5 Things to Know About the Ulta Credit Card
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The Ulta credit card, issued by Comenity, may not be the look for everyone. It suffers from some of the same drawbacks as a lot of other store cards, including a lack of reward flexibility and a high ongoing APR.
But if you’re a frequent Ulta shopper — and especially if you use the Ulta salon — it’s a surprisingly valuable store card, thanks in large part to its high point values.
Here are five things to know about the Ulta credit card.
1. There are 2 versions of the Ulta credit card
When you apply for the Ulta credit card, you may be offered one of two versions of the card depending on your creditworthiness and financial history:
The Ultamate Rewards Credit Card is a “closed-loop” card, meaning it can be used only in-store at Ulta Beauty and online at Ulta.com.
The Ultamate Rewards Mastercard is an "open-loop" card that can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
Both cards have a $0 annual fee, but for those with sufficient credit to qualify, the Mastercard version offers more flexibility and benefits. For example, as of September 2022, Ultamate Rewards Mastercard holders can earn a modest sign-up bonus. (The store version features no such bonus.)
2. They work in tandem with Ulta's customer loyalty program
The Ulta credit cards bear the name of Ulta's customer loyalty program, Ultamate Rewards, which is free to join, credit card or not. The Ulta credit cards earn points in that loyalty program at the following rates:
2 points per $1 spent at Ulta. (1 point from your Ultamate Rewards membership, 1 point from the credit card).
1 point per $3 spent outside of Ulta Beauty (Mastercard version only).
At first glance, those aren't impressive rates. Many general-purpose, no-annual-fee credit cards earn 2x back on every purchase, everywhere. But it's possible to boost your Ulta card's earning rates to as high as 2.5x back, depending on how much you spend with the brand.
Here’s how points are earned through Ulta’s three rewards membership tiers:
Minimum spend per calendar year
Rewards program points (per $1 spent)
Credit card points (per $1 spent)
Total points earned per $1 spent
Those aren't particularly high spending thresholds for an Ulta loyalist to meet over the course of a year, especially when you factor in salon services. A single haircut, for example, costs upwards of $60, and a tube of designer mascara can run you up to $42.
Plus, the points you earn on those purchases are worth more than you might think.
3. Point values are high, but be aware of the expiration policy
As with many store cards, points can be redeemed only within the Ulta brand, so they lack flexibility. But the good news is that Ultamate Rewards points are worth quite a bit more than the industry standard of a penny per point. Plus, unlike a lot of store cards, the minimum redemption threshold is quite low — starting at just 100 points — and you get to decide when and how many to redeem at any given time.
In fact, you can more than double the value of your points by waiting to use a larger sum in one transaction:
Dollars off any products or services
Value per point
One caveat, though: Points expire after one year for base-level members. If you don't spend enough with Ulta to reach the Platinum or Diamond levels (where points don't expire), consider setting a calendar reminder so that you don't lose out on any point redemption opportunities.
Ulta Beauty at Target is considered a separate entity, so purchases made at Target on your Ultamate Rewards Mastercard will earn points only at the “outside of Ulta Beauty” rate of 1 point per $3 spent. This also means rewards points can’t be redeemed for merchandise at Ulta Beauty at Target, and the closed-loop version of the Ulta credit card can't be used in Target stores.
4. It’s a great deal for Ulta salon clients …
Of all the beautiful benefits of the Ulta credit card, this one is the real showstopper. All the same benefits you earn and redeem through the Ultamate rewards program also apply to the Ulta salon.
Bonus rewards for salon services are relatively rare among general-purpose credit cards. So if you spend significantly on salon treatments and buy most of your hair products and cosmetics at Ulta, you're likely to rack up a pile of valuable points.
To test out the real value of the Ulta credit card, I calculated my own potential savings if I were to move all my regular services to the Ulta salon and purchase my typical hair, skin care and cosmetic products at Ulta. For context, I tend to get my hair cut and colored on a six-to-eight-week schedule, and for these calculations, I budgeted $600 per year for product purchases.
The results? I found that in a single year, I would easily earn at least 3,600 points — worth well more than $200 off product or service purchases. That’s over 12% back in rewards before factoring in Platinum or Diamond level points, or any additional discounts or special bonuses. And because points can be redeemed to pay for salon services, it would completely cover the cost of at least one hair appointment per year.
5. ... But beware the ugly interest rate
The rewards available through the Ulta credit card are enough to excite any beauty queen. But if there’s any chance you’ll carry a balance from month to month, this card is not the look you’re going for.
As of February 2023, the ongoing APR on the Ultamate Rewards Mastercard ranged from 21.24% to 30.24% depending on creditworthiness, and the Ultamate Rewards Credit Card carried a 30.24% ongoing APR.
They say beauty is pain, but that interest rate is a little too painful. If there’s any chance you’ll carry a balance, you’re much better off combining the free-to-join Ultamate Rewards program with a 0% intro APR credit card card.
The Ultamate Rewards program is similar in name to the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, but they are unrelated.
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