The last time you shopped at a department store, someone probably asked you to apply for a store credit card. It seems that more and more department stores are offering their own store cards now and sometimes it may be hard to say no to the perks they offer at checkout.
For some, however, it may be easy to say no, but maybe you were still tempted to apply for the store card and began to ask yourself if it really would be worth it.
You should always make any credit decision carefully, including opening a new credit card.
In some cases, department store credit cards are not a good deal. You might get a small discount off your first post-approval purchase, but you could end up with a card that has few rewards and a higher interest rate compared to conventional credit cards.
Still, store cards are some of the easiest credit cards to get, making them attractive if you’re trying to build or rebuild credit. Plus, many of these cards offer impressive discounts, low or no extra fees, enticing rewards, or all three.
One more tip: Choose a store card that gives you perks where you spend a lot of money. If you’re already a frequent shopper at a store—and you can pay off your balance each month to avoid paying interest—one of these cards may be a great deal.
For Discount Shopping: Kohl’s Charge Card
Kohl’s credit card, called Kohl’s Charge, offers the biggest purchase discounts on this list. Once you’re approved, you’ll get a whopping 25% off your first purchase made with the credit card. You’ll get another 15% discount when you receive your card, and you can combine certain discounts with other programs like Kohl’s Cash and Yes2You rewards. What’s more, you’ll get 12 more discounts of 30%, 20%, or 15% throughout the year.
There is no annual fee for the Kohl’s Charge card, but it does have a 26.49% variable APR, so be careful about carrying a balance each month. Paying in full or keeping the balance to 10% or less of your credit limit also helps your credit score.
If you are a budget conscious shopper who values the deep discounts that different sales and promotions offer you throughout the year, then a Kohl’s store card is a great choice. However, you may find that some of the sales, promotions, and rewards perks they offer may be on the complicated side and may take some careful math and planning on your end to reap the most benefits.
For Bad Credit: Walmart Credit Card
Walmart’s credit cards don’t offer the largest discounts or rewards, but they’re good options if you’re trying to build or rebuild your credit. (If you’re wondering where your credit score stands, check your free credit report.)
Walmart cards come in two types. The Walmart Credit Card is easier to be approved for, but you can use it only at Walmart. It’s harder to get approved for the Walmart Mastercard, but you can use it anywhere that accepts Mastercard.
You don’t pay an annual fee for either Walmart card, and both include the “3-2-1 Save” rewards program. This program gives you 3% cash back on Walmart.com online purchases, 2% cash back on Murphy USA and Walmart gas, and 1% cash back on in-store purchases or any accepted purchases with the Walmart Mastercard.
Your introductory APR for the Walmart Mastercard is 18.15%, 21.15%, or 24.15% variable APR, depending on your “account type,” which reflects your credit score. The Walmart Credit Card has a 24.15% variable APR, so it’s best to charge only what you can pay in full each month to avoid paying interest.
Users have reported that these store cards are good if you are someone that purchases their gas from Walmart or if you have a credit score that falls below a 630. They are not good for consumers with a higher credit score and those who tend to carry their balances month to month.
For Frequent Shippers: Amazon Prime Store Card
If you’re like the majority of Americans, you do at least some shopping at Amazon.com. All those books, gadgets, and everyday items would cost a fortune in shipping fees if it weren’t for Amazon Prime’s free-shipping program. But another way to save as an Amazon shopper is with the Amazon Prime Store Card.
Once approved, you get 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases, a $10 gift card, and access to special financing options for some items. And there’s no annual fee. The biggest downside is the card’s high 27.24% variable APR, so avoid carrying a balance with the Amazon Prime Store Card.
For Everyday Shopping: Target REDcard
Target’s REDcard has one perk that most store cards don’t: instant discounts. Instead of the typical rewards points or cash back systems, which are usually applied to your monthly statement, the REDcard gets you 5% off all Target purchases.
The 5% discount applies online too, and the card includes free shipping at Target.com. Plus, you get access to exclusive cardmember offers, an extra 30 days for store returns, and the ability to stack the 5% savings with other discounts like the ever-popular Cartwheel program.
Be wary of Target REDcard’s 24.15% variable APR, which could leave you with high interest payments if you don’t pay off your balance each month. One way to avoid the interest altogether is to opt for the REDcard debit card. With that option, you get the same 5% discount by linking the card directly to your checking account.
For Department Store Purchases: TJX Rewards Credit Card
Department store shoppers like their deals and perks. If that’s you, the TJX Rewards card from T.J.Maxx could be a great way to save on your purchases and get special rewards. You can use the card at any T.J.Maxx location or sister store, including Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post. And because it’s a Mastercard, you can also use it anywhere that accepts Mastercard.
When you’re approved, you’ll get 10% off your first in-store purchases. Then you’ll earn $10 for every $200 you spend using the card. You’ll also get perks like chances to win free giveaways and entry into a $100 gift card sweepstake.
Like many other store cards, the TJX Rewards card has a high interest rate at 28.24% variable. Don’t pay unnecessary interest—pay off the balance every month.
Store cards and department store credit cards can help you save on your purchases and build your credit if you can manage the balances well. To search other credit card options, use this credit card search tool.
Advice When Using Store Credit Cards
As with any credit card you use, you should always keep track of your credit utilization. The credit utilization rate is the percentage of the limits on your cards that you are using at a time. If you have higher utilization, then your credit score may be slightly lower. Always pay attention to the credit limit.
When you get your new store credit card, be sure to use it regularly so that you can reap all its benefits for your credit. Remember, however, to use it responsibly so that you can begin to build up a positive credit history.
Also, it is always advisable to get a rewards credit card, especially if you find that you frequent that particular store more than others. The Rewards Program could include points or another type of promotional offer when you use the card.
Limit your spending at the retailer to avoid any instances of spending over your means. Just because you might receive additional discounts when you spend a certain amount of money doesn’t mean necessarily that you should, or you can afford it.
Pay off your balance at the end of each month and always pay your bill on time. Doing so will also help you avoid unnecessarily high interest rates that a store credit card may carry. It will also help you build your credit history, which is helpful if you find yourself with less-than-perfect credit. Bottom line? If you don’t have to carry a balance, then don’t; your credit will thank you for it.
More on Credit Cards:
- How Secured Cards Can Help Build Credit
- Tips for Paying Off Credit Card Debt
- How to Get a Credit Card with Bad Credit
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.
Image: Dmitrijs Dmitrijevs