Warning: Do not apply for the JCPenney credit card without seeing this review! Here's why the application might be a mistake in 2014 and beyond.

retail store card solicitation
Shopping at JCPenney stores is actually quite enjoyable. When it comes to scoring a good deal on clothes, shoes, jewelry and sometimes even furniture, JCPenney is one of the best department stores to go to consider along with Kohl's. Sadly, the same can't be said for their store credit card deals. Take a look for yourself to see why...

JCPenny has among the highest APRs
I'm strongly against credit card debt for obvious reasons, but at the same time, if someone does have a balance I think they should be treated fairly, right? Well judging by the 26.99% listed on the card's application, I think it's safe to conclude they are not charging a fair or even semi-reasonable interest rate.

As if that's not bad enough, JCPenney also has a minimum interest charge of $2. So when you are charged interest, you will be charged at least that amount. When you think about it, that means you might end up paying more than 26.99% interest if your balance was small and the interest would have normally been below that amount.

Rewards with the JCP card vs. without
What's so ironic is that the rewards aren't much better than the standard JCP Loyalty Rewards program (which you don't need a JCPenney credit card to get). Compare for yourself to see...

JCP Loyalty Rewards without the credit card
  • 1 point per dollar is earned on purchases
  • 250 points equals a $10 reward certificate – that equals out to a 4% rebate on spending
JCP Loyalty Rewards with the credit card
  • 1.25 points per dollar is earned on purchases
  • 250 points equals a $10 reward certificate – which means a 5% rebate on spending
As you probably know, sometimes there are special purchases that will qualify you to earn double points the following month. Keep in mind that is not just for credit card holders... regular Loyalty Rewards members without the JCP card will also earn double points in that scenario.

Conclusion? The number of points earned with a JCP store credit card are trivial at best. You're only earning an additional 1% thru their card's reward program. Think about it... instead you could combine the regular JCP Loyalty Rewards and pay using a credit card with 5% cash back to earn even more (4% from the Loyalty Rewards + up to 5% from your own cash back credit card).

To add insult to injury, if you study the fine print on their application you will see that points expire fast:
JCP rewards program rules

By the way in case you're wondering, when it comes to the number of points you earn per dollar, there is no difference between the JCPenney gold status and platinum status. As you see above, more $10 certificates are earned but each certificate costs the same number of points (250) regardless of whether the level is regular, gold, or platinum. Having earned points expire is really just greed on the part of JCPenney and the issuing bank. They've already earned money from selling you their marked up goods and probably charged you interest to boot. Then they take back their points after a year? That's just not right.

Can JCP - as a company - be depended upon?
If you follow the stock market, you're probably well aware of how much difficulty the company has been going thru lately. They're losing over a billion dollars per year. Many pundits speculate that if this continues they will either be taken over or go bankrupt.

I'm not going to give my opinion on what I think will happen. But do the math and make your own predictions...
  • Current value of company = $1.9 billion
  • Current debt = $5.82 billion
  • Profits = negative $1.23 billion during the past 12 months
How long can that trend really continue?! If there's not a major change, they're driving off a cliff. Just like the housing boom and bust, it's only a matter of time before a collapse may happen.

The new account promotion is a big yawn
As is typical at most department stores, when you apply for a JCPenney card and are approved, you get a discount of 20% off for the first day (at least that was the current offer as I'm writing this). This may sound like smart way to save money but here's why you should reconsider...
How much will you really spend the first day?
JCPenney's clothes are very affordable, so odds are you will rarely spend a ton of money there in a single day. Even if you spend $300, saving 20% on that would only equal $60. That's not very exciting when you consider there are major credit cards out there that give cash back signup bonuses of $100 or more. And there are even travel and rewards points cards that provide the equivalent of over $400. Granted, they come with spending requirements during the first three months of account opening, but those are usually not a big deal if you use the card for most purchases.

Is it worth the hard credit inquiry?
Whenever you apply for credit or a loan, a so called "hard" credit inquiry (i.e. a credit check) is done. Did you know that having too many credit checks within a 12 month period can actually hurt your credit score? This is why you don't want to apply needlessly for the credit cards you don't really need or want.

Is it difficult to qualify?
Is it easy or hard to qualify for a store credit card from JCPenney? Well the credit score needed is not publicly disclosed, but based on feedback I've received from customers, my guess would be the requirement is somewhere in the neighborhood of a mid 600's FICO. I'm not sure how their criteria factors in recent bankruptcy. Compared to most high-end credit cards, this card is pretty easy to get. But if you have that score, you can probably get approved for something better - like an entry level Visa or MasterCard - from a number of major card issuing banks. One such recommendation is at the bottom of this review.
There are few additional benefits
As is typical with store credit cards, there are the occasional sales and specials for cardholders, but aside from that there are no other benefits listed on the JCPenney card application that I would consider special or worthwhile.

Verdict?
As you can see, there are very few good reasons to apply for a JCPenney credit card. The only people I might recommend the card to are those with bad credit since it's not extremely hard to get approved for. JCPenney's requirements for approval are easier than most major credit cards, so after bankruptcy or for rebuilding credit make sense. Maybe even for someone just starting out trying to establish some early credit history it might make sense, but even then there are better options. So, for the vast majority of people, the high interest rate and lackluster rewards puts this card squarely in the "avoid" category.