*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
This article was last updated Sep 05, 2018, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.
If you’ve ever been asked to apply for a credit card at checkout at your favorite retailer, you’ve been offered a store-branded credit card. They can be tempting offers to accept. For starters, the bar to get approved is usually low. Credit issuers are typically more willing to approve people with less than perfect credit for store cards. Secondly, they often offer rewards, discounts or special financing on your purchases that can save you more money compared to a general-purpose card.
However, the risk with store cards is the cost of borrowing. They’re not meant for people who often carry a balance month to month since they have much higher interest rates than typical cards — 25% or higher in many cases.
In this guide, we list the best store cards for common shopping categories like apparel, groceries, online shopping and more. We also provide alternative general-purpose cards to consider if you don’t have clear spending habits.
Here are our store card recommendations:
- Online shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
- Big box retailers: Target REDcard Credit Card
- Apparel: TJX Rewards® Credit Card
- Home improvement: Lowe's Advantage Card
- Wholesale club shopping: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
- Groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Alternative: Top general-purpose cards for shopping
Online shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
What we like: Avid Amazon shoppers can benefit from the fantastic rewards they can earn with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card: Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases. While there is a $0 annual fee, you need a Prime membership — currently $119 a year for the annual plan — to benefit from the rewards rate. Without a Prime membership, you’ll receive the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card which earns 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases.
There are general-purpose cashback cards that offer Amazon.com as a 5% bonus category during the year, but that only typically lasts three months and is often capped at $1,500 of spending. You’ll earn more cash back with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. Overall, if you frequently shop on Amazon.com and if you already have a Prime membership, this card is a no-brainer. Plus, new cardmembers can receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval.
What to watch out for: This card is a solid offering and there aren’t any real drawbacks. You may find the Prime membership requirement annoying, but you receive plenty of benefits from being a member that can make it worthwhile: free 2-day shipping, free books and magazines, music and video streaming, and more. Just note you need to be an active Prime member to maintain the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. If your membership expires you’ll be downgraded to the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card which earns a lower rewards rate at 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases.
The information related to the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
Big box retailers: Target REDcard Credit Card
What we like: The Target REDcard Credit Card is a unique store card that provides an instant 5% discount on Target and Target.com purchases. Compared to other cards that reward you points or cash back that you have to redeem at a later time, this discount instantly reduces the cost of your purchase. This card has a $0 annual fee and cardholders can benefit from REDcard exclusive perks, such as early access to special events, free 2-day shipping, extended returns and more.
Fans of Target who prefer to do all of their shopping in one store — from groceries to apparel, house supplies, furniture and more — can benefit greatly from the 5% discount on Target and Target.com purchases provided by the Target REDcard Credit Card.
What to watch out for: This card can only be used in Target stores and online at Target.com, so if Target isn’t you big box retailer of choice, this card won’t provide much benefit. You may want to check out the Walmart Credit Card.
Apparel: TJX Rewards® Credit Card
What we like: The TJX Rewards® Credit Card offers a great rewards rate at T.J. Maxx and their partner stores — Earn 5 points for each $1 of net purchases at T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and Sierra Trading Post stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and online at tjxmaxx.com or sierratradingpost.com. You’ll have a hard time finding another card that can beat that rate. Some cashback cards offer department stores as a 5% bonus category during the year, but those purchases are typically capped at $1,500 in spending and the 5% rate is only available for three months. You’ll earn more rewards by using the TJX Rewards® Credit Card. And, if you want to earn rewards outside the aforementioned stores, there is a traditional card avaiable — the TJX Rewards® Platinum Mastercard.
New cardmembers can benefit from 10% off your first online or in-store purchase (terms apply). The rewards certificates you earn can conveniently be redeemed at T.J. Maxx and their partner stores.
What to watch out for: Since this is a store card, you can only use it at T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and Sierra Trading Post stores, or online at tjxmaxx.com or sierratradingpost.com. Therefore, if you don’t shop at those stores, this isn’t the best card for your apparel shopping.
Home improvement: Lowe's Advantage Card
What we like: The Lowe's Advantage Card is a great choice if you plan on doing home improvements and want to benefit from various special financing offers or a discount of 5% off your eligible purchase. The discount is instantly applied at checkout, so there’s no need to deal with redemption later on. Frequent Lowe’s shoppers can benefit from the everyday discount, but even occasional shoppers who just want to use a special financing offer can benefit, since there’s a $0 annual fee.
What to watch out for: The special financing offer and discount cannot be combined. So, you’ll have to decide which you want to take advantage of. If you have a large purchase, that you can’t pay off right away, it may make more sense to utilize a special financing offer. While if you make small purchases less than $299, the discount is your only option and can help you save some money. Beware that special financing offers charge deferred interest — so it’s key to pay your balance in full prior to the end of the interest-free period.
Wholesale club shopping: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
4% on gas, 3% on restaurants & travel, 2% at Costco, 1% everywhere else
0% fee for transactions while traveling abroad
$0 annual fee
- Exclusively for Costco Members: Go Big with Cash Back Rewards
- 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
- 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
- 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
See additional details for Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
What we like: The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is a great choice for Costco shoppers who want to earn a good cashback rate on their Costco purchases and a high rate on Costco gas spending — 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter, 3% on restaurants & travel, 2% at Costco & Costco.com, 1% on all other purchases. While you can earn the same rate on Costco purchases with select flat-rate cashback cards, this is one of the best credit cards for gas and you can use it anywhere.
What to watch out for: To benefit from earning rewards on your Costco purchases, you need to hold a Costco membership, which costs $60 a year at the basic Gold Star level. If you’re reluctant to pay for membership, there are other flat-rate cashback cards that can earn you the same rate on Costco purchases. Other wholesale clubs, like Sam’s Club and BJ’s, also have their own credit cards, but they require membership too.
Another setback of this card is that cashback reward is only distributed once a year — after your February billing statement closes — as a reward certificate. This limits your ability to save money during the year since you’ll only see rewards once a year.
Supermarket Spending: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
$200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.*
6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases*
3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases*
- $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
- 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
- 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
- Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
- Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
- Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
- $95 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
What we like: The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest rewards rate for spending at U.S. supermarkets that we could find — 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases. Since this card isn’t restricted to one store like others mentioned on this list, you can use it anywhere American Express is accepted. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express comes with great perks including travel accident insurance, free 2-day shipping with ShopRunner, exclusive access to ticket presales for Broadway shows and concert tours, family and sporting events, among other benefits. Terms apply.
This card also offers a welcome offer where you can earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months. Plus, if you plan on making several purchases that you need time to pay back, there’s an intro 0% for 12 months on purchases as well as an intro 0% for 12 months on balance transfers (after, 14.74%-25.74% Variable APR).
What to watch out for: This card comes with a $95 annual fee, but if you spend $1,584 annually on groceries alone you can recoup the fee. That should be pretty manageable and you’ll most likely use this card for other purchases as well.
Alternative: Top general-purpose cards for shopping
A store card may not be the best option for you if you don’t frequent certain stores. If that’s the case, you may be better off with a general-purpose card that you can use at any store and earn a decent rewards rate. Below we list cards that can be used anywhere and may provide you more benefit than a store card.
Quarterly rotating bonus categories: Chase Freedom® and Discover it® Cash Back
Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee
See additional details for Chase Freedom®
Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically*
Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*
Any amount, any time. Cash back rewards never expire*
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
- Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
- Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
- Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
- Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No annual fee.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Cash Back
Both the Chase Freedom® and the Discover it® Cash Back have quarterly rotating cashback categories that you can earn a higher rewards rate in. Here are the rewards for each card:
- Chase Freedom®: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Discover it® Cash Back: 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases.
The bonus categories may even include some of the stores mentioned in this review — just remember to activate the bonus categories each quarter so you don’t miss out on the higher rate. You can set calendar alerts, email reminders and push notifications to remind you when to activate.
Another perk of these two cards are the new cardmember offers. With the Chase Freedom®, you can earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. For the Discover it® Cash Back, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.* These offers are a great way to earn additional cash back as compared to store cards, which typically have small new cardmember offers or none at all.
Financing new purchases: Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
0%* for 18 months on Purchases*
0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers*
15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)
- The ONLY card with No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee… EVER
- 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness
- There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
- The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
- Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day – just say “representative”
- Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month
See additional details for Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
If you have large upcoming purchases like furniture or appliances, or if you think you may end up carrying a balance for several months, it’s a good idea to use a card offering an intro 0% APR period for purchases. The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever offers an intro 0%* for 18 months on Purchases* (after, 15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable) APR). This can provide you with the needed time to pay off your balance without incurring interest. This card won’t earn you rewards, but it can help you save money on interest payments compared to carrying a balance on a card lacking an intro 0% APR period.