, you are putting yourself at risk. If an emergency expense were to come up, preventing you from repaying a big purchase, you may unexpectedly find yourself dealing with the card’s extremely high APR -- 26.24%.
The Target Redcard is another store card with a 5% rewards rate on in-store purchases – much better than what you can normally get through other credit cards. Target has a wide assortment of goods, so this discount can go a long way for most shoppers. Unfortunately, there are several items the 5% reward doesn’t apply to. That list includes prescriptions, over-the-counter items located behind the pharmacy counter and clinic services at Target and restaurants located in the store.
If you have other credit card accounts, we recommend opening the Target debit card instead. It comes with all the same major benefits, including the 5% discount. However, opening the debit card will not impact your credit score at all. Therefore, if you already have other credit cards and you don’t need to build up your history, the debit card may serve you better.
The TJX Platinum Mastercard is among the best department store credit cards. You can use it at T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Sierra Trading Post, and tjmaxx.com to get an unlimited 5% rewards rate. You can also use this card at other stores to get a 1% return. Unlike many other store credit cards, this one comes with a bonus. Users get 10% off their first purchase on tjmaxx.com or sierratradingpost.com. Together, this reward structure can translate to decent savings for shoppers who love shopping at T.J Maxx and other stores of this brand.
The Ace Rewards Visa credit card can be useful both inside their affiliated hardware stores and outside. When coupled with the standard loyalty reward points you normally get, this store credit card provides a 3% return for Ace customers. In addition to that, you can get 2% on gas and grocery purchases, and 1% back everywhere else Visa is accepted. The rewards you earn come in the form points that you later redeem for Ace Hardware gift cards.
Those who charge over $12,000 per year to their credit card can qualify for an additional bonus on their Ace hardware purchases. Instead of the standard 3% rate, cardholders will get 5% back.
Anyone with a good enough credit score should apply for a general-purpose credit card over a store card. In most cases, you can find much better deals and interest rates through these offers. Below are some great credit cards that fulfill the same purposes as the above-mentioned store cards.
The Discover it® - Cashback Match™ gives cardholders 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up. Over the last three years, Discover included Amazon as a category during at least one quarter. Recently, they have been offering elevated rewards there for as much as six months out of the year. Unless you only shop on Amazon during the first half of the year, the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ will give you the best rewards there and other places you shop. Furthermore, new cardmembers have all their cash back doubled at the end of the first year. Therefore, it’s possible to get 10% cash back on Amazon with this card, up to the category limit of $1,500.
Unlike store credit cards, the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ is also extremely valuable when used at a variety of stores. As we mentioned, the 5% categories rotate throughout the year, giving you plenty of opportunities to earn great cash back on your other purchases. For example, the categories in 2016 included things like ground transportation and home improvement stores.
Department & Clothing Stores: Chase Freedom®
The Chase Freedom® works similarly to the Discover it® - Cashback Match™, except it’s generally better for those who spend a lot on clothing. The card gives 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter. These categories include places like Zappos, Amazon.com, wholesale clubs, and more. Some of these overlap with what the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ offers. However, the Chase Freedom® has recently offered unique bonuses on some popular clothing stores, including H&M and Kohl's. While you won’t always be able to exactly plan out what you can use this card for, the beauty of changing categories is that something you find useful is likely to come around. You're never locked into a single reward category. Two of the 2017 categories have been announced thus far. For Q1, they will include local commuter transportation. The Q2 category will include grocery stores and drug stores -- not including Walmart and Target.
Anyone interested in taking their credit card rewards to the next level can do so with the Chase Freedom®. That’s because it is one of six Ultimate Rewards credit cards offered by Chase. This highly valuable reward program allows you to combine your points with other UR cards. Therefore, optimizers can use this card in tandem with other popular products like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve℠. You'll need to have good to excellent credit to do this.
Zero Percent Financing: Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever is a better substitute for those considering store credit cards for their zero percent financing options. The card gives 21 months of 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers. Even the best store credit cards typically offer consumers up to 24 months of 0% interest. The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever is also great for consumers who are dealing with a mountain of debt on other credit card accounts. You can transfer balances from those other cards over to this one and enjoy the 0% APR.
The benefit of using this card over store credit cards is the better ongoing APR, after the zero percent promo period ends. The interest rate will be anywhere between 13.24% and 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Even those with poor credit scores who get the highest rates will come out ahead of most store credit cards.
Before applying for a store credit card, there are several important facts consumers should be aware of. Store cards are generally targeted at consumers with lower credit scores, and therefore the benefits they provide aren’t as good as what you can expect from products offered by national banks, like Chase or Citibank.
- Store credit cards have low credit limits. Cardholders are typically given credit limits around $500. This is a problem, since you are likely to use a total percentage of your credit line as a result. The percentage of your limit you use is referred to as “credit utilization” and it impacts your credit score. FICO advises consumers to keep their credit utilization below 30%. However, if you have a $500 credit line, that would require you to spend no more than $150 per month on the account.
- Not all store credit cards can be used outside the issuing store. You should check the lower right-hand corner of the credit card. If it doesn’t have a Mastercard, VISA, American Express, or Discover logo, it can only be used at the store that issues it. These are referred to as “closed loop” credit cards.
- Store credit cards aren’t good for consumers who plan to carry a balance. The biggest deterrent from opening a store credit card is their high APR. The average interest rate in the United States currently hovers at around 17%. For store credit cards, that figure stands at over 26% -- close to a ten point difference. You can avoid paying interest if you pay off your credit card balance in full by the end of each month. If you can’t manage that, avoid opening a store card. Many of these credit cards also present users with a 0% financing option which may seem like a great solution to the APR issue. However, it is generally a bad idea to micro-finance small purchases at stores. In some cases, if you fail to pay back the loan within the agreed-upon time, you will be retroactively charged interest. General-purpose credit cards with 0% promotional offers don’t work like that. They don't charge you interest on balances you already paid off.
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