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NerdWallet’s Best Store Credit Cards, Fall 2014

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Store credit cards are rarely a good idea. Their rewards rates are almost always restricted to the stores themselves and the introductory perks are often lackluster – at times, they lose out even at their own stores! Take the Gap Visa for example – you get 3% at Gap stores, but the American Express Blue Cash gives you 3% on all department stores, with 6% on groceries and 3% on gas besides. Read on, and you’ll see why these unaffiliated shopping cards are often a better deal.

NerdWallet’s Top Store Credit Cards

Discover it

Discover It Credit Card
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on Discover's
secure website

During the fourth quarter of 2013 (that’s October through December), the Discover it is a great credit card for shopping. It offers 5% cash back on online shopping, plus whatever discounts you get through the ShopDiscover mall. It has additional features as well: Some people sign up for store credit cards for financing options. This is usually a mistake. Store cards rarely have good APRs and often employ retroactive interest rates. If you want rewards and financing, check out the Discover it. It gives a solid 14 months of 0% interest on purchases and transfers, plus 5% cash back in categories that change every quarter. You’ll get bonus rewards on restaurants and movies from January through March, then “spring style,” “summer fun” and “holiday shopping.” Plus, there’s no late fee on your first late payment, no foreign transaction fee and no penalty APR.

  • 14 months 0% purchase and balance transfer APR
  • 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee

American Express Blue Cash 

The Blue Cash from American Express is hands down one of our favorite cards. The rewards categories are exceedingly generous, and better yet, as straightforward as can be. You earn an unlimited 2% rewards on all department stores. What’s more, you’ll earn 3% back at grocery stores (up to $6,000 spent annually) and 2% on gas (unlimited).

If you’re creative, when you’re at the grocery store, you can get back 3% on stores whose gift cards you find in the aisle, from iTunes to Amazon. Oh, and did we mention the Get 50 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $50 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months. Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period. signup bonus?

There’s also a higher-reward version of the card, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, which carries a $75 annual fee. This charge, however, is easy to earn back. Spend as little as $25 at eligible supermarkets every week, and you’ll knock out the fee by year’s end. It’s no surprise why the Blue Cash is one of our favorites. The rewards are simple, and if you work the spending categories right, you can earn maximum points.

  • Cash rewards
  • 6% back on groceries
  • 3% at department stores and gas stations
  • Rewards cap: None
  • Annual fee: $75
  • Signup bonus: $150

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom - $100 Cash Back Credit Card
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on Chase's
secure website

The Chase Freedom is a heck of a lot better than any store credit card we’ve yet come across. It earns rewards in rotating 5% categories up to $1,500 spent quarterly. Here’s the bonus schedule for 2014:

  • Q1 (January 1 – March 31): Gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks stores
  • Q2 (April 1 – June 30): Restaurants and Lowe’s home improvement stores
  • Q3 (July 1 – September 30): Gas stations and Kohl’s
  • Q4 (October 1 – December 31): Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores

All other purchases outside the bonus categories earn 1% back. With no annual fee, this all comes at a cost of free-ninety-nine. One of the main reasons the Chase Freedom makes an excellent shopping card is cardholder access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall–an online shopping mall on which cardholders earn 1-10% extra. The Mall contains a wide selection of retailers, from American Eagle to Zales and beyond. Now, remind me, why do you want a store-branded card?

  • Cash back rewards
  • 5% rewards on rotating bonus categories
  • Rewards cap: $1,500 in bonus spending per quarter
  • Annual fee: None
  • Signup bonus: Get a $100 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Store credit card rewards rates

Now that’s you’ve seen our tops shopping card picks, here are a few of the credit cards offered by some of the most popular stores in the US.

Card In-Store Rewards Other Perks Base Reward Rate APR
American Eagle Visa 4% 15% off first purchase
20% birthday coupon
1% 23.99%
Apple (Barclaycard iTunes Rewards Visa) 2% $10 iTunes gift card on 2ndpurchase
6-12 mo. intro APR
1% 16.99%-22.99%
Best Buy Reward Zone MasterCard**
Has special financing offer similar to store-only
4% 2% back when you use special financing options
$25 gift card after first purchase
1% 17.99%-21.74%, $0-$59 annual fee
Bloomingdales AmEx 1.5% double points on perfumes and fragrances, buy 5 shoes get 6th 25% off
Free meal and drink after spending $100 at their restaurants
1% Not available
Brooks Brothers Platinum MasterCard 4% 15% off first purchase, free shipping on returns 1% 14.24%-21.24%
Gap credit card (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic) 5% 30% off first purchase
Earn rewards with affiliates
1% 23.99%
Home Depot Consumer Credit Card (store only) 0% 6 months interest-free financing 0% 17.99% – 26.99%
Kohl’s Charge Card 20% (not limited to cardholders) 15%-30% off purchases
15% first purchase
N/A 21.9%
Nordstrom’s Visa Signature 2% Tiered rewards 1% 14.9%-22.9%
Saks Fifth Avenue MasterCard $0-$5k: 2%
$5,001-$10k: 4%
$10k+: 6%
3% at spas and salons, 2% on groceries
10% off first purchase
Tiered benefits
1% Not available
Sears credit card 0% “Exciting offers” every month – Only usable at certain stores, including Sears Kmart and more 0% Not available
Target REDCard (in-store only) 5% Extra 5% off one day if you fill 5 prescriptions
Free shipping
N/A 22.9%
Walmart Credit Card 0% $20 back on first purchase of $100+
15 cent/gallon discount on Walmart gas
$0-$1,500: 0.25%
$1,500-$3k: 0.5%
$3k+: 1%
22.9%

 

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