September 18, 2021

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Best store credit cards 2021

12 min read

(CNN) —  

Have you ever been standing at the checkout counter of your favorite retailer when an employee asks you if you want to apply for their store credit card? You may have wondered whether or not you should take the plunge, even if you were likely looking to get in and out of the store quickly.

But should you get a store credit card? The answer truly is…maybe? Some store credit cards are better than others, and if you find yourself shopping at a particular retailer often, you might be surprised to see how much money you can save with a store credit card, whether it’s on your initial purchase, or down the road on a future shopping trip.

As a rule of thumb, unlike regular credit cards, most store credit cards can only be used at the store which the card is tied to. Typically, using the card saves you 5% on your purchase — usually in the form of reward dollars for a future visit. A few select store cards are also part of a payment network, such as Visa or Mastercard, which means you can use the card at any retailer that accepts that payment type.

Store credit cards can also come with other benefits you may not have thought about, and being approved for a store credit card can be significantly easier than getting a regular credit card. This makes it a perfect way to build credit if you’ve have had credit problems in the past, or if you’re young and just starting out on your own financially.

As long as you pay your store credit card bill on time each month, your credit score will improve, setting yourself up better for the future when it comes to applying for a personal loan or a mortgage. And many store credit cards don’t charge an annual fee, which can make these cards great to keep year after year, building up your credit score over time.

So, with so many stores offering their own credit cards, we’ve gone through and picked out some of our favorites — take a look to see if one of them could be a good match for your personal shopping needs.

My Best Buy Credit Cards: Best for electronics
Lowe’s Advantage Card: Best for home improvement
Old Navy Credit Card: Best for apparel
My Kohl’s Card: Best sign-up bonus
Amazon Prime Store Card: Best for online shopping
Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Mastercard®: Best for big box stores
Target REDCard: Best for 5% cash back

How did we choose our best store credit cards? Let’s dive into each of these cards and see how they compare to one another.

My Best Buy Credit Cards are perfect for people looking for the latest and greatest electronics — or anything else you can purchase at Best Buy. However, the application process is far different than what you might be used to when it comes to getting a credit card.

There are actually three different My Best Buy credit cards: one card you can only use at Best Buy called the My Best Buy Credit Card, and two cards that can be used anywhere Visa cards are accepted — the My Best Buy Visa Platinum Card and the My Best Buy Visa Gold Card.

You can’t apply for a specific Best Buy credit card. Instead, you get approved for one of them depending on your creditworthiness. Best Buy states that applicants are first considered for the My Best Buy Visa Platinum Card, and if not approved for the card, will then be considered for the My Best Buy Credit Card. Then, if you’re still not eligible, you’ll be considered for the My Best Buy Visa Gold card.

The primary benefit of all three cards is the same: you’ll earn 5% back in rewards at Best Buy (6% for Best Buy elite customers). However, the My Best Buy Visa Platinum Card and My Best Buy Credit Card have no annual fee, while the My Best Buy Visa Gold Card carries a $59 annual fee. If your credit isn’t great and you have a chance of only being approved for the Gold version of the card, paying $59 for it is most likely not worth it.

The other difference is that the two Visa cards — the Platinum and Gold — can be used at stores other than Best Buy. With either of the two Visa cards, you’ll earn 3% in rewards on gas purchases, 2% in rewards on dining and grocery purchases and 1% in rewards on all other purchases.

One of the biggest draws of the My Best Buy Credit Cards is that you’ll get 10% back in rewards on your first purchase as a new card holder. This can come in handy if you’re looking to make a massive purchase, such as all new kitchen appliances. But the downside is that the reward certificates you get with the card typically expire in 60 days, and can only be used toward items at Best Buy.

You

You’ll get 5% off all your purchases at Lowe’s with the Lowe’s Advantage Card.

PHOTO:
iStock

Home improvement projects are all the rage right now, but those remodels don’t come cheap. That’s where the Lowe’s Advantage Card comes into play, as it offers one of the best returns among many other home improvement credit cards.

With the Lowe’s Advantage Card, you’ll get 5% off all your purchases at checkout. That means you can reap the savings immediately, instead of having to earn rewards to redeem at the store at a later time.

Alternatively, if you’re strapped for cash and need to finance your purchase, you can get 0% interest for the first six months on purchases of $299 or more. But if you choose to finance your purchase, you’ll be giving up the 5% discount.

Other benefits of the Lowe’s Advantage Card include no annual fee and exclusive card holder events. And right now, when you open an account, you can get 20% off a one-time purchase at Lowe’s, up to a $100 discount. To qualify for this offer, you must open and use a new Lowe’s Advantage Card and make a purchase between July 9, 2020 and January 31, 2021.

The Old Navy Credit Card has you covered when it comes to outfitting your entire family, as you’ll get great perks at not just Old Navy, but many Gap-brand stores, including Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta and Hill City.

With the Old Navy Credit Card, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent at all Gap-brand stores, and for every 500 points you accumulate, you’ll get a $5 reward certificate. This certificate can then be used either in-store or online at any of the Gap Inc. brands, including Old Navy. That’s an effective 5% return on all your Old Navy purchases.

The one downside is if you need to return an item purchased with rewards, you’ll ultimately be forfeiting the rewards, as they won’t go back into your account.

Other benefits of the Old Navy Credit Card include no annual fee, bonus points shopping days throughout the year and 25% off your first purchase with the card. There’s also an opportunity to be bumped up to a higher-level card if you earn 5,000 points (excluding bonuses and promotions) in a calendar year, which is equivalent to $1,000 in purchases.

While $1,000 is a lot to spend on apparel, if you frequent any of the Gap brands often enough, this upgraded card — called the Navyist Credit Card — comes with free 3-5 day shipping for online purchases with code NAVYIST, 20% bonus points per quarter, free basic alterations on Banana Republic purchases and access to a private toll-free priority phone number.

Each Gap brand also has their own credit card, but they all offer essentially the same benefits. For example, the Gap Credit Card and Banana Republic Credit Card are exactly the same — same benefits and the rewards can be earned and redeemed at all brands. The Athleta Credit Card has slightly different perks — such as two free expedited shipping passes per year — but the earning and redemption structure on the card is identical to the others.

If you’re looking for a store card that will save you a maximum amount of money, the My Kohl’s Card is the best on the market. The downside is this card can only be used at Kohl’s, but fortunately, you can check to see if you pre-qualify without affecting your credit score with a “hard pull” inquiry.

To start, on the first day using your My Kohl’s Card, you’ll get a 35% discount off your purchase. That’s the highest sign-up offer of all the store credit cards on our list, and it can truly save you a ton of money on your initial Kohl’s purchase — especially if you’re looking at some high ticket items.

After your first purchase, My Kohl’s Card members constantly receive exclusive savings opportunities, and even a special anniversary offer every year. If you shop at Kohl’s often, you’ll notice that many savings offers at the store are limited to card holders, or sometimes card holders will get a higher discount offer than non-card holders. Best of all, Kohl’s often allows you to stack discount and coupon codes together, including offers that are just for card holders.

With the My Kohl’s Card, you’ll also earn 1 point for every dollar you spend on the card, and once you hit 100 points, you’ll earn a $5 reward. This reward can be used toward any Kohl’s purchase, either in-store or online, and can be combined with Kohl’s cash and rewards.

Finally, if you spend $600 on your My Kohl’s Card in a calendar year, you’ll become one of their “Most Valued Customers,” which will unlock additional savings, such as birthday gifts and monthly free shipping events.

Earn a 5% return on all your Amazon purchases with the Amazon Prime Store Card.

Earn a 5% return on all your Amazon purchases with the Amazon Prime Store Card.

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iStock

With people shopping online a lot these days, it’s no surprise to see that Amazon is getting a ton of love. That’s where the Amazon Prime Store Card can help significantly with its 5% return on all Amazon purchases.

While the Amazon Prime Store Card is the absolute best credit card for your Amazon purchases 365 days a year, it lacks in the benefits department. Aside from the 5% return, the only other true perk is that during certain times each year, you’ll earn 5% to 15% back in additional rewards on select promotional items if you’re an Amazon card holder. This is common during Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday, but it’s only beneficial if you were going to purchase those specific items anyways.

If you prefer a credit card that can be used at other merchants besides Amazon, there’s the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card which, along with 5% back at Amazon, also earns 5% back at Whole Foods and 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores.

Plus, there are some extra perks that come with this card, such as lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection and extended warranty protection. Neither of the two Amazon store cards carry an annual fee, but you must be an Amazon Prime member to get either of them, which costs $119 a year.

Related: Make sure you have the best credit card for your holiday shopping at Amazon.

Alternatively, both the Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back credit cards offer rotating 5% cash back categories on a quarterly basis, and it’s quite common to see Amazon pop up once or twice throughout the year. These cards are better overall than most store credit cards, and also have no annual fee.

But the downside is that with either of the Chase or Discover cards, you’re limited to the 5% cash back during select time periods per year, as well as being capped at $1,500 in purchases per quarter.

With almost 5,000 stores in just the US alone, you’re always bound to find a Walmart location nearby. And if Walmart is your store of choice amongst the major big box stores, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard is sure to save you money.

The big perk of the Walmart credit card is that you’ll earn 5% back for all purchases made online at Walmart.com, including items that are ordered online for in-store pick-up. However, when you’re shopping in a physical Walmart, you’ll earn a significantly lower 2% back for those same purchases (though Walmart is currently offering new card holders 5% cash back when you use your card with Walmart Pay on in-store purchases for the first 12 months you have the card).

The rewards earned with the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard are also more flexible than many other store credit cards. You have the option to redeem your rewards for cash, cover purchases made at Walmart.com, convert them to gift cards or even book travel through Capital One.

And the Walmart credit card is a Mastercard, which means it can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted — you’re not limited to just using it at Walmart. This also means you’ll earn rewards on your everyday purchases, including 2% back on travel and at restaurants, and 1% everywhere else.

The Target REDcard comes with an automatic 5% discount on almost all purchases at Target.

The Target REDcard comes with an automatic 5% discount on almost all purchases at Target.

PHOTO:
iStock

It’s no surprise that the Target REDCard is one of the more popular store cards, especially since there’s both a credit card and debit card option. Both versions provide the same exact benefits and come no annual fee, but with the debit card, your purchase comes out of your bank account, so you don’t have to worry about debt. That being said, if you’re looking to build your credit, the credit card option is your best choice.

The Target REDCard offers an automatic 5% discount on all your Target purchases — both in-store and online — without having to worry about earning rewards to redeem on a future visit. All you have to do is pay for your purchase with the Target REDCard and you’ll get the savings right then and there.

Best of all, this 5% discount can be used for third-party gift cards sold at Target (though not on Target gift cards). For example, if you have a Disney trip in your future, you can purchase Disney gift cards at most Target stores, and you’ll automatically receive the 5% discount during checkout. Then use your Disney gift card instead of your credit card when you’re paying your bill at Disney.

And if your Target has a Starbucks location inside the store, you’ll also reap the 5% savings on your coffee purchases. Overall, while most Target purchases are eligible for the discount, there are a few exclusions, such as prescriptions and some over-the-counter pharmacy items.

Aside from the 5% discount, other perks of the Target REDCard include free shipping from Target.com, an additional 30 days for returns and 10% savings at hotels.com. Throughout the year, you’ll also receive special promotions and even a 10% off coupon on your account anniversary with the card.

With many store credit cards available, you might be asking yourself which one to apply for, or if it’s even worthwhile to have one of these cards in your wallet. Overall, regular credit cards such as the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offer better value and more overall flexibility than a store credit card.

Related: Cash is king — The best cash back credit cards.

However, if you’re looking to build your credit, or if you shop at one particular store regularly, a store credit card might be very useful.

You’ll find that the My Kohl’s Card offers the biggest savings annually if you shop at Kohl’s regularly, as Kohl’s card holder savings throughout the year are quite generous. And Walmart fans will enjoy having the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard for their online Walmart.com purchases, with more flexible rewards that can even be redeemed toward travel.

On the other hand, the Target REDCard give you a 5% discount on your Target purchases immediately, without having to worry about racking up rewards for a future purchase or tracking when points expire. And online shoppers can’t go wrong with the Amazon Prime Store Card. especially if you’re an Amazon Prime member already.

Finally, those looking for the latest and greatest technology will prefer one of the My Best Buy Credit Cards, while contractors and those with do-it-yourself projects should pick the Lowe’s Advantage Card and shopaholics will enjoy the Old Navy Credit Card. All three of these cards earn 5% back on purchases at their respective stores.

Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2020.

Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.

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