From cash back to birthday rewards, merchant-branded cards offer applicants more than ever. Find out if there’s one that suits your needs now.
Merchant-branded credit cards have grown increasingly attractive in recent years. For example, the recently launched myWalgreens Mastercard gives 10% cash back on Walgreens-branded products and 5% cash back on all other Walgreens purchases (with a few exceptions). Cardholders also get 3% cash back on groceries and a very broadly defined set of health and wellness categories, and all other purchases earn 1% back.
The list of 3% categories includes doctor visits, veterinarian bills, pet stores, gyms, spas, sporting goods stores, salons, golf courses and country clubs. These are rarely optimized on other cards, and because these expenses can be pricey, they represent lucrative rewards targets.
New cardholders also earn a $25 Walgreens Cash bonus after opening an account and making their first purchases within 45 days. The myWalgreens Mastercard does not charge an annual fee.
There’s also a closed-loop version, the myWalgreens Credit Card, which gives 10% cash back on Walgreens-branded products and 5% cash back on all other Walgreens purchases – but you can’t use it at other stores.
Other new retail credit cards with widespread appeal
The Key Rewards Visa (which encompasses seven affiliated brands including Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and West Elm) came out in late August. It gives 5% cash back and free standard shipping when cardholders buy from those brands (the cash back rate doubles to 10% within the first 30 days of signing up), plus 4% cash back at grocery stores and restaurants (excluding fast food) and 1% everywhere else. The loyalty play is that rewards must be redeemed with Key Rewards brands. There’s also a $25 annual birthday reward.
The Verizon Visa Card was introduced in 2020, and it offers high-end rewards on groceries (4% cash back), gas (also 4%) and dining (3%). Verizon purchases earn 2% cash back, and everything else earns 1%. Rewards could initially only be used to buy devices and service plans from Verizon, but Verizon recently added a variety of travel and gift card redemption choices. You still need to be a Verizon Wireless customer in order to sign up. New cardholders also get a $100 wireless credit that’s applied to their cell phone bills in 24 monthly installments.
The Wayfair Mastercard* debuted in late 2020. It gives 5% cash back on Wayfair purchases, 3% at grocery stores, 2% on qualifying online purchases and 1% elsewhere. These rewards must be dedicated to future Wayfair purchases.
None of these cards charge annual fees.
Oldies but goodies
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card* has been around for a while and it’s still one of my favorite retail credit cards. It gives 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% everywhere else.
The card itself doesn’t charge an annual fee, but you need to be an Amazon Prime member in order to apply. That normally carries a $119 yearly charge. Still, Prime has 200 million members in its membership program worldwide, so this card is already within their reach.
Another popular membership club with a broadly applicable credit card is Costco. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is one of the best credit cards to use at gas stations (4% cash back on up to $7,000 per year, then 1% cash back after that). It also gives a very solid 3% cash back at restaurants and on eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back at Costco and 1% everywhere else. These rewards are doled out once per year, in February, as a certificate that cardholders must redeem at Costco.
It used to be that retail credit cards offered solid rewards at their own stores but few (if any) benefits elsewhere. There’s now a strong trend toward widespread value. In fact, several store-branded cards actually reserve their best perks for everyday purchases like gas, groceries and dining.
The merchant with its name on the card benefits financially (for example, via bounties that partner banks pay them for bringing in customers and perhaps by sharing profits from interchange and other fees) and these cards also deepen customer loyalty because of how the rewards programs are designed.
As you think about which cards are best for you, it’s worth considering retailers’ co-branded offerings, especially if you’re loyal to that store and they offer additional rewards categories that match your spending habits.
Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help.
*All information about the Wayfair Mastercard and Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.