5 Things to Know About the JCPenney Credit Card

The JCPenney credit card offers points and perks, but you’ll get more value from a rewards credit card that isn’t tied to the retailer.
Melissa Lambarena
By Melissa Lambarena 
Edited by Erin Hurd

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The no-annual-fee JCPenney credit card, issued by Synchrony Bank, can come with a tempting introductory offer upon checking out in stores or online, but it may not be the best card for you.

Like many store credit cards that can only be used with specific retailers, this card is accepted only at JCPenney stores, JCPenney's website and Rite Aid stores. The card occasionally offers special financing, which can offer a useful interest-free window, but you'll have to pay off the bill on time to avoid pricey debt. And, while the value of points is high, you'll earn them at the pace of a snail. The card's earning caps and reward redemption restrictions may also make this card less appealing.

Depending on how you plan to use the card, a general-purpose rewards credit card that isn’t tied to one retailer may offer more value and rewards with fewer limitations.

Here’s what you can expect from this card.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some applicants may be considered for an "open-loop" version of the card. Upon applying for the JCPenney credit card in store, you may find that you qualify for the JCPenney Mastercard. This card can be used at stores outside JCPenney, and it shares similar terms, with the exception of some fees that are typically found on credit cards with broad acceptance. When you apply, you'll be approved for one card type or the other if you qualify; you're not able to choose your card type.

1. The introductory offer lacks value

As a new cardholder, you can get 5%–35% back on select items on your next purchase (as of September 2023). If you're hoping to buy some fine jewelry (which qualifies for 35% back) or make another major purchase, this introductory offer could be pretty valuable. But most people would be better off choosing a card with a more robust introductory offer.

For example, with the $0-annual-fee Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, you could work toward a larger sign-up offer (from all eligible purchases, not just JCPenney shopping) in a few months: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. If you’re likely to meet the spending requirement with budgeted purchases, it’s an option worth considering.

2. Points have a high value, but watch out for restrictions

Cardholders earn 1 point per dollar spent at JCPenney. Though that's a paltry earning rate, points are worth 5 cents apiece. So you'll actually earn 5% back on JCPenney purchases. If you regularly shop at JCPenney, that's a solid earning rate. But big spenders, beware: You can't earn points on more than $2,000 spent on a single purchase with the retailer.

3. Points are issued as certificates

The JCPenney credit card issues rewards as certificates. At 200 points earned, you get a $10 certificate. Points won’t expire as long as the account is active, meaning you will have earned points within the last 12 months. Certificates will, however, expire. Your reward certificate will state the date it expires.

Certificates also pack some limitations. For instance, if you return an item you purchased with a rewards certificate, you won't get your rewards back. Also, you can only redeem up to 10 certificates at once.

A cash-back credit card can offer more flexibility and fewer restrictions. A card like the $0-annual-fee U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card earns 5% cash back on up to $2,000 spent in two categories of your choice (including department stores like JCPenney) from a list of options, 2% cash back on one everyday category from a list of options and 1% back on everything else. It allows you to redeem cash back as a statement credit or a deposit into an eligible U.S. Bank account.

4. Special financing options can be risky

The JCPenney credit card can offer a decent interest-free window to pay down a purchase, but make sure to understand which financing offer you’re getting and how it works. Otherwise, you could end up in debt.

Occasionally, the card offers two types of special financing offers ranging from six months to 30 months:

  • No interest for a certain amount of months: This option doesn’t start charging interest until after the promotional period ends. In that way, it functions like a standard 0% intro APR offer.

  • No interest “if paid in full within” a certain amount of months: This option defers interest for the duration of the promotion and applies it to the bill if you don’t finish paying off the purchase in full by the deadline. So, if you still owe pennies on the original purchase after a promotional window, interest will be charged for all months included in the offer. If you’re not prepared for this kind of expense, it can easily catapult you into debt.

With a steep variable APR of 31.24% (as of September 2023), it’s critical to avoid carrying a balance on this card unless you can pay it down on time within a promotional interest-free window.

Other rewards credit cards can offer a safer and more straightforward 0% intro offer. The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR.

5. Some perks come with strings

The JCPenney credit card offers retail-specific perks, but you’ll have to meet a spending requirement to get them. The perks are attached to a cardholder status, either Gold or Platinum, depending on how much you spend. Here’s what they offer:

  • Gold status: You must spend $500 or more annually on merchandise or services online or in store with the card to earn and maintain this status. As a Gold member, you’ll qualify for a $10 birthday coupon and an exclusive passbook of coupons.

  • Platinum status: You must spend $1,000 or more on merchandise or services in store or online with the card annually to earn and maintain this status. Platinum status qualifies you for a $15 birthday coupon, bonus points days and exclusive coupon offers.

While these perks might offer savings, other rewards credit cards don’t always make you meet a spending requirement to earn them. You can get perks with fewer strings elsewhere. For instance, American Express credit cards have AmEx offers that provide targeted discounts with specific retailers that sometimes include department stores. Terms do apply, but the spending requirements likely won’t be as steep.

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