Retail Rewards Credit Cards

Shopping: America's favorite pastime. It's hard to imagine making your next shopping spree more rewarding, but you can! The retail rewards cards below offer rewards earning potential on your everyday purchases. In many cases, rewards can be redeemed for gift cards to your favorite store, statement credits, or travel towards the shopping pilgrimage to the Mall of America you have been dreaming of. No matter your redemption choice, the best retail rewards cards from our partners below will help take your shopping game to the next level.

Shopping: America's favorite pastime. It's hard to imagine making your next shopping spree more rewarding, but you can! The retail rewards cards below offer rewards earning potential on your everyday purchases. In many cases, rewards can be redeemed for gift cards to your favorite store, statement credits, or travel towards the shopping pilgrimage to the Mall of America you have been dreaming of. No matter your redemption choice, the best retail rewards cards from our partners below will help take your shopping game to the next level.

Summary

CreditCards.com's Best Retail Store Credit Cards of 2018:

Updated: September 13, 2018

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at American Express's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 25.74% variable

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Show Less

Highlights

  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% on Purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
14.74%-25.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months

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Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

26,257 Reviews

See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Discover's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% variable

See Rates & Fees

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Highlights

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 14 months

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Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at American Express's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 25.74% variable

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Show Less

Highlights

  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$95
Intro Purchase APR
0% on Purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
14.74%-25.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months

View All Card Details

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Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Citi's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
16.99% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • Exclusively for Costco Members: Go Big with Cash Back Rewards
  • 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
  • 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
16.99%* (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

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Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
Excellent Credit Recommended (740-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Citi's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0*
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% for 15 months on Balance Transfers*
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% variable

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Highlights

  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR on purchases for 15 months from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months from date of first transfer; after that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% based upon your creditworthiness*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater*
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • Points are redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers, restaurants, and department and home stores. 2,500 ThankYou® Points can be redeemed for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No annual fee*

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0*
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 months on Purchases*
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24%* (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 15 months on Balance Transfers*

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The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at American Express's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 25.74% variable

See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply

Show Less

Highlights

  • Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • $0 balance transfer fee. Balance transfers must be requested within 60 days from account opening.
  • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases.
  • Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% on purchases for 15 months
Regular APR
14.74%-25.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% on balance transfers for 15 months

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Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Citi's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0*
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% for 18 months*
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24% variable

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Highlights

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% based on your creditworthiness*
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0*
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
15.24% - 25.24%* (Variable)
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 18 months*

View All Card Details

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Discover it® chrome

Discover it® chrome

1,041 Reviews

See Rates & Fees

Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Discover's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0
Balance Transfer Intro APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% variable

See Rates & Fees

Show Less

Highlights

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts— Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 14 months
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
0% for 14 months

View All Card Details

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NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank®

NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank®
Good to Excellent Credit Recommended (670-850) ? CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
at Credit One Bank's Secure Site

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Balance Transfer Intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.74% - 25.74% variable

Show Less

Highlights

  • See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases and double cash back rewards at the NASCAR.com Superstore, terms apply
  • No need to fret-you're covered by $0 Fraud Liability
  • Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities
  • Choose your monthly payment due date for added convenience, terms apply
  • Monitor your credit with free online access to your Experian credit score, terms apply
  • Looking to rebuild credit? We report to the major credit bureaus monthly
  • Never miss an account update with customizable text and email alerts

Rates & Fees

Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.74% - 25.74% Variable
Intro Balance Transfers APR
N/A

View All Card Details

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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.


Compare Retail Rewards Credit Card Offers

Updated: September 13, 2018

Retail cards can be particularly rewarding, but they can also be confusing, with some only offering store-specific offers, while others provide rewards for myriad purchases.

If you're a bargain hunter who regularly shops at wholesale warehouses and discount retailers, a high-earning retail credit card could help you buy more with less and turbocharge your savings on everything from gas purchases to home supplies.

The best retail credit cards help you shave costs by offering a substantial amount of cash back on everyday purchases. Some retail credit cards also let you cash in your earnings on gift cards or free travel. Just be sure to check the card's APR before you apply. Store cards often feature some of the highest APRs in the industry – especially if you pick a card that isn't co-branded with a card network such as Visa or Mastercard. Here, we talk about:

Learn about the pros and cons of retail cards, building credit with them and more.


Our Best Retail Rewards Credit Cards of 2018: Ratings and Reviews

CardBest For:Annual FeeStaff Review
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Unlimited flat-rate cash back$03.4 / 5
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express2% cash back at department stores$03.3 / 5
Discover it® Cash BackRotating bonus categories$04.1 / 5
Blue Cash Preferred® from American Express3% cash back at department stores$954.1 / 5
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by CitiWarehouse club purchases$04.3 / 5
Citi ThankYou® Preferred CardGift card redemptions at retailers$02.4 / 5
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American ExpressEarning Membership Rewards® Points$02.6 / 5
Citi® Double Cash CardCash back on everything$04.0 / 5
Discover it® chrome2% back at restaurants and gas stations$02.9 / 5
NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank®NASCAR.com rewards$0 - $99N/A

What Credit Card Experts are Saying

Stefanie O'Connell, millennial money expert, stefanieoconnell.com
Favorite retail card: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card
“As a big city dweller, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature is the clear winner for me. Prime delivery is a major convenience, as opposed to big box purchases that require a car to transport and space to store, neither of which is practical in many major cities.”

Rebecca Lake, personal finance writer, CreditCards.com and US News & World Report
Favorite retail card: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card
“The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card combines a generous rewards rate on Amazon.com purchases with the ability to earn a competitive rewards rate on everyday spending.”

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, personal finance blogger, Making Sense of Cents
Favorite retail card: Sam's Club Mastercard
“The Sam’s Club Mastercard wins my vote in this round. With a $0 annual fee (and the lowest membership fee required out of the three), along with 5 percent cash back on gas, 3 percent cash back on dining and travel and 1 percent on everything else, this credit card easily wins in my book!”

Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards.com
Favorite retail card: Costco Anywhere Visa card
“The Costco card not only gives members discounts when they buy from Costco, but it also gives really good cash back returns in other places. Four percent back on gas and 3 percent on travel and dining makes this card really competitive with other cards out there and gives it the slightest edge over the Amazon card.”

Julie Sherrier, senior managing editor at CreditCards.com
Favorite retail card: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card
“Two things make the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature stand out from its competitors: rewards that can be redeemed immediately on Amazon.com and there are no limits on how much cash back you can earn. Plus you can redeem points for gift cards and travel.”

Details on the best cards for store purchases

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

With this card, you can earn a $150 sign-up bonus after a $500 spend within 3 months of card membership, in addition to 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There's no annual fee and there's no minimum to redeem cash back.

What we love about this card – While there's a foreign transaction fee, this card can be paired with one of the Chase Sapphire cards to get boosted points toward travel, making it a great companion to 2 of the best travel cards on the market.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

With this little brother of the Blue Cash Preferred, you can earn a welcome bonus of $150 after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months; 3% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 each year, then 1%); and 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.

What we love about this card – If you are looking for good tiered categories, but you don't relish the idea of an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday is a good choice.

Discover it® Cash Back

Earn 5% back on such rotating categories as restaurants, groceries, Amazon.com and wholesale clubs, for up to $1,500 a quarter. It's 1% back on everything else.

What we love about this card – The cash back match feature means that on the rotating categories you get 5% back plus another 5% back at the end of your first year. That means that if you spend $500 a month on bonus categories, that comes to $25 a month or $300 for the year, plus another $300 at year end. And, remember that the 1% on other purchases is matched as well.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

While this card has an annual fee of $95, its rewards are pretty sweet. Starting off, there's a welcome bonus of $200 after a $1,000 spend within 3 months of card membership. Then, earn 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%); and 3% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.

What we love about this card – The Blue Cash Preferred's cash back on U.S. supermarkets is unsurpassed, while the rewards on U.S. gas stations and U.S. department stores are excellent. If you commonly use these categories, this card is a fine choice.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Earn 4% back on eligible gas up to $7,000 each year (1% back after that); 3% back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; and 2% back on Costco and Costco.com purchases. It's 1% on all other purchases. While there's no sign-up bonus, there's also no annual fee.

What we love about this card – This card is tops in gas and competitive with restaurants – if you are looking for a card that generously rewards for everyday purchases and you love Costco, this may be the card for you.

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

In addition to a 15-month 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases (then 15.24% - 25.24% variable), you can earn 2X points on dining out and entertainment, and 1X point on all other purchases. 2,500 points translates into a $25 gift card.

What we love about this card – There are a few cards with rewards that also offer a strong 0% intro APR offer, and the Citi ThankYou Preferred is one of them. You get to redeem your points for gift cards to retailers, restaurants, department stores and home stores.

The Amex Everyday® Credit Card from American Express

This fun little card offers 2X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 each year (then 1X), and you can earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership. Also, there's a 15-month 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases (then 14.74% - 25.74% variable) – plus no balance transfer fee for transfers requested within 60 days of account opening.

What we love about this card – With loads to love, The Amex Everyday also has an unusual feature – use your card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases.

Citi® Double Cash Card

There may not be a sign-up bonus on this card, but it has a unique feature of 1% back on purchases, then another 1% back after the purchase is paid for.

What we love about this card – Have a sizeable balance on an older card? The Citi Double Cash offers an 18-month 0% offer on balance transfers, one of the best in the industry.

Discover it® chrome

Earn 2% back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 spent each quarter. Although there's no sign-up bonus, you can earn another 2% on these categories at the end of your first year of card membership.

What we love about this card – If you're looking for rewards in everyday spending, the Discover it chrome offers that, plus your cash back is matched at the end of your first year.

NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank®

Earn 2% back on rewards at the NASCAR.com Superstore, although you might do better with a card like the Citi Double Cash, which rewards with a maximum of 2% back on all eligible purchases. The NASCAR card offers 1% back on all other eligible purchases.

What we love about this card – For the speed racer in all of us, this card rewards for the NASCAR goodies you crave, and there's the joy of a card that advertises your passion.

What are retail credit cards and how do they work?

Retail credit cards, or cards affiliated with specific retailers, have suffered in recent years as rewards cards have expanded to offer a wide array of features. But retail cards are working hard to catch up, offering rich rewards for gas, groceries, restaurants, even travel, such as the Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi.

In fact, Experian found that among types of cards that consumers have, retail cards lead with 41% of consumers having one, compared to the next highest, other rewards cards, at 39%.

CreditCards.com has explored what retail cards have achieved in the last year with their rewards, as shown here:

Of 65 retail cards surveyed...

  •  42 cards
  • Offer a discount or reward on new account
  •  52 cards
  • Have a rewards program, up from 45 in 2016
  •  25 cards
  • Made changes to existing rewards programs

Creditcards.com retail card survey

One feature not to love about retail cards is the frequently high APR. Experian says consumers have an average of 2.5 retail cards with a balance of $1,841 on those cards, which can hit hard when you are paying up to 30% in interest charges.

Those balances can hit hard when you are also paying up to 30% APR for carrying those balances.

While the retail cards typically have higher APRs than general rewards cards, they also usually don't have annual fees, which is a plus. Also, they can sometimes be good for a consumer who doesn't have great credit.

How retail cards work

Retail cards work in a similar way to other credit cards: You are accepted in large part because of your credit score. The difference is that you can likely get a card with a lower score than good or excellent.

Most retail cards offer a significant discount, as much as 30%, for the purchases you make that first day at that retailer or ongoing rewards there. Kohl's Charge takes 30% off your first purchase, for instance.

Some cards also have a relationship with a network, such as Visa or Mastercard, giving you access to any retailer that accepts cards in that network. But check – not all retail cards have this feature. Even with a network partnership, rewards outside of the retailers' purview may be of limited value, so check.

Some offer features such as a sign-up bonus of $50, as in the case of the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature*, as well as generous rewards for purchases made other than through the retailer.

How a co-branded retail card can work for you...

Amazon.com Rewards Visa Signature
RewardBudgetedTotal
$50 sign-up
$50
5% on Amazon, Whole Foods5%*$500/mth$300
2% on restaurants2%*$300/mth$72
2% on gas stations2%*$300/mth$72
Amazon Prime
-$99
Annual fee
$0
TOTAL
$395

One of the biggest disadvantages to a retail card is the APR, which can be 10 percentage points higher than other cards. For that reason, it is inadvisable to carry a balance on these products.

Consumer Reports warns you not to take out a series of retail cards during the holidays or another special event, because that can cause your credit score to drop precipitously. Instead, research cards and apply for one that you have a high likelihood of getting.

General retail rewards vs. store specific cards

There are a number of ways you can charge at a retailer with a card. In addition to general-purpose rewards cards, there are also co-branded retail cards and store-specific cards or private label cards.

Types of retail cards...

Card typeCardFeaturesAnnual feePurchase APRCredit required
Co-brandedAmazon.com Rewards Visa Signature$50 gift card when approved; 3% back at Amazon.com, Whole Foods (5% w/Amazon Prime); 2% back on restaurants, gas stations, drug stores; 1% on all else$015.99%-23.99% (Variable)Fair acceptance reported
General-purpose cash backCapital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards$150/$500 spend in 3 mths; 1.5% back everyday spending$014.49%-24.49% (Variable)Good, excellent

While one is great for one-stop shopping, another type typically has a lower APR. Here, we look at the 3 major types of cards that are best for retail purchases:

Different features of retail cards...

Co-branded retail cardsStore-specific cardsGeneral-purpose cashback cards
Accepted at locations that are in networkCan only use at certain retailersAccepted at locations that are in network
Rich rewards for brand loyalty, occasionally other rewardsUsually offers deals for first dayRewards for wide variety of shopping
Fair credit may be acceptedFair credit likely acceptedGood, excellent credit may be required
Good for one-stop shoppingOnly for one-stop shoppingGood for bargain hunting
Can build creditCan build creditCan build credit
APR can be significantly lowerHigh APRAPR can be significantly lower
Typically lower available creditTypically lower available creditCredit limit can be higher

Do store credit cards help build credit?

Whether you opt for a co-branded retail credit card or a general-purpose cashback card, you can build your credit every time you pay on time. Add to that, by paying in full each month, you improve your credit score that much more, because paying in full and on time make up 65% of your credit.

The more you keep on your balance compared to your available credit, the worse it is for your credit score, due to what is called the credit utilization ratio. Check with the card issuer to make sure your good credit habits will be sent to the 3 major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

Also, by paying in full, you avoid paying interest. If you have a $1,000 balance, and you pay the minimum amount required each month with a 25% interest rate, it will take you 78 months to pay it off, and it will cost you $982.96 in interest alone. You're basically doubling how much you would pay than if you paid in full each month.

What to watch out for with store credit cards

Store cards can offer generous rewards, particularly with your first purchase. However, you'll want to make sure you're clear about any pitfalls:

  • Make sure major credit bureaus will be contacted. If your goal is to build credit, make sure the card issuer will be sending your good credit habits to the 3 major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
  • Check what credit range is required. If it's a card co-branded with a network such as Visa or Mastercard, you may not be able to get the card with a thin credit file. However, a store-specific card is good for someone whose credit isn't the best.
  • See if it is in a network. Store credit cards will sometimes be co-branded with a network, such as Visa, Mastercard or American Express. If a card is co-branded with a network, it can be used at retailers that accept that network, which means you aren't limited to a specific retailer. For example, the Gap Visa offers 5X points on Gap purchases and 1X point on all other Visa purchases. However, some cards are store-specific, meaning they can only be used at the specified retailer, such as the GapCard, with a 20% discount and free shipping with your first purchase.
  • What are the rewards? Some retail cards only offer a discount on the day you get the card, so check. Others offer features such as 5% back in some circumstances with the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature. With some, such as the Bed, Bath & Beyond Mastercard, you can earn boosted rewards on such purchases as groceries and gas.
  • What is the purchase APR? With a store-specific card, the APR can be upwards of 30%, so check it. The best way to avoid paying interest is by paying in full each month.

Is a retail rewards card worth it?

Retail cards are good for someone who is trying to improve their credit, but if your goal is to maximize rewards, you'll need to look closely at your spending habits to decide which card is best for you. Whether you choose a retail card or a general-purpose cashback card, it's important to know what you're getting into. For example, retail cards usually don't have annual fees and can be a co-branded card, so that you can use it at many types of stores, while a cashback card, such as the Blue Cash Preferred, can have generous rewards for specific types of purchases, such as gas and groceries.

Experian recommends against choosing a retail card while on a shopping trip, and notes that the APR can be double that of a general-purpose card, which averages 16.92%. However, they are great for one-stop and loyalty shopping. Here are some pointers for you to consider when deciding if a store card is a good choice for you:

  • Are you loyal to one brand? If you like the idea of freedom to get rewarded by shopping more than one brand, a retail card may not be a good choice. Retail cards typically reward for brand loyalty, but they may not reward generously (or at all) for general purchases. Instead, a general-purpose cashback card might be best.
  • Do you plan to carry a balance? With APRs averaging 25%, retail cards may not be the best choice if you don't plan to pay in full each month. That's because interest charges can add up quickly.
  • Do you have less than amazing credit? A retail card might be a good decision if your credit isn't its best. But with good or excellent credit, you are more likely to qualify for a cashback card, which will sometimes have a rewarding sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards for a variety of types of shopping. Here is how consumers fare when applying for store-specific cards:


Approvals for store cards...

  •  91%
  • Super-prime consumers
  •  85%
  • Prime consumers
  •  64%
  • Near-prime consumers
  •  10%
  • Sub-prime and deep sub-prime consumers
  •  3%
  • No score

CFPB survey

  • Are you a one-stop shopper? If you like the convenience of shopping at one store, a store-specific retail card can be right for you. However, if you like to hunt for bargains, consider a cashback card.

Closed loop vs. open loop credit cards

While a closed loop card is typically only available at certain locations or retailers, an open loop card is affiliated with a network, such as Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express. (Some consider Discover and Amex closed loop because they serve as both card issuer and network.)

Open loop cards aren't necessarily credit cards, and closed loop cards aren't necessarily gift cards or debit cards. With an open loop card, the network it is affiliated with allows it to be used at retailers where the network is accepted, while a closed loop card may be for something such as your public transportation system or a specific retailer.

Here is a comparison of closed loop and open loop cards:

Closed loop cardsOpen loop cards
Does not have network logoUsually has network logo
Accepted only at certain locationsAccepted at locations that are in network
Can be a gift, prepaid, debit cardCan be a gift, prepaid, debit card
Credit cards issued and processed by same companyCredit cards issued and processed by different companies
Can be a store-brand cardCan be co-branded card (partnered with network)

Closed loop retail cards...

CardFeatures
Lowe's Advantage Card5% off or 6 months special financing
Amazon Store CardPrime cardholders earn 5% back; up to 24-month financing offers
Ann Taylor Card5X points in store or online; 15% off every first Tuesday each month; $20 rewards card every $400 spent on Ann Inc. brands

Open loop retail cards...

CardFeatures
Amazon Rewards Visa Signature$50 gift card; 3% back on Amazon, Whole Foods purchases (5% back with Amazon Prime); 2% on gas stations, restaurants, drug stores
Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi4% on gas; 3% on restaurants, eligible travel; 2% on Costco purchases; 1% on all other purchases
Macy's American Express*20% off when you open account; 3% on restaurants; 2% on gas stations and supermarkets; 1% elsewhere

Other Types of Rewards Categories


Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura's work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at laura.mohammad@creditcards.com and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.


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