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Credit cards are an excellent tool for maximizing your return on spending, especially if you have one that matches your major spending categories.
Travel credit cards help people travel for less, cash back cards provide a wide blanket for lowering your expenses by a few percent, and store credit cards make shopping at your favorite store more lucrative.
Although there is a seemingly overwhelming amount of store credit cards, they are not all equally effective.
Today, we will discuss what makes a good store credit card and provide reviews for some of the best store credit cards on the market to help make your decision easier.
Walmart is one of the most popular stores in America, and regular shoppers can earn 5% back online and in-store with the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®.
Cardholders receive 5% back on all online Walmart purchases, and in-store purchases earn 5% cash back during the first year before dropping to 2%. This card earns 2% cash back on Murphy USA fuel purchases, travel expenses, and restaurant purchases.
Since there is no annual fee, and a $50 introductory spending bonus, this is an ideal credit card for consumers who shop there often.
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is an excellent credit card for people with an Amazon Prime membership account.
If you shop at Amazon regularly and pay for the annual Prime membership, this card’s 5% back for Amazon and Whole Foods purchases will quickly provide serious value.
Cardholders also receive unlimited 2% back on purchases at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores, comparable to many other cash back credit cards.
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card does have a relatively high ongoing APR, so if you get this card, you do not want to carry a balance.
With one of the highest-earning rates for fuel and unlimited 2% back at Costco stores, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is one of the best all-around store credit cards.
Cardholders who are members at Costco get access to 4% back on gas purchases, 3% back on restaurants and travel, 2% back on Costco purchases, and 1% back on all other purchases.
Consumers with a Costco membership will be hard-pressed to find a better credit card for everyday spending, but if you do opt for this card, you will need to make sure that the cash-back redemption options fit your budget.
Many consumers want a credit card covering many different spending categories, so they don’t have to juggle a wallet full of credit cards.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a relative newcomer to the cash-back credit card market, but the benefits are competitive with the best store credit cards.
Cardholders receive 5% back on rotating categories and travel booked through Chase, 3% back at restaurants and drug stores, and 1% on all other purchases.
Since this is an open-loop MasterCard, cardholders can use it at any vendor with ease, and they can even earn a $200 introductory spending bonus when they spend the first $500 on the card.
If you can manage rotating spending categories, then you may want to consider the Discover it® Cash Back credit card from Discover.
Each quarter has a designated bonus category, such as online shopping or groceries, and cardholders can earn 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases for each category.
New cardholders will receive a bonus at the end of their first year with a card that is equal to their entire accumulated cash back throughout the year.
This unique introductory bonus essentially doubles all of the cash back earned during the first year, which means that cardholders should take advantage of the quarterly bonus categories as much as possible.
If you love shopping at Target, then the Target REDcard™ Credit Card may be a powerful addition to your wallet.
Benefits include 5% discounts on eligible Target purchases, 30 days of extra returns, and a 10% discount on account anniversaries.
However, the Target REDcard™ Credit Card is a closed-loop credit card which means you can only use it within the Target store network and website.
If you want to save money on your Verizon phone bill, you may consider the Verizon Visa® Card.
Cardholders earn 4% back on groceries and fuel, 3% back on dining, 2% on Verizon purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Although there are plenty of opportunities to earn points with this card, all of the rewards can only be redeemed at Verizon.
Since the redemption options are limited, potential cardholders should ensure that their primary objective is to lower their Verizon phone bill.
The Apple Credit Card is a unique store credit card that rewards cardholders the more they use Apple Pay.
This card offers 3% cash back on Apple Pay purchases at Apple, Uber, Uber Eats, Walgreens, T-Mobile, Panera, and Exxon Mobil.
All other Apple Pay purchases earn 2% cash back, and all purchases made with the physical credit card earn 1%.
If you enjoy using Apple Pay, then the Apple Card is a powerful option for combining convenience with cash back earning potential.
If you regularly shop at Sam’s Club, then you may be able to earn a significant amount of cash back with the Sam’s Club® Mastercard®.
Cardholders earn a $45 store credit for opening the account, 5% cash back at Sam’s Club on the first $6,000 spent there annually, 3% back on travel and dining, and 1% back on all other purchases.
Since this card has such a broad earning potential, it can be an excellent choice for Sam’s Club shoppers who want to consolidate their credit cards.
Stores offer retail store credit cards to incentivize consumers to shop with them by providing discounts and exclusive savings.
There are many different styles of retail credit cards, but they all generally are associated with a specific store, such as Walmart, or a family of brands, such as Gap.
Some store credit cards provide additional benefits outside of the store they are associated with, enhancing the customer experience and increasing overall spending on the card.
Companies ranging from big box retail to apparel and outdoor gear will partner with a bank or a financial institution to offer a co-branded credit card.
Once they decide on the reward structure and earnings rate, they will often promote the new credit card online and in-store so their most loyal customers can see it.
Many traditional cash back and travel rewards credit cards offer introductory spending bonuses to attract new customers.
These spending bonuses are usually points or statement credits. Retail store credit cards take a similar approach, but instead of a spending cash back bonus, they often offer one-time discounts or a gift card to their brand.
If you are trying to compare different store credit cards, make sure you apply for cards that offer a bonus for signing up.
As you search for the optimal store credit card, a few rules of thumb will help ensure you are getting a good deal.
First, you should identify whether the card offers closed or open spending ability. Cards with closed spending are only accepted at the store issuing them.
This means you would not be able to use that card at another store, so you would need to have a secondary credit card that you could use for the rest of your expenses.
For example, the Target REDcard™ Credit Card offered by Target can only be used at Target in-store and online, so you would need a supplementary credit card such as the Chase Freedom Flex℠, which generates cash back for many other categories outside of Target.
Another key attribute of many top store credit cards is flexible and versatile rewards management.
Although many store credit cards are designed to incentivize shopping with the stores that offer the card, lower-tier cards make the rewards difficult to use effectively.
The Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard® is a great example of a robust store credit card because it offers 5% back on all Walmart purchases.
Still, it also offers 2% on travel and restaurants, making it an excellent choice for everyday spending.
Finally, the best store credit cards help lower your expenses by providing cash back and discounts at the stores where you spend the most.
As you search for your next store credit card, sift through your current bank and credit card statements and identify your top spending categories.
Once you’ve identified your top spending categories, you will be much more prepared to find the best store credit card for your needs.
>> More: Best Rewards Credit Cards
Although your spending habits and shopping preferences will have the most significant influence on your credit card choice, there are a few other factors that will help you sort through your options and make the best decision.
The primary benefit of utilizing a retail store card over another debit or credit card is the savings provided by the earnings rate.
Credit cards generally utilize a percentage back earning system or a points-based earning system.
Many of the best store credit cards offer between 2%-5% back on in-store spending and between 1%-3% back on other spending categories.
When comparing rewards rates for different store credit cards, you may want to compare what other cards earn in a similar category.
For example, suppose you are interested in a credit card offered by an apparel company because you want to save money on clothes.
In that case, you may want to compare it with a credit card for major retailers and online shopping.
Although these are not necessarily the same store, you may find that you end up saving more money through a large online retailer instead of with a specific apparel brand.
Certain credit cards with high earning potential and extensive perks often carry annual fees to offset the cost of these perks and credits.
If you are considering a store credit card that carries an annual fee, it is vital to weigh the benefits and earning potential provided by the card against the annual fee.
Some cards offer an exceptional value despite the annual fee, which may make that card an appealing choice.
However, if you find that the annual fee eats away at the earning potential, you may want to find an alternative option.
Earning rewards is only as lucrative as the credit card’s redemption options.
Store credit cards usually help cardholders save money at their favorite stores by enabling them to accumulate in-store credit and statement credits when they shop there.
However, some store credits offer redemption options that are less than the average cash back credit card, where $1 worth of spending will result in less than $0.01 of value.
Although reward redemption options may vary, try and work with rewards programs that offer at least $0.01
Store credit cards with open-loop spending ability can help you earn rewards quickly and racked up lots of points and discounts.
If you can find a store credit card that offers earning categories outside of the store itself, such as dining or groceries, you can use your normal spending habits to save even more money at your favorite stores.
Yes, store credit cards can help you build credit like many other credit cards.
However, depending on the card you sign up with, you may have a higher interest rate than a traditional cash back or rewards credit card.
Building credit requires you to use your credit card and maintain a healthy credit utilization ratio.
Your credit utilization ratio is the amount you have on your credit card balance compared to your overall credit limit.
So, if you want to build credit quickly, it’s important to use 30% or less of your available credit limit while routinely paying off your balance.
Store credit cards can also help you build credit by acting as a new line of credit that increases your overall available credit.
But the most important way to build credit with a store credit card or any other credit card is to pay your balance and avoid paying excessive interest charges.
There are two types of store credit cards, closed-loop, and open-loop. Closed-loop store credit cards can only be spent at the store they are associated with.
So, if you have a closed-loop card, you will not be able to swipe it at any other vendor. Open-loop cards are issued by major credit card companies such as Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, and you can swipe them at any vendor who takes those credit cards.
If you prefer to have fewer credit cards, you may be interested in an open-loop credit card because you can use it both at the store and anywhere else.
However, suppose you are comfortable managing multiple credit cards. In that case, you may be able to balance having a closed-loop store credit card for your favorite store and another cash back or rewards credit card for all your other purchases.
Hopefully, you can see that store credit cards are extremely versatile depending on your spending habits and preferences.
Since there are so many cards available on the market, putting in the time and effort to research your options will pay off in the long run.
Remember, store credit cards are supposed to enhance your personal finances, so choose one that rewards you for your existing spending habits.
To select the best store credit cards, we evaluated each cards introductory offers, exclusive rewards, discounts, annual fees, and Variable APRs. These factors are key for consumers to consider before they partner with a co-branded store credit card. Read our strict editorial guidelines and credit card rating methodology to learn more about the through review process.