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The Gap credit card sounds appealing at the checkout line: Just apply now to earn an extra 20% off today’s purchase! Sounds pretty tempting, right? Hold on there, shopaholic; don’t sign up just yet. Like most store credit cards, the Gap card is pretty restrictive, both in terms of where you earn rewards and how you can redeem them. All but the most diehard Gap fans probably won’t get that much value out of the card – and there’s pretty much no reason to use the card outside of the store.
The GapCard basics
For a store credit card, the GapCard tops the standard 3% back in-store. It give you 5 points per $1 spent at Gap and their affiliate stores, which include Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta. There’s no annual fee, and you’ll get a $10 reward card for every 1,000 points you earn. Like most credit cards, there’s a store-only and general-purpose version: the strictly Gap credit card can only be used in-store and with affiliates, while the Gap Visa can be used everywhere that Visa is accepted and earns 1 point per $1 spent.
The GapCard comes with a few other bonuses:
- 10% off at Gap, Old Navy and Piperlime every Tuesday, online or in-store, provided you pay with your card.
- A mysterious special discount on your birthday
- 500 points when you opt for paperless statements
- 2,000 points if you’re willing to be bombarded with voice message and email “updates” (a fancy word for more spam than you can shake a stick at)
Similar opportunities to pick up a few bonus points also crop up here and there.
Gap Silver: for the big spender
If you charge $800 or more onto your card in a calendar year, you’ll automatically upgrade to a Gap Silver Card, which gives you additional benefits including:
- Free shipping within the U.S.
- Free basic alterations on Banana Republic merchandise
- Special access to additional sales
Some of these perks are better than others. The extra sales and free alterations are nice, for sure, but free shipping isn’t as exclusive as it sounds. Every order of $50 or more at gap.com gets free shipping, regardless of whether you’re a cardholder. Quite a few Gap items cost more than $50 by themselves (1969 skinny jeans are currently going for $69.95), so the odds of you spending that much anyway are pretty good. You’ll also have to fight to keep your Silver status and spend $800 each year: Like many elite programs, if you don’t meet the qualifications, you lose your status the next year.
The fine print
We’ve heard from a number of our readers that, in practice, Gap is a lot more lenient about rewards redemption than their terms and conditions would suggest, various readers haven’t been subjected to the restrictions listed here. That said, we can’t guarantee that you’ll get clemency from their myriad redemption rules. The full rewards program terms and conditions are available here.
Unlike other rewards cards, the Gap credit card is pretty restrictive in terms of point redemption options. You only option is $10 gift cards or certificates (no cash) for the store associated with your credit card account (the Gap credit card earns a Gap gift card, the Banana Republic card earns a BR gift card, and so on).
As if that wasn’t inconvenient enough, you can only redeem two $10 gift cards at a time, which means you can’t pay full price for big purchases with your hard-earned rewards. There are a handful of other restrictions – for example, your purchase must be greater than the value of the gift card.
Bottom line: should you get a Gap credit card?
Getting a Gap card and using a Gap card are two different stories. The world won’t end if you get the card (after all, it has no annual fee), and you’ll get the free shipping and bonus point goodies. But using your card, especially using it often enough to earn Silver status, is a less appealing prospect. Unless you can more or less earn Silver status by shopping exclusively at Gap (spending $800 there each year), you might as well let it go. You might get decent rewards at Gap itself, but in the outside world, you can do a lot better.
There are any number of cards that will give you a higher base rewards rate, a bonus rate on all retailers, or flexible cash back instead of $10 gift cards. Given that the Gap card is restrictive in both earning and redeeming bonus points, it’s often not worth using outside of the store. Even then, a credit card online mall can sometimes net you 5% back or better at gap.com.
Discover it® - Cashback Match™
The Discover it® - Cashback Match™ earns a solid 5% back on bonus categories that change quarterly. In 2013, they offer rewards on “spring style” from April through July and “holiday shopping” from October through December. Moreover, if you shop at gap.com through the ShopDiscover online rewards mall, you’ll earn an additional 10% cash back on your purchases everyday – the same value you’d get from the Gap card, but your other purchases are rewarded as well.
20% off today’s purchase might be a decent signup bonus, but this one sounds better: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That’s how much you can earn by signing up for the Chase Freedom®, which also earns 5% back on rotating bonus categories. Though this year’s categories don’t include retailers, you can still earn 3% cash back at gap.com through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall (and 10% back at Kohl’s, and 7% back at Macy’s…). Since the Ultimate Rewards Mall’s offerings are so extensive, why settle for just one retailer?