Getting the Most From Store Credit Cards

Getting the Most From Store Credit Cards
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Store credit cards can offer opportunities to build credit, access affordable financing plans and enjoy perks ranging from rewards points to various percentage discounts on store purchases. There are two types. One is a card that only works at the specific retailer, while the other has more universal acceptance like a standard credit card.

To get the most from these cards, you'll want to research options available through the retailers where you frequently shop and determine which benefits would help you most. Take a look at 10 popular store credit cards and the perks they can provide.

1. Amazon Rewards Visa Cards

Whether you're an Amazon Prime member or not, the popular online retailer offers store card options that include perks anywhere you shop. Once you sign in to your Amazon account and submit an application, you'll either get the Amazon Rewards Visa or Amazon Prime Rewards Visa depending on your Prime membership status. You can start shopping right away with either a ​$75​ or ​$150​ welcome bonus in the form of an Amazon gift card as soon as you get approved.

The Amazon Rewards Visa comes with cashback rewards of ​3 percent​ for Whole Foods and purchases compared to at least ​5 percent​ for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa. Both give ​2 percent​ back for purchases you make at gas stations, restaurants and pharmacies and ​1 percent​ everywhere else. These cards also offer interest-free financing for up to ​18 months​ on certain items costing at least ​$50​, but keep in mind that accepting such an offer usually requires waiving the cash back on your Amazon purchase.

2. Walmart Rewards Cards

Walmart works with Capital One to offer two store credit cards where your credit history determines which one you receive if approved. The first is the Walmart Rewards Card that only works at Walmart and Murphy's USA locations, while the second is the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard that you can use more widely. You only have to complete one application either through Capital One's website or at a Walmart store. If approved, the card can be added to your Walmart Pay for immediate use.

While Walmart doesn't advertise a first-purchase discount, it does give you ​5 percent​ back for Walmart app and Walmart website purchases and a year of ​5 percent​ back for Walmart Pay purchases at physical locations. Otherwise, you get ​two percent​ back at Walmart and Murphy's USA locations as well as for travel and restaurants and ​one percent​ back elsewhere. You can either use rewards toward Walmart purchases, get cash or redeem the rewards toward travel and gift cards.

There are two types. One is a card that only works at the specific retailer, while the other has more universal acceptance like a standard credit card.

3. Kohl's Card

If you're a frequent Kohl's shopper and want to save, you can consider applying for the Kohl's Card that works only for this specific retailer. You can sign up on the Kohl's website or right at the checkout lane, and you'll be able to start spending and using the benefits immediately upon approval. You get a one-time discount of ​35 percent​ off your first purchase (with some types of items and brands excluded) when you're approved, and this generous offer can come in handy for a big shopping trip.

You'll periodically receive coupons for a percentage off your Kohl's Card purchases and get contacted when sales events will occur. The store gives extra benefits like free shipping to customers who spend ​$600​ annually along with a birthday gift such as money off a purchase during that month.

To maximize all these benefits, also take advantage of the Kohl's Cash and Kohl's Rewards programs that give you store vouchers based on how much you spend. Keep in mind you'll often get extra rewards during the store's Black Friday event.

4. Best Buy Credit Cards

If you're in the market for electronics or appliances, Best Buy offers two store credit card options that can make it easier to finance large purchases. You can opt for the My Best Buy Credit Card to make store-only purchases, while the My Best Buy Visa gives you the flexibility to shop wherever you can use a Visa card. You can apply through the Best Buy Citi portal or ask for an application at a local store. The introductory reward is ​10 percent​ back on your first shopping trip.

Both card options provide either ​5 or 6 percent​ back in reward certificates depending on how much you've spent and which tier in the rewards program you've reached. You'll also get access to various interest-free and reduced financing offers and special offers throughout the year. The Visa card comes with 2 ​percent​ back for your grocery store and restaurant visits, ​3 percent​ back for gas and ​1 percent​ back for everything else. Note that an annual fee may apply depending on your credit situation.

5. Target RedCard

You can obtain a Target RedCard for use only at Target's website and stores across the country. This card is unique since it has both debit and credit card versions that include many of the same benefits.

You can apply for both on and get access to the credit card in your digital wallet right after approval, while you'll have to wait for the physical card if you go with the debit version. Both come with a first-purchase discount that depends on the current promotion when you're applying.

The debit card is connected to your bank account and lets you withdraw ​$40 maximum​ in cash at the checkout lane. On the other hand, the credit card version lets you carry a balance subject to interest charges. You'll get a ​5 percent​ discount on your Target purchases, an extension of ​30 days​ for returns, free shipping on many items and exclusive offers and gifts with either RedCard option. You can also get a ​5 percent​ discount on your Starbucks order.

6. Lowe's Advantage Card

If you're shopping for gifts for someone who enjoys doing home projects or you need to purchase an appliance or materials for a renovation, the Lowe's Advantage Card could lower your costs or give you financing offers to avoid interest on costly purchases. You can only use this card at Lowe's stores and on their website.

Lowes offers an online application through Synchrony Bank's website. However, you can ask a Lowe's associate to apply in person, or you can use a text-to-apply feature. You should receive a temporary card to use and a first-purchase discount of ​20 percent​ off (maximum ​$100​).

Around the year, you can expect a ​5 percent​ discount on most Lowe's purchases, and you can use this along with other store discounts available. The retailer runs financing offers, too, when you might get interest-free financing on items over a certain price as long as you pay off the purchase within a period such as ​six months​. Otherwise, you might get a reduced interest rate for long-term financing on purchases exceeding ​$2,000​.

7. Costco Anywhere Visa

If you have a Costco membership, you can extend your benefits with the Costco Anywhere Visa. This is a Visa card with wide acceptance and benefits for all kinds of purchases. You can apply by going to Citi's website, dialing ​1-800-259-3052​ or asking a Costco associate at the membership counter. If approved, you'll receive a temporary card to use in Costco stores while you wait for the physical card.

No first-purchase discount applies, but you'll get cash back ranging from ​1 to 4 percent​ depending on the purchase type. Gas station purchases have the most generous rewards at ​4 percent​ back. This is followed by ​3 percent​ back for travel and restaurants, ​2 percent​ for Costco purchases and ​1 percent​ for everything else.

8. TJX Credit Cards

TJX is the corporation that runs several department store chains including TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Marshalls, HomeSense and Sierra. They offer two different store card options available through a single application that you can access through the Synchrony Bank portal or at the store. The application process looks at your credit profile to determine whether you're eligible for the store-only TJX card or the more flexible TJX Mastercard.

Either card provides you with a first-purchase discount of ​10 percent​ that only works at physical locations. You'll also get reward certificates worth ​5 percent​ of your purchases along with access to special sales events just for cardholders. If you end up qualifying for the Mastercard, you get the extra perk of ​1 percent​ cash back anywhere you shop. The TJX cards don't appear to currently come with any special financing offers.

9. JCPenney Store Card

Similar to the Kohl's Card, JCPenney's store card is limited to use at this retailer in person or online since it lacks the backing of a major network such as MasterCard. When you apply online or at a JCPenney checkout counter, you'll instantly find out if you're approved and receive an initial purchase discount that can vary depending on which promotions the chain is running. As of publication, this is ​15 percent​ off the first purchase.

The recurring benefits for this store card usually include percentages off purchases and are based on product categories. For example, you might receive ​15 percent​ off clothing purchases but only ​5 percent​ off electronics. You'll also have special financing plans for certain items such as furniture and access to several savings events during the year. When you have this card, you also earn double the typical JCPenney Rewards for your purchases and receive certificates to redeem toward your future purchases.

10. Apple Card

Debuting in 2019, the Apple Card is most appealing when you buy things through Apple. However, it's a flexible Mastercard that offers perks that reward you for purchases and help you manage your money regardless of where you shop.

You can apply for this store card either by opening your iPhone's Wallet app and finding the Apple Card option or by visiting the Apple website and logging in with your Apple ID. With an approved application, you'll find your Apple Card immediately ready for use in your Apple Wallet while you wait for the physical one.

A major perk of the Apple Card is the daily cash back you receive for all purchases, and you can use this cash with Apple Pay, apply it toward your balance or move it to your bank account. You get ​3 percent​ back when shopping at Apple and other select retailers such as Walgreens, ​2 percent​ back if you use Apple Pay and ​1 percent​ back for using the physical card elsewhere. You can also get interest-free financing plans when you buy iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and other Apple products and agree to set monthly payments.