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What is a Retail Credit Card?
Retail rewards credit cards, also known as store credit cards, are those meant to earn cardholders rewards for store purchases. They’re generally offered through a partnership between a store and a credit card issuer, and earn the most rewards on in-store and online purchases. Cardholders can then redeem their rewards for store discounts, cash back rewards, statement credits, and complimentary items. Overall, this encourages further spending with the store and fosters customer loyalty.
What Stores Have Credit Cards?
The point of a retail credit card is that it rewards cardholders not just for spending but for making purchases at a particular store. As a result, a wide variety of stores offer these cards to increase revenue. This includes but is not limited to:
- Grocery stores (like the Smith’s REWARDS World Mastercard , the Fry’s REWARDS Mastercard, the Ralphs Rewards Plus Visa Card, Target RedCard, or the QFC REWARDS Mastercard)
- Hardware and home improvement shops (like the At Home Mastercard®, the Crate & Barrel Mastercard. or the Lowe’s Business Rewards Card)
- Department stores (like the TJK Rewards Mastercard or
- Wholesale shops (like the Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi, the BJ’s Perks Plus® Mastercard®, or the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi)
- Dealerships (like the INFINITY Visa)
- Coffee shops (like the Starbucks Visa)
- Online retailers (like the PayPal CashBack Mastercard, the DSW Visa, or the Williams Sonoma Visa)
Types of Rewards
Retail store credit cards may offer several different types of rewards depending on the type of store associated with them. For instance, dealerships may offer rewards on maintenance and parts ordered for a vehicle, plus bonus categories like gas. Cardholders can then exchange these rewards for discounts on future maintenance or the purchase of a new vehicle, provided their card account is open and in good standing. Meanwhile, clothing store credit cards may provide cardholders with special discounted shopping days, as well as coupons and free items. These rewards are typically earned on eligible net purchases.
Can You Use Retail Credit Cards Anywhere?
Whether or not you can use a retail card anywhere largely depends on if you have closed-loop or open-loop card. Though both may be co-branded, closed-loop credit cards are not supported by a major payment network like Visa or American Express. This means they can only be used to make purchases at that particular store.
Meanwhile, the best store cards are often open-loop cards, which are supported by a major payment network. This means you can use them with any retailer that works with that network. However, they’ll typically reward more for purchases made at a specific store, or offer rewards that can only be redeemed at that store.
For example, the Belk Rewards Mastercard® allows you to use the card anywhere, though you redeem your rewards for Belk discounts. If you don’t qualify for the Mastercard version right away, you’ll start off with a closed-loop Belk Rewards card which can only be used at Belk. Similarly, rewards with the Athleta Visa, Old Navy Visa, or the Forever 21 Visa only apply at those unique brands.
That’s why it’s important to check the terms and conditions for the card you want. If a card can only be used at one particular store, you’ll need to decide if that option is worthwhile based on your spending habits. If you only shop at a store from time to time, you will likely benefit more from a different retail card, or even a generic cash back credit card.
Are Retail Credit Cards Bad for Your Credit?
One of the most widespread ideas about retail cards is that they’re bad for your credit. Though this isn’t true 100% of the time, there’s a good reason for this belief. For one thing, instant approval store credit cards make it easy to apply for these cards at the register, leading many shoppers to sign up without giving the decision any thought.
Moreover, retail credit cards tend to have some of the highest interest rates and fees of any other credit card category. They also place a lot of emphasis on extraneous spending. This means those who aren’t careful may find themselves buying more than they can reasonably afford just to earn rewards. Carrying a balance or missing a payment can be especially punishing with these types of credit cards.
However, this also means that the answer to “Do retail credit cards build credit?” is yes. When used responsibly, these cards can help build credit just like any others. In fact, retail cards can often be easier to apply for than other rewards cards with a bad credit history. This leads many consumers to apply for these in place of secured credit cards in order to rebuild their credit, since there’s no deposit to worry about.
What are the Best Retail Rewards Credit Cards?
With so many stores offering their own credit cards, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. First and foremost, it’s important to pick a card that matches your spending habits. If you don’t already spend a lot with the store in question, you may not get enough rewards out of the card to make it worthwhile. Regardless of which option you pick, a store retail card is usually a better bet than simply using your debit card.
You also want to consider your credit. While many retail cards are open to those with lower credit scores, there are usually still certain credit requirements you need to meet. If you’re worried about qualifying, you may want to look for those aimed specifically at bad credit. Overall, the best credit card offers from retailers include the following:
- The Horizon Gold Card: If you’re looking for retail cards for bad credit, the Horizon Gold Card is a great option. Not only can it help you rebuild your credit, but it also doesn’t require a credit check and you’ll automatically receive a $500 credit limit. Once you have the card, you can browse the hundreds of products available in the online Horizon Outlet from clothes and electronics to kitchen staples and home décor.
- The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature® Card: If you already have an Amazon Prime account, this could be the perfect companion card. Any time you make a purchase with the online retailer or its partner, Whole Foods, you earn 5% cash back. Since this isn’t a closed-loop card, you can also earn rewards on gas, dining, and any other purchases you make. The $70 gift card you get upon approval and the lack of foreign transaction fees just sweeten the deal.
- The IKEA® Visa® Credit Card: Fans of IKEA can get a lot out of this card, both in-store and on everyday essentials. Unlike most cards which offer 2% cash back on secondary earning categories, with this offer you can earn 3% on dining, groceries, and utilities. This is on top of the 5% on IKEA purchases (including at the restaurant). It’s one of the more impressive Commenity Bank store credit cards.
Find the Best Shopping Companion for Your Wallet
Whether you’re looking for the easiest retail credit card to get or the one offering the most rewards, the BestCards team has the insight you need. We’ve done the hard work for you to craft in-depth reviews on the latest credit card offers. If you need a little help with your credit card strategy, we’ll keep you up-to-date with news, advice, and tips from around the industry. Find your best card with us!