Retail store credit cards can be worthwhile for your wallet under certain circumstances, but the advantages are often outweighed by the disadvantages:
- Restricted Use: Most (but not all) can only be used at their affiliated retail or clothing store
- Higher Interest Rates: Nosebleed APRs are the norm with store cards
- Few Benefits: Some don’t even offer rewards, let alone worthwhile benefits
That’s the way most retail store card programs roll. However, the best store credit cards offer some exceptions to the status quo. Some offer rewards and benefits that can save a fair amount of money if you are a frequent and loyal patron of their stores.
Which are the best?
What follows is a list of store credit cards which are the best within the retailer category. But please keep in mind what’s “best” on this list may actually be pitiful when compared to a normal credit card. Also, not all of them are easy to get.
#1. Costco American Express
Because of its generous rebate program, some have been known to get a Costco membership just so they can get this credit card.
Pros? It offers good rewards; 3% at US gas stations (including gas at Costco) on up to $4,000 per year in purchases, 2% at US restaurants, 2% on eligible travel purchases, and 1% on other purchases (including Costco). You can use it wherever American Express is accepted. There’s no annual fee as long as you have a Costco membership.
Cons? If you stop paying/cancel your Costco membership, then the card will no longer be free (and you will be charged the cost of membership each year whether you want it or not). The APR is middle of the road. Also, there is a rumor afoot that Costco may be looking to replace their cobranded card relationship with American Express with one from MasterCard. For those loyal to the Amex brand this could be a show-stopper if it comes to pass. The jury is still out as to whether this new partnership is truth or just conjecture, not to mention what changes might ensue as a result.
Review the American Express Costco credit card for yourself
#2. Sam’s Club Discover
For large spenders who are Sams Club Advantage Plus members, this retail card offers potential for good cash back.
Pros? This card is only worth chasing if you are a Sams Club Advantage Plus member. Why? Well the first $3k spent only earns 0.25% to 0.50% but after that, you can earn 1% to 2% cash back (the more you spend, the higher you earn). Since it is a Discover card, it can be used everywhere Discover is accepted.
Cons? It’s not managed by Discover (who has great customer service). Instead, the accounts are managed/issued by GE Capital Retail Bank, who is well known for offering subpar support. If you are just a standard Sams Club Advantage member, you only can earn a max of 1% cash back.
Find out more about the Sams Club Discover card.
#3. Target REDcard
This card has been around for ages but a couple years ago, Target changed up the rewards program.
Pros? It gives a straight up 5% rebate for purchases at Target which are charged to the card. Since they sell groceries, clothing, furniture and just about everything in-between, the right shopper can get a lot of use out of this card (much more than they would a clothing store credit card).
Cons? The biggest drawback is it can only be used at their stores. To apply for it, you have to do it in-store or through the mail, as there is no online application. The APR is high at 22.90%. Last but not least, their credit card customer support doesn’t have the best reputation in town.
See my Target credit card review
#5. Pottery Barn Credit Card
This might be the top rewards program in terms of the percentage you get back on purchases.
Pros? For the right person, this is perhaps the best retail store credit card when it comes to rewards. It gives what equals out to be a 10% rebate on purchases. Based on customer reviews I have seen, if you have a FICO score in the high 600s, that might be the minimum required for approval (so it’s relatively easy to get).
Cons? Unless you just moved into a big empty house that needs to be furnished from top to bottom, chances are you won’t use the card enough to be worthwhile since it’s only accepted at Pottery Barn. Not surprisingly, the APR is high.
Learn more about the Pottery Barn card
#4. Lowes Consumer Credit Card
For frequent shoppers who pay in full, the rebate is a good deal.
Pros? Like the Target card, this one also had its rewards program revamped to offer a 5% rebate. It now gives 5% on purchases at Lowes (cannot be combined with coupons or other offers). It’s one of the more easy to get store credit cards, which means someone with fair/bad credit might be able to use it to build credit.
Cons? The standard APR is outrageous at 24.99%. It’s yet another store card that’s issued/managed by GE Capital Retail Bank. You can only use it at Lowes.
An in-depth look at the Lowes credit card
#6. Gap Visa Card
For the hardcore Gap lovers it could be worth a look.
Pros? The biggest strength of this card is that it gives 5x points (equal to a 5% rebate) not just at Gap, but also the company’s sister stores: Old Navy, Athleta, Piperlime, and Banana Republic. If your credit score is not good sufficient to be approved for the Visa, there is easier approval for the store credit card version (so this could be a worth considering for building credit).
Cons? The Visa card listed an APR at 23.99% (and the store version is even higher). While it’s true that the rewards are good, many shoppers simply don’t spend enough per year at Gap and their affiliates to make it worthwhile.
Review both versions of the Gap credit card
#7. Mercedes Benz American Express Card
Is a Mercedes dealership considered to be a retailer? Because I don’t know what else to classify it as, so I’m tossing it in the store credit cards list!
Pros? For those who drive (or plan to in the near future) a Mercedes, the rewards and rebates you get are enticing. Each year you spend $5,000 or more, you get a $500 certificate good towards the purchase or lease of a new Benz. There is also a $50 certificate for accessories given once per year. On top of those things, you also earn 1-5x points/dollar on spending.
Cons? Obviously the audience this is targeted towards is quite small, so it will have limited/no appeal for most people. There is an annual fee and because it’s an American Express AND for Mercedes owners, as you can guess this is not going to be easy to get approved for it you have a shady credit history.
Compare both tiers of the Mercedes Benz American Express
#8. Exxon Mobil MasterCard
Exxon Mobil has 3 cards but only 1 of them is respectable and that’s the MasterCard.
Pros? Because it’s a MasterCard you can use it at Exxon Mobil stations/convenience stores as well as anywhere else that takes MasterCard. It gives 15 cents off per gallon at their stations which can mean a good percentage discount when gas is cheap (but unfortunately we haven’t seen that in a long time!). On purchases elsewhere else there’s the ability to average out above a 1% rebate with their tiered structure.
Cons? The APR is high and because they are considered to be “name brand” gas, a lot of times you might be able to fillup cheaper simply by going to an off-name station instead.
See all 3 Exxon Mobil credit cards
#9. Victoria’s Secret Credit Card
This used to be one of the worst store-branded cards, but it has been improved.
Pros? This is an easy to get store credit card and that’s probably its biggest benefit, because people can use it for establishing/rebuilding. The rewards percentage works out to be 4%. Angel VIPs (those who spend $250+) also get double points on bras (which would mean 8% on those purchases).
Cons? Even though this credit card offers a good percentage rebate, it’s highly unlikely you are going to be spending that much per year on underwear! Many say the credit limits are on the low side. The 24.99% interest rate isn’t exactly pretty, either.
See the details for the Victorias Secret Angel card
#10. Saks Fifth Avenue MasterCard
For a department store credit card, the rewards on this are nothing to sneeze at.
Pros? For purchases inside Saks it gives 2-6x points/dollar (only 2 for annual spending up to $4,999). However outside of their stores it gives 3x at salons and spas, 2x on groceries and gas, and 1x elsewhere. Each point = 1 cent towards a Saks gift card.
Cons? The interest rates are clearly exorbitant and the requirements for approval are more stringent. The best card for a place like Saks if you have good credit is actually the American Express Blue Cash Preferred because it gives 3% at stand-alone department stores in the United States.
There is a better option… Did you know that you can get 3% cash back at select US dept stores with AmEx Blue Cash Preferred?
This post was written or last updated January 6, 2015