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This article was last updated Mar 22, 2012, 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.
Macy’s is one of those legendary New York City establishments with a history that puts it into a league of its own. After all, the Macy’s flagship store was where the blockbuster Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street” was filmed. Plus what’s not to like about a store that originated the concept of super-sized helium balloon cartoon characters floating along 5th Avenue during Thanksgiving?
More than a monument to nostalgia, Macy’s also carries a full line of excellent quality clothes and other items. So whether you walk into one of their stores or visit them online, Macy’s is a great store with a longstanding reputation for good products and services. But does the Macy's credit card offer something unique to cardholders?
Macy’s Store Charge Card
If you shop at Macy’s then you basically have two big choices of cards. One is just a Macy’s department store charge card. The other is an American Express card affiliated with Macy’s. All of the Macy’s cards entitle you to participate in the store’s Star Rewards Program. Once you accumulate $25 worth of rewards you get a gift certificate that can be redeemed toward purchases at Macy’s.
Macy’s Star Rewards Card
This is a store charge card with some perks attached. The way it works is that you have an account at the store, and you can use the plastic to make purchases. They send you a bill at the end of the month, and if you want to carry a balance and pay interest on that debt you can. But the rate will be steep, around 25% APR or more.
These days we all want freebies and rewards, so it’s not surprising that on the Macy’s website they promote this card by heavily spinning that angle. In big bold red and white letters and attractive graphics it says “Open a Macy’s Card and Receive 20% Off Today and Tomorrow.” That got my attention, and like most consumers my initial reaction was that it entitled me to 20% off when I signed up, plus 20% for the rest of the time I used the card. Yeah, well, that was my bad. First of all, the “tomorrow” idea is literal. You are entitled to a 20% discount on purchases made using the Macy’s credit card the same day you sign up for the card, plus the very next day. After than the deal expires. But it gets a lot worse.
- The discount cannot be combined with other discount offers except in some specific circumstances. You cannot apply it to services, gift cards, restaurants, or gourmet food and wine.
- Here’s another kicker. Your savings from using the discount cannot exceed $100. Plus if your credit application is not immediately approved then you don’t get the discount at all.
- I generally recommend that you never sign up for a store charge card just to get the promotional discount anyway. Let’s say you do get this card and save $100. Because you signed up for a new credit card that can – and often will – trigger a negative ding on your credit report.
- So if you are trying to buy a house and make the mistake of signing up for a store’s card to save $100 it can wind up costing you higher interest on your mortgage thanks to a lower credit score. That might cost you $100 a month for the next 30 years.
If you have good enough credit to get Macy’s in-store card then why not get a card that has some substantial services and benefits and is accepted elsewhere? That’s my recommendation, and since Macy’s does offer “real” credit cards through American Express I’ll tell you about those next.
Macy’s American Express Credit Card
Basically this card takes the Star Rewards program and rolls it into a standard Amex card. You are entitled to travel, dining, and shopping discounts and coupons from 100s of Amex partners – but these are nothing more than what you might expect to get from carrying any American Express card. The APR is approximately 24.50% and there is no annual fee.
Spend $500 to $999 with the card and you’ll earn 1.5% rewards (instead of the standard 1%) on Macy’s purchases. Meanwhile you earn 1% on all other purchases outside of Macy’s. Cardholders also get free returns by mail on purchases made at the Macy’s online store. Spend $1,000 or more and you still get just 1% on all purchases, but your Macy’s rewards go up to 3%.
Macy’s American Express Preferred Credit Card
There’s also a higher status card, the Macy’s Amex Preferred Card with no annual fee. With it you get 3% Star Rewards at Macy’s all the time, plus savings and upgrades on travel, hotels, and rental cars through companies that partner with American Express. But in order to be eligible for this card you have to spend at least $1,000 a year at Macy’s. So it is really the Amex card for customers who have made it to the 3% rewards level.
While reading feedback about these cards I came across comments from a customer who alleged that they got charged a $2.00 processing fee when they used their Macy’s Amex card. They say that they were told that it is two cards in one, a Macy’s card for in-store purchases and an Amex card good everywhere else. They didn’t specify that they wanted the purchases they made inside the Macy’s store to go on the Amex side of the card, so they got charged the fee added for putting on their Macy’s account.
Yeah, it sounds confusing. But whenever card fees are so convoluted that I cannot get my head around them I don’t bother to figure it all out. I just go looking for a more sensible card with straightforward terms I comprehend.
Is the Macy's Card Worth the Trouble
The in-store charge card is nothing I’d recommend to anyone, for reasons already outlined. Regarding the American Express credit cards Macy’s offers, they have really meager rewards saddled by all sorts of limitations and restrictions. I recommend forgetting about all Macy’s plastic offering because it doesn’t stack up in terms of benefits, services, and rewards.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.