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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 often shopping at a particular retailer, 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 that 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 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.
With so many stores offering their own credit cards, we’ve gone through and picked out some of our favorites. We’ve also included some alternative card choices you could use at each store, since you might prefer an all-purpose credit card instead — one that provides bonus rewards and benefits at more than one merchant.
The best store credit cards of 2021
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, and also take a look at other credit card options, some of which may be better than the store’s own card depending on your needs.
My Best Buy Credit Cards: Best for electronics
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.
With the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa card, you can actually earn as much cash back at Best Buy as you would with either of the My Best Buy Credit Cards. That’s because the card earns 5% cash back in two categories of your choice on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter, and electronic stores are one of the 12 different categories to choose from.
Even better, that 5% comes in the form of cash back, which is better than earning rewards that can only be used at Best Buy. You’ll also get to select a second category to earn 5% cash back in, including popular choices such as furniture stores, department stores, home utilities and more. Best of all, you can change your selected categories each quarter, depending on your shopping habits.
However, if your main priority is making sure your electronics are covered against theft or damage after you buy them, the Chase Sapphire Reserve might be your card of choice — especially since its high-end protection benefits aren’t available on the My Best Buy Credit Cards.
If you use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for your Best Buy purchases and something gets stolen or damaged within the first 120 days from the day you buy it, the card will reimburse you for the cost of fixing or replacing it, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year. You’ll also get extended warranty protection, which adds an additional year to eligible US manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less.
And with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll be covered if you want to take your item back after the return period has passed. Best Buy allows you to return an item for up to 45 days, depending on the product and your Best Buy elite status. But the Sapphire Reserve will cover your return for a full 90 days from the date of purchase. Just make a claim on the card and you can get refunded for the full purchase price (excluding shipping and handling), up to $500 per item and $1,000 per card per year.
Lowe’s Advantage Card: Best for home improvement
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 an introductory 0% APR for the first twelve months on appliances, installed heating, ventilation and air conditioning purchases of $299 or more. But if you choose to finance your purchase, you’ll be giving up the 5% discount, and if you don’t pay the balance in full by the end of the intro period, your APR rises to 26.99% and interest will be retroactively assessed on your purchase from the date you bought it.
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 to make a purchase through January 31, 2022.
Need to complete a home improvement project, but looking to finance that hefty cost for longer than the six months you get with the Lowe’s Advantage Card? If so, the Citi Diamond Preferred is your best bet. New card holders get a 0% introductory APR on all purchases made in the first 18 months, which means you can take a full year-and-a-half to pay for your project (though the rate rises to a variable 14.74% to 24.74% after the intro period ends).
And if you’re trying to pay off some existing debt at the same time, the card also offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers made during the first four months you have the card. But as with purchases, make sure you pay off the entire balance transfer amount in those 18 months, because after the introductory period ends, the APR rises to a variable 14.74% to 24.74%.
One thing to keep in mind about the Citi Diamond Preferred is it doesn’t earn any rewards. But if you’re comfortable with a slightly shorter introductory period, you might instead consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited. You’ll only have 15 months at a 0% APR on your new purchases with the Freedom Unlimited (which rises to a variable 14.99%-23.74% after the intro period ends), but you’ll also earn 1.5% cash back on everything you buy, including all your purchases at Lowe’s.
Old Navy Credit Card: Best for apparel
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.
And if you return merchandise purchased with a certificate, the dollar value of the rewards allocated to any item or items returned will be converted to points and credited to your account within the next two billing cycles.
Other benefits of the Old Navy Credit Card include no annual fee, bonus points shopping days throughout the year and a discount on 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 at any Gap brand.
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.
Other cards to consider at Old Navy: U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature
The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa excels when it comes to flexible bonus categories. You can select two categories from 12 possible choices and earn 5% cash back in those categories on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter.
One of the categories you can choose is “select clothing stores,” and Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic are all listed as qualifying stores, so purchases at all three will earn 5% cash back. And when you shop outside the Gap Brands, this card will still earn 5% at many other clothing stores, such as Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, J.Crew, Jos A Bank and more.
In addition, you’ll be able to pick a second 5% category each quarter, such as cell phone providers, TV/internet/streaming services and sporting good stores. Best of all, you can change your categories each quarter based on your upcoming needs. And you’ll also earn 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores, with no cap on how much you can earn in those categories.
My Kohl’s Card: Best sign-up bonus
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.
Other cards to consider at Kohl’s: Bank of America® Cash Back Rewards Credit Card
If you’d prefer straight cash back, the Bank of America Cash Back Rewards card may be an interesting possibility for purchases at Kohl’s. The card earns 3% cash back in one category of your choice and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, up to $2,500 spent per quarter in all the bonus categories combined.
The six categories include gas, dining, travel, drugstores, home improvement/furnishings and online shopping. That last option is where Kohl’s comes in, because the “online shopping” category includes purchases at kohls.com, which means you can earn 3% cash back if you select it as your category.
But, what if you want to buy in-store at a Kohl’s instead? Fortunately, you have two options. First, Kohl’s allows you to shop online and select in-store pickup. This means as long as your items are in-stock, you can easily get them on the day you buy them without having to pay for shipping, and you’ll earn 3% cash back for making the purchase online.
The second option is to purchase a Kohl’s e-gift card at kohls.com. We tested this process and found that Kohl’s e-gift cards are sent to your email immediately, and the charge codes as a purchase from kohls.com. So even if you’re already at a Kohl’s store and ready to buy, you can purchase an e-gift card on the spot with your phone, use that e-gift card to pay for your purchase and earn 3% cash back for it.
Amazon Prime Store Card: Best for online shopping
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 anyway.
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.
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. You also don’t need an Amazon Prime membership, like you do with the Amazon Prime Store Card.
But the downside of both cards is that you’re limited to getting 5% cash back only during select time periods per year, as well as being capped at $1,500 in purchases per quarter, after which you only earn 1%. Plus, you must activate the bonus categories each quarter in order to get bonus cash back. And when Amazon isn’t listed as a bonus category for the quarter, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on your Amazon purchases with either card.
As of right now, Amazon will be a 5% cash back bonus category in the fourth quarter of 2021 on the Discover it Cash Back card. The full 2021 5% cash back calendar hasn’t been released yet for the Chase Freedom Flex, so we don’t know yet which quarter Amazon will appear, if it does. But there’s a good chance that it’ll be somewhere on this year’s list, too.
The Chase Freedom Flex also earns 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase, as well as 3% cash back on dining and drugstores. This card also comes with cell phone protection, extended warranty protection and purchase protection in case your purchase is damaged or stolen within the first 120 days from the day of purchase, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per year.
Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard: Best for big box stores
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.
Similar to Amazon, the Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back are two other no-annual-fee credit cards to consider when shopping at Walmart, since both cards offer 5% cash back on rotating categories on a quarterly basis, up to $1,500 in purchases, and Walmart has appeared as an option in the past.
Walmart.com (online purchases only) is one of this year’s fourth quarter bonus categories on the Discover it Cash Back card. And although the full 2021 calendar hasn’t been released yet for the Chase Freedom Flex, Walmart — both online and in-store — was on the 2020 calendar, which makes us believe we may see it again this year.
One thing to consider is that if you don’t already have it, the Discover it Cash Back will match all your cash back earned at the end of your first year as a card holder. This means if you get the card now, purchases made at Walmart.com in the fourth quarter this year will effectively earn 10% cash back — an unbeatable return on any credit card.
And with the Chase Freedom Flex, not only can new card holders earn $200 in bonus cash back after spending $500 on the card within the first three months after opening the account, you can also pair the card with another premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and redeem your rewards for travel, often at a significantly higher value.
Target REDCard: Best for 5% cash back
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.
Other cards to consider for Target: Ink Business Cash Credit Card
Truly, the Target REDCard is hard to beat for your Target purchases. But if you have a small business and would prefer to earn travel rewards instead of an immediate discount, you might consider the Ink Business Cash Credit Card.
This no-annual-fee card earns 5% cash back at office supply stores, up to $25,000 in combined spending each year. While Target isn’t an office supply store, you’ll find that stores like Staples and Office Depot sell an entire carousel of third-party merchant gift cards. And fortunately, Target gift cards are almost always available on these displays.
So if you want to earn bonus rewards at Target using the Ink Business Cash, you can buy a Target gift card at one of these office supply stores, then use it to pay for your own Target purchase — either online or in-store.
While it seems like this roundabout method would only earn you the same 5% savings that you can get with the Target REDCard, if you pair the Ink Business Cash with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can instead redeem your rewards for travel at a much higher rate, as much as 50% more if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The other advantage of this method is you can use it to purchase a slew of other retailer gift cards, such as Netflix, Lowe’s, Home Depot, eBay, AirBnB, Disney, Macy’s, Southwest, Bloomingdales, Hotels.com and many more. Think of it as your one-stop shop for a 5% return (or 5x points) at many popular stores.
To top it all off, the Ink Business Cash is currently offering its highest sign-up bonus ever — an impressive $750 in bonus cash back after spending $7,500 within the first three months after opening the account.
Should you apply for a store credit card?
With so 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. As you can see, there are many other regular credit cards like the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Sapphire Reserve that sometimes offer better value or benefits, especially if you’re looking to just have a single credit card for all your shopping needs.
However, if you’re looking to build your credit, or if you shop at one particular store regularly, a store credit card might be 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 gives 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 2021.