Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
» Editor's note
The in-store-only or "closed-loop" Sears Card closed for new applications in April 2023 and has been replaced with the Shop Your Way Mastercard. Existing holders of the Sears Card will still be able to use it for in-store purchases.
If you shop at the same store frequently — once a month or more — it could potentially be worthwhile to get that store's dedicated credit card, if its discounts and rewards are useful to you.
But even die-hard Sears fans might want to skip the Shop Your Way Mastercard and opt instead for a general-purpose rewards card that's less complicated, not to mention more lucrative and flexible.
Here are five things to know about the Shop Your Way Mastercard, issued by Citibank.
Sears filed for bankruptcy in October 2018, but stores aren't disappearing entirely, nor is the Shop Your Way Mastercard.
1. You get rewarded for spending in useful bonus categories …
The Shop Your Way Mastercard can be used at any merchant that accepts Mastercard, and it earns Shop Your Way points. You'll earn 5% back in points on gas station purchases and 3% back in points on eligible restaurant and grocery store purchases up to the first $10,000 of combined spending in those categories per calendar year. (After that, you'll drop back to a rewards rate of 1% back in points.) You'll also earn 2% back in points on eligible Sears and Kmart purchases and 1% back in points on other eligible purchases.
The card also offers "special financing" on select store purchases. More on that below.
Sears previously offered two other cards that are no longer accepting new applicants; the Sears Card and the Sears Mastercard with ThankYou from Citi. Existing holders of those cards can continue to earn and redeem rewards. For the Sears Mastercard with Thank You, one notable redemption option includes the ability to redeem points for travel rewards by transferring them to travel partners which include JetBlue, Choice Privileges and Wyndham Rewards.
2. … But rewards are complex, limited and inflexible
With the Shop Your Way Mastercard, the rewards you earn at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores may seem comparable with — or even better than — what's offered by the most competitive store cards on the market. But take a closer look:
The card offers rewards not as cash back, but as a percentage back "in points." Per the program's terms, 1,000 points are equal to $1 that you can redeem in eligible places. That's a truly paltry point value of 0.001 cent each, but here's how it works in practice: If you earn 5% back (in points) on a $30 gas fill-up, you can expect to collect 1,500 points (worth $1.50 when you redeem). Using this card requires some math to figure out what you're actually getting.
Regarding those bonus categories, the elevated rates apply only to the first $10,000 in spending per year, and that's a combined cap across all bonus areas. You may never hit that limit, but many rewards cards impose no points cap at all.
You can redeem your rewards for purchases at Sears and Kmart, or for merchandise and third-party gift cards through the Shop Your Way portal. A general-purpose cash-back credit card would offer much more redemption flexibility.
Unlike other rewards programs, Shop Your Way Mastercard points can expire; they're valid only for 12 months from the date they are awarded. Use them or lose them.
The Shop Your Way rewards program functions as a portal to redeem points, but it also works like an online bonus mall, meaning you can earn points, too, by shopping through it. You'll be automatically enrolled in Shop Your Way if you're approved for the credit card, but you don't need the credit card to join the program.
3. You won't have to pay an annual fee …
The Shop Your Way Mastercard doesn't charge an annual fee. This can make it easier for you to keep the card open for a longer period of time. The average age of your accounts is a factor that affects your length of credit history, so having cards open for longer can impact your credit score.
4. ... But APRs are high, and there's no true 0% intro APR
The APR for purchases can range as high as 25% or more (30.24% as of this update in June 2023). That's much higher than the average rate on credit card accounts that incur interest.
Worse, the card's "special financing" offer on select large purchases can end up costing you hundreds of dollars in interest. That's because the interest in these promotions is not waived, as it is with true introductory 0% APR offers. Instead, it's deferred.
When interest is waived for, say, 12 months, the card issuer doesn't charge you any interest. After the 12-month period ends, the issuer can charge you interest going forward.
But when interest is deferred for 12 months, interest is accruing in the background. As long as you have the purchase fully paid off by the end of the 12 months, you'll pay no interest. But if any of the balance is left over — even 50 cents — you'll pay interest on the entire purchase going all the way back to the day you made it.
5. The card offers a sign-up bonus
The Shop Your Way Mastercard frequently offers limited-time bonuses for new cardholders. For example, through Feb. 29, 2024, the card is offering a $75 statement credit for every $500 you spend, up to $225, on purchases made within the first 90 days of holding the card.
That’s a considerable bonus, especially because it's relatively rare to find them at all on store credit cards, and it may help if you need to defray an initial purchase.
Information related to the Sears Card and Shop Your Way Mastercard has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.