By Aaron Crowe, dealnews contributor
Store credit cards usually aren't the best credit cards to have, especially if they offer just 3% back on purchases at flagship stores and only 1% rewards when you shop elsewhere. Many other credit cards have greater rewards at more retailers, and often offer lower interest rates.
But for people who frequently shop at one store and pay their balances in full each month, the perks of using a specific retailer's credit card can be worthwhile. Some merchants offer extra discounts — like 15% off an initial purchase — when you first use the card, and others provide discounts once you meet certain purchase levels. Other perks include free shipping, sales or coupons for card holders only, and 0% interest financing.
dealnews researched the best store credit cards, and found a few cards from major retailers offer enticing perks. Before you get any store credit card though, check to make sure it has an American Express, MasterCard, or Visa logo to ensure that it can be used wherever those cards are accepted. This allows you to earn points everywhere you use it and not just at the store that issued it. If the card doesn't have the traditional credit card affiliations, you're looking at a store charge card that can only be used at the issuing retailer. Kohl's for example offers this kind of card. These charge cards still have many perks, but you can't use the card at other stores.
Here are eight of the best store credit cards and the perks they offer:
For the millions of people who shop at Target, the REDcards offer 5% off purchases (including at checkout) and free shipping online. After filling five prescriptions, you'll get a coupon for 5% off a future purchase. The Target Visa REDcard is also accepted at other merchants and makes it easy to pay your utilities bills through Billeo.
Costco's TrueEarnings American Express card doesn't have an annual fee (for Costco members), has 0% APR for six months, includes 3% cash back on gas purchases, extends manufacturers' warranties for a year, and offers pre-sale tickets for concerts and sporting events.
Walmart offers both a store charge card that can only be used at Walmart and a Discover credit card. Both give $20 back an initial $100 purchase, if made the day the account is opened. Users also save 5 cents per gallon at Walmart gas stations, pay no annual fee, and get a free monthly FICO Score when they opt to receive their monthly credit card statements online.
A $30 Amazon gift card comes with the Amazon Rewards Visa credit card, which offers three points for every $1 spent at Amazon; two points for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores; and one point for every other $1 spent. Add those all up, and every 100 points equals $1 off purchases at Amazon. Plus there's no annual fee.
The Lowe's Consumer credit card offers 5% off at Lowe's stores and its website. If you spend more than $299 at one time with the card, you'll receive the perk of not having to pay any interest if you make the minimum monthly payment and pay in full within six months. This card offers a convenient way to make big purchases at Lowe's, provided you can pay off the balance within six months.
Macy's has two credit card options: its American Express credit card offers 1.5% to 3% rewards for every $1 spent at the store, and 1% elsewhere. Plus, returns are accepted without a receipt. Macy's also has a store-only credit card that offers a 15% discount on purchases made in the first two days of activation.
Like Macy's, Bloomingdale's offers two types of cards: one for in-store credit charges only, and an American Express credit card. The AmEx card offers 3% back on store purchases and 2% back elsewhere after a minimum of $1,000 is spent annually. Both cards offer points for purchases: 5,000 points equals $25 in rewards. After charging $100 in a Bloomingdale's restaurant, the cardholder can receive a free entrée and non-alcoholic beverage. Customers who buy five pairs of women's shoes also receive 25% off their next pair. Like other American Express cards, this Bloomingdale's American Express card also offers dining and entertainment offers and deals at hotels.
The L.L.Bean Visa credit card has no annual fee and pays 3% in rewards for shopping at its stores and 1% elsewhere. Plus it offers free shipping (both ways) and free monogramming. Cardholders are automatically sent $10 L.L.Bean coupons as they're accrued.
While there are credit cards that offer greater advantages and bigger returns on purchases, if you mostly shop at a single store, its credit cards may be worth the common tradeoff of getting fewer points elsewhere. And remember, there's nothing wrong with 0% percent financing or a 0% interest rate for a few months, but be sure to pay off the card before interest. If you don't pay the monthly balance in full, the interest you'll have to pay could negate any savings you initially received, and that'd be a waste of a good deal.
What are your favorite store credit cards, and which perks do you like the most? Tell us in the comments section below.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has worked as a reporter and an editor for newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter — @AaronCrowe
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