The Best Store Credit Cards: Retail Cards That Don’t Suck

  • We've updated the rates and marketing information in this guide.

A store credit card can be one of the best ways to save money while you shop. Using a co-branded card specific to your favorite retailer often means deeper discounts, exclusive coupons, and the chance to earn lots of points back on your purchases.

See the best credit cards for...

Our top credit card picks

Retail cards have been getting a bad rap for years. They try to entice you with financing offers, which can seem like a relief when making big purchases. They suck you in with one-time deals, like a 15% discount on your first shopping trip. But in return, many retail credit cards come with prickly terms, low credit limits, customer service issues, predatory financing offers, and annoying fees buried in the fine print.

Luckily, we’ve found many retail cards that don’t suck.

That said, our picks are good only if you’re able to pay off your bill each month, and if you shop at that store frequently enough to reap the rewards. They’re bad if you carry a balance.

Before you apply for any retail credit card, we’ve outlined the most important things you need to be aware of before falling into a retail-card trap.

Our picks for store credit cards that are widely accepted

Credit cards we reviewed
You need to know
Annual fee
Intro bonus
Regular APR
You need to knowOur pick if you shop at Whole Foods or Amazon
Annual fee$0 with Prime Membership
Intro bonus
$70
Regular APR14.24% - 22.24% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowGreat if you spend more than $3,500 a year at Best Buy
Annual feeUp to $59
Intro bonus
10% back
Regular APR12.24% - 29.49% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowBest for Walmart shoppers
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
5%
Regular APR17.99% - 26.99% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowGreat if you spend close to $1,000 a year at Gap
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
Save 20% and free shipping
Regular APR25.99% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowBest for purchases on which you want extended warranty
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
N/A
Regular APR15.24% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowGreat if you want status while shopping at Nordstrom
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
N/A
Regular APR10.90% - 22.90% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowGreat for gas rewards
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
$45
Regular APR14.90% - 22.90% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowGreat if you frequent IKEA
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
N/A
Regular APR21.99% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowGreat for everyday spending (if you shop at American Eagle)
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
Save 20%
Regular APR25.99% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.

Our picks for store credit cards that can be used only at the store in question

Credit cards we reviewed
You need to know
Annual fee
Intro bonus
Regular APR
You need to know8% back on Express purchases
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
Save 20%
Regular APR28.49% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowA stellar rate on Pottery Barn purchases
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
N/A
Regular APR28.49% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowOur pick if you shop at Target
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
N/A
Regular APR22.90% variable
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on Target’s secure website.

Open- vs. closed-loop cards: Some retail cards work only at that store, meaning they’re a closed-loop card. Others are open-loop cards, which means they work anywhere the payment network (Visa or Mastercard, for instance) is accepted. Learn more about the difference between closed- and open-loop cards in the Different types of store credit cards (and where you can use them) section.

If you hold only a closed-loop card, you have to use debit, cash, or another credit card for your other purchases. If you shop at a particular retailer only a few times a year, its store card might not go very far in helping you build credit, as you won’t have a ton of payment history. In those situations, you may prefer an open-loop card.

In many cases, it’s better to avoid tying yourself to a specific store. If you visit a Pottery Barn only once every five years, skip the Pottery Barn Credit Card—we’d rather you go for a general rewards credit card that earns bonus points at many retailers.

Here are our favorite merchant-agnostic cards for buying stuff:

Credit cards we reviewed
You need to know
Annual fee
Intro bonus
Regular APR
You need to knowBest cash back card if you’re a Bank of America customer
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
$200
Regular APR13.99% - 23.99% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowGenerous rewards in rotating categories
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
$150
Regular APR13.99% - 23.99% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowOur pick for best everyday use
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
N/A
Regular APR13.99% - 23.99% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowBest 0% APR offer with cash back rewards
Annual fee$0
Intro bonus
$150
Regular APR14.99% - 23.74% variable
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
You need to knowThe best grocery card (if you spend at least $100 a week at US supermarkets)
Annual fee$95
Intro bonus
$250
Regular APR12.99% to 23.99% variable
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

The research

You should get a store-specific credit card if you shop at that store on a regular basis.

These cards provide great spending rewards at their own stores, and you’re more likely to see those rewards come to fruition because they’re tied to places you shop at on a regular basis.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

 

Our pick if you shop at Whole Foods or Amazon

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Earn cash back on groceries from Amazon and Whole Foods, and on almost everything you buy on Amazon.

What we love

With no spending caps and a tremendous array of items for purchase beyond groceries, you have the potential to rack up tons of cash back.

  • No spending cap means huge potential to rack up cash back rewards if you mostly shop at Amazon
  • Receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval

What we don’t love

You have to be a Prime member and primarily shop at Whole Foods or Amazon to make this card worth it.

  • 5% cash back rate applies only to Amazon and Whole Foods, so don’t expect to use this at other supermarkets
  • 5% rate also excludes purchases made through international Amazon sites like Amazon.co.uk and some Amazon-owned sites such as Audible
  • You need Amazon Prime membership to apply (which can cost $119 annually)
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0 with Prime Membership

Regular APR

14.24% - 22.24% variable

Intro Bonus

$70

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Chase

Why we like it: If you have an Amazon Prime membership, the odds are good that you’re already a big spender on Amazon—which means you should consider adding the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card to your wallet, as it earns 5% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods.

Amazon occasionally offers cardholders additional discounts on top of the usual 5% cash back (we’ve spotted rates as high as 20% on some items during past holiday seasons and other sales, like Prime Day).

Plus, the Amazon card has a number of other lesser-known benefits, including extended warranty protection and travel insurance.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: You need to have Amazon Prime membership, which costs $119 annually if you pay in one chunk, in order to apply for this card. Since you can get some of the benefits of being a Prime member at other companies piecemeal—maybe you’re all in on streaming Disney+ rather than Prime Video, or you don’t value free shipping as much as you used to because many retailers offer it now anyway—you might be hesitant to drop $119 on a membership. And we don’t blame you.

Also, while 5% cash back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases is great, the card’s 2% rewards rate at restaurants and gas stations is just okay. You can do better in those categories with other cards.

Read our full review of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.

Target RedCard Credit Card

 

Our pick if you shop at Target

Target RedCard™ Credit Card

Save 5% on groceries from Target (and nearly everything else you buy there).

What we love

Instant 5% off at the cash register makes it easy to earn discounts on not just groceries but also anything else you buy at Target.

  • For qualifying purchases, there’s no cap on the 5% discount
  • Cardholders get free shipping and an extra 30 days (past the standard 90 days) to make returns

What we don’t love

You can’t use this card anywhere beyond Target. Plus, the high interest rate on purchases means any interest charged on an unpaid balance could quickly negate the value of rewards.

  • Card works only at Target
  • High APR on purchases
Target RedCard™ Credit Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on Target’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

22.90% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Closed loop (works only at Target and a few other places, such as in-store Starbucks locations)
Issuer: TD Bank

Why we like it: When you pay with your Target RedCard at checkout, you immediately get 5% off—there’s no other work required to earn and redeem rewards.

Plus, Target cardholders enjoy other benefits, including a 10% off coupon on their account anniversary, free shipping, and an additional 30 days beyond the standard 90-day policy to return purchases made with the card (this doesn’t apply to non-returnable items, such as digital downloads).

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Unless you spend all of your money at Target, you’ll likely want another piece of plastic in your wallet. The RedCard is a closed-loop card, meaning it works only at Target (and some other tangential spots, like in-store Starbucks kiosks). For everything else you want to buy on credit, consider a straight cash back card.

Read our full review of the Target RedCard Credit Card.

Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

 

Best if you’re a Costco member

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

3% cash back on restaurants is above-average, though not the best rate. But this card also functions as a great gas rewards card and a $0 annual fee travel card.

What we love

This card is good for dining, but we also love it for travel and gas.

  • Cardholders also get 3% back on eligible travel and 4% back on eligible gas
  • No foreign transaction fees makes this a good card to bring internationally if you don’t have a dedicated travel rewards card
  • The undernoted but delightful extended warranty perk

What we don’t love

Rewards are easiest to redeem on Costco purchases, yet the rewards rate on Costco purchases isn’t that impressive.

  • The 2% cash back rate on Costco purchases is disappointing, considering 2% is the standard for good cash back cards anyway
  • Rewards aren’t instant; you receive them as an annual certificate redeemable only at US Costco warehouses
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.24% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Citibank

Why we like it: If you’re a one-credit-card-only kind of person, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card can serve you well. It earns 2% back at Costco, but we really love this card for the spending you do elsewhere, like at gas stations and restaurants.

You earn 3% on travel and dining with the Costco card, making it one of our favorite no annual fee cards in those rewards categories. It also offers travel insurance, extended warranty on items purchased with the card, and rental car insurance, among tons of other benefits.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: To be eligible for this card, you have to be a Costco member. If you have nowhere to store a 2.66-liter of dish soap, the $60 annual membership fee may not be worth it.

Also, many people can actually get better rewards for their Costco spending with other credit cards.

Read our full review of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi.

Capital One Walmart Rewards Card

 

Best for Walmart shoppers

Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card

You get a lofty 5% back at Walmart.com plus a decent 2% back on restaurant and travel purchases, making this a great everyday card for Walmart shoppers.

What we love

The high rewards rate (5%) on Walmart.com shopping is on par with what you earn with other retail cards, like the Target REDcard and Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.

  • You have plenty of options to redeem your rewards, including applying them to your next Walmart purchase or getting a statement credit

What we don’t love

This card is great for online Walmart shoppers, but it has some limitations if you’re more old-school in your shopping habits.

  • Although you earn 5% back on purchases made at brick-and-mortar Walmart stores for the first 12 months, you earn only 2% after that (which is fine but not great)
  • To earn the full 5% back in your first year, you need to pay for in-store purchases using Walmart Pay, which requires you to download an app
Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 9/30/19. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

17.99% - 26.99% variable

Intro Bonus

5%

Recommended Credit

Average

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Capital One

Why we like it: The Capital One Walmart Rewards Card is rewarding for all Walmart shoppers in year one, and for online Walmart shoppers after that.

The Walmart Rewards card earns 5% back at Walmart.com and 2% back in Walmart stores, plus 2% on restaurant and travel spending and 1% on all other purchases. However, the rate for in-store Walmart purchases is bumped to 5% in your first 12 months as a cardholder if you pay with Walmart Pay. Oh, and that’s all for no annual fee.

The 5% rate at Walmart.com applies to grocery pickup and delivery (pickup is free, but there may be a charge for delivery), so this card could save you time and energy if it encourages you to pivot to digital shopping. You can make purchases online or in the app, reserve a pickup time, and swing by your local Walmart to get your stuff, for no additional fee. You can even buy non-grocery items online and pick them up in store, and you’ll still earn 5% back.

We also like that you aren’t sucked into redeeming your rewards at Walmart only. You can claim them in a number of ways, including as a statement credit, to cover a recent purchase, or to book travel in Capital One’s travel portal.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: For people who prefer physical stores, we’re less sure about this card’s long-term value. After year one, you get just 2% back on your in-store spending (versus 5% back on Walmart purchases made online). But if you switch your shopping habits to the digital age, you lose the joy of wandering through the aisles.

You should get a store-agnostic card that earns great rewards if you shop at a bunch of different retailers and want bonus points or cash back for your spending.

If you are utterly devoted to a brand, you might be able to rack up rewards at a faster clip with its store card. But for most everyone else, we recommend sticking to a general rewards credit card that offers a great rate across a variety of shopping categories and stores. The discounts may not be as deep, but you’ll cover more surface area, which translates to more rewards in the long run.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card

 

Best cash back card if you’re a Bank of America customer

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

0% APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then a variable APR of 13.99% - 23.99%). Plus, the bonus rewards will keep this card at the top of your wallet for years to come.

What we love

3% cash back on a category of your choice (either gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings) is great, but it can get even better. Once your account balance hits $20,000 or more, you’ll be eligible to get bonus rewards through BofA’s Preferred Rewards program.

  • $200 bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 90 days
  • You earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (or 3.5% for the highest tier of BofA’s Preferred Rewards program customers)

What we don’t love

In order to get bonus rewards, you need to have at least $20,000 saved with Bank of America. To qualify for the highest 5.25% rate, you need to park a whopping $100,000.

  • You receive 3% and 2% bonus rewards only on the first $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter, then 1%
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$200

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Bank of America

Why we like it: The Bank of America Cash Rewards card allows you to pick a 3% bonus category from a preset list: gas, dining, travel, drug stores, home improvement/furnishings, or online shopping. You also earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% everywhere else. (Note: The 3% and 2% bonus rewards apply to your first $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases. After that, you get just 1% back.)

As for the 3% bonus category, frequent spenders might consider selecting online shopping, which covers online and mobile-app purchases made at most retailers you typically see in the mall (think Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Nike). It also applies to many online-only retailers, including Groupon, Etsy, and Ticketmaster.

And while 3% is good, you could earn as much as 5.25%, a higher rate than what you’d earn from most store-branded cards anyway. That’s because this card is eligible for bonuses when you qualify for Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, which boosts your rewards rate based on the size of your Bank of America or Merrill account (or a combination of those).

The card lets you choose a new 3% bonus category every month. So while online shopping might make sense during the holiday season, you might want to switch it to gas ahead of your next road trip.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Bonus rewards are capped at $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases. Once you hit that limit, the rate drops to 1%.

What’s considered “online shopping” is determined by Visa, not by Bank of America (card networks like Visa assign merchant codes to classify the goods or services a business offers), so be aware that there’s a chance your favorite online shopping outpost might not trigger the 3% rate—which means you earn just 1% for your spending.

It can be a pain to find out whether your retailer of choice qualifies for the 3% rate, though Bank of America confirmed that eligible websites include those belonging to major stores like Apple, Amazon, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart.

Read our full review of the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

 

Generous rewards in rotating categories

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

The Cash+ has a more generous rewards structure than many other rotating-category cards—if your regular spending fits neatly into the bonus categories and you’re willing to be hands-on.

What we love

Earn 5% (up to $100 in rewards per quarter) on two specialty spending categories and additional cash back on other everyday spending.

  • 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spending per quarter in two categories you choose and activate
  • 2% cash back on all spending in one additional category (again, you have to choose and activate it)
  • Lots of ways to redeem your cash back

What we don’t love

You have to actively manage your bonus categories—and some merchants may not qualify.

  • The bonus reward categories require you to opt in every quarter—which is one more thing for you to remember
  • Categories and merchants may change each quarter, making it difficult to plan your spending
  • Your preferred stores may not participate in the bonus rewards program
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/16/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$150

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: U.S. Bank

Why we like it: If you shop mostly at department stores, you could earn 5% back on your in-store and online purchases with the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card, which lets cardholders choose not one, but two 5% bonus categories. Eligible categories include department stores, fast-food places, gyms and fitness centers, and electronics stores, among others.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The 5% bonus rate is capped at $2,000 in total spending per quarter; after that, you get just 1%. (You do earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases in one “everyday spending” category of your choice: groceries, gas, or dining.)

And like our other pick from Bank of America, Cash+ bonus categories are determined by Visa-issued merchant codes rather than by U.S. Bank. While not a frequent occurrence, there’s a chance that some purchases you’d consider eligible won’t earn 5%, which means you get just 1%. (For example, some grocery stores that also have gas stations could fall under either merchant category.)

Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card.

You should get a clothing-store credit card if you find yourself shopping frequently at that store, and want not only big rewards but also other benefits, like exclusive discounts and sales. You can also expect perks such as free shipping or complimentary alterations.

You should apply for a clothing-store credit card only if you’re certain that you can pay off your balance in full each month all (or at least most) of the time.

GapCard

 

Great if you spend close to $1,000 a year at Gap

GapCard

You earn 5% back in Gap certificates on purchases made at Gap (and at affiliated stores), as well as 1% on everything else you buy.

What we love

5x points per dollar spent at Gap is great, plus you get bonus point shopping days, a birthday gift, and other perks.

  • 20% off and free shipping on your first purchase made with the card
  • 5x points per dollar spent at Gap’s sibling stores: Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta
  • Earn 5,000 points in a calendar year (by spending $1,000 at Gap or $5,000 anywhere else, or a combination of the two) to reach Silver status, which comes with free shipping, free basic alterations at Banana Republic, cardholder-exclusive sales, and more

What we don’t love

You need to accrue 500 points (that’s $500 in general spending or $100 at Gap) in order to get a $5 rewards certificate.

  • If you carry a balance, you could get hit with huge interest charges—the upper limit of the card’s APR range is a hefty 25.99%
  • This card is issued by Synchrony, which has received a number of customer service complaints
GapCard
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/7/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

25.99% variable

Intro Bonus

Save 20% and free shipping

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Synchrony*

*Synchrony has received a number of customer service complaints. While we still endorse this card for some people, we want you to be aware of the risks of holding it. Learn more here.

Why we like it: If you spend close to $1,000 a year at Gap and/or its sibling stores (Athleta, Banana Republic, and Old Navy), consider the GapCard. You earn 5x points per dollar spent at Gap (which effectively gets you 5% back in rewards certificates), plus 1x point per dollar spent everywhere else Visa is accepted.

Once you earn 5,000 points (by spending $1,000 at Gap or an associated brand, or a combination of those), you receive Silver status, which offers potentially money-saving benefits like free shipping and free basic alterations at Banana Republic.

If you think you’ll spend less than $1,000 at Gap throughout the year, you’re better off sticking to the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa (and choosing clothing stores as your 5% bonus category).

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Rewards come in the form of a $5 certificate for every 500 points. If you only ever manage to earn 490 points, that means no rewards certificate for you, at least until you hit that 500-point minimum.

And while Silver status sounds nice, you need to requalify every calendar year. So if you earn Silver status on December 31, you have it for that day only.

Like most store-specific cards, the GapCard has an extremely high variable APR of 25.99%. To avoid steep interest charges, don’t get this card unless you’re positive you can pay it off every month.

AEO Connected Visa Credit Card

 

Great for everyday spending (if you shop at American Eagle)

AEO Connected® Visa® Credit Card

6% back on American Eagle purchases is awesome, but 2% on all other spending is almost more impressive. However, you need to spend a bunch to hit the minimum for a $10 American Eagle rewards certificate.

What we love

No other card we found offers as high a rate (6%) on American Eagle and Aerie purchases.

  • Use this card anywhere Visa is accepted to earn 2% rewards
  • Enjoy access to additional discounts, including cardholder-exclusive sales and a 20% off birthday coupon

What we don’t love

You need 2,500 points (that’s $500 in everyday spending or about $170 in AEO purchases) in order to get a $10 rewards certificate.

  • You can incur fees we don’t like, including a pay-by-phone fee
  • If you don’t pay your bill in full each month, you’ll get hit with a high APR of 25.99%
  • This card is issued by Synchrony, which has received a number of customer service complaints
AEO Connected® Visa® Credit Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/30/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

25.99% variable

Intro Bonus

Save 20%

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Synchrony*

*Synchrony has received a number of customer service complaints. While we still endorse this card for some people, we want you to be aware of the risks of holding it. Learn more here.

Why we like it: The AEO Connected Visa Credit Card gets you 15x points per dollar spent at American Eagle and Aerie, which translates to an impressive 6% back in rewards, doled out in $10 increments for every 2,500 points you earn.

To put this into real dollars: You need to spend $167 at American Eagle or Aerie (or a combination of those) to get that $10 rewards certificate.

That’s on top of other benefits like free shipping, a 20% off birthday coupon, and a free bra or pair of jeans when you buy five of the same.

The card is pretty great for general spending, too, assuming you don’t mind that rewards can be redeemed only at American Eagle or Aerie. You earn 5x points per dollar spent on purchases made anywhere Visa is accepted. That gives you an effective 2% rewards rate, on par with our top cash back credit card, the Citi Double Cash (though the Double Cash is generally superior, as you earn straight cash back rather than points that have value at only two stores).

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Rewards arrive as a $10 certificate for every 2,500 points you earn. If you never accrue at least that many points, you’ll never be able to redeem your rewards.

Also, be sure to pay off your balance on time—and, ideally, in full—every month. Make those payments online, too: While it’s common for pretty much all credit cards to charge late fees for missed payments, paying your AEO Connected bill by phone results in a fee of its own.

Express Next Credit Card

 

8% back on Express purchases

EXPRESS NEXT Credit Card

You earn 20 points per $1 spent at Express, which translates to an incredible 8% back in rewards.

What we love

Few credit cards offer a rewards rate (8%) this high.

  • Once you spend $375 within a year, you’ll bump up to A-List status, which means an even faster earning rate and free shipping

What we don’t love

Watch out for hidden fees. For example, you could get hit with late fees up to $40 and/or a fee of up to $15 to make expedited phone payments.

  • This card only works at Express. If Express is no longer your style, you’re stuck with a card that serves no purpose
  • You need to accrue 2,500 points (that requires spending $125 at Express) to get your $10 reward certificate
  • This card is issued by Comenity Bank, which has received a number of customer service complaints
EXPRESS NEXT Credit Card
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/4/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

28.49% variable

Intro Bonus

Save 20%

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Closed loop (works only at Express)
Issuer: Comenity Bank*

*Comenity Bank has received a number of customer service complaints. While we still endorse this card for some people, we want you to be aware of the risks of holding it. Learn more here.

Why we like it: Among our favorite clothing-store-specific cards, the Express Next Credit Card offers the highest rewards rate we’ve found for in-store purchases.

You earn 20x points per dollar spent at Express. Since you get a $10 rewards certificate for every 2,500 points, you’re effectively earning 8% back on your purchases.

If you earn 7,500 points (whether by spending $375 at Express or earning them through a combination of spending and bonus offers) within a “program year,” you’re upgraded to A-List status, which means perks like free shipping and better rewards. Once you have A-List status, you keep it for the remainder of that program year and the next full program year. (Express defines its program year as “March 1 to the last day of February the following year.”)

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Like all of our clothing-store-specific picks, you won’t get your rewards until you reach a particular threshold (in this case, by accruing 2,500 points), and the certificate is good for only Express purchases. And don’t be fooled by the “20 points per dollar” language: While an 8% return on your spending is extremely good, it’s not 20%, which the misleading rewards rate might lead you to believe.

The Express credit card can be used only at Express, so if you decide the clothes are no longer your style, you may feel inclined to stuff your credit card in the back of your closet alongside all of your old Express purchases. However, closing an unused credit card can cause a slight (albeit temporary) dip in your credit score.

The APR is a very high 28.49%, and if you miss a payment, you could be charged a late fee as high as $40. Plus, like the AEO Visa card, the Express card imposes a fee of up to $15 if you choose to pay your bill by phone rather than online.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has called out companies for charging pay-by-phone fees, which it calls “misleading” and “harmful”—and we couldn’t agree more. If you pay your bill online every month using autopay, you won’t get charged that fee. But if there’s a chance you might not have the means to pay your bill on time or online, skip this card.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

 

Generous rewards in rotating categories

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

The Cash+ has a more generous rewards structure than many other rotating-category cards—if your regular spending fits neatly into the bonus categories and you’re willing to be hands-on.

What we love

Earn 5% (up to $100 in rewards per quarter) on two specialty spending categories and additional cash back on other everyday spending.

  • 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spending per quarter in two categories you choose and activate
  • 2% cash back on all spending in one additional category (again, you have to choose and activate it)
  • Lots of ways to redeem your cash back

What we don’t love

You have to actively manage your bonus categories—and some merchants may not qualify.

  • The bonus reward categories require you to opt in every quarter—which is one more thing for you to remember
  • Categories and merchants may change each quarter, making it difficult to plan your spending
  • Your preferred stores may not participate in the bonus rewards program
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/16/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$150

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: U.S. Bank

If you’re always buying new clothes but don’t like the finicky rewards structures of the cards above, we don’t blame you. Instead, we recommend that you skip the store-specific cards and use the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa at most of the clothing retailers you shop at. You earn 5% back on purchases made at all of the brands we’ve already mentioned—Gap, American Eagle, and Express—as well as at:

  • Aeropostale
  • Ann Taylor
  • Banana Republic
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Forever 21
  • J.Crew
  • JoS. A. Bank
  • Old Navy
  • Talbots
  • The Limited

U.S. Bank groups department stores (even those whose primary draw is apparel) separately from clothing stores in its list of eligible bonus categories. But because Cash+ cardholders can choose two 5% cash back categories, you could pick clothing stores and department stores to maximize your potential earnings. Eligible department stores include:

  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Dillard’s
  • JCPenney
  • Kohl’s
  • Loehmann’s
  • Macy’s
  • Nordstrom
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • Off 5th
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Sears
  • Von Maur

Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card.

You should get a credit card that earns bonus rewards on grocery spending if you typically make at least $100 worth of grocery purchases each week. If you spend less than that, consider a 2% cash back card (if you have very good or excellent credit).

Citi Double Cash Card

 

Our pick for best everyday use

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Double Cash is a convenient day-to-day companion you’ll reach for regularly: It has a high cash-back rate, earning and redeeming your cash is easy, and you get big-bank conveniences. Plus, you enjoy a long 0% APR period on balance transfers.

What we love

No other card offers the combination of excellent cash back rewards and 18 months of 0% APR (then 13.99% - 23.99%, variable) on balance transfers made within four months of opening your account.

  • High 2% cash back rate (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off)
  • Quickly deposit your cash back directly into your bank account
  • $0 annual fee

What we don’t love

Though 2% cash back on everything you buy is one of the best ongoing rates available, other cards deliver better rewards on specific categories, such as groceries and dining.

  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • No 0% APR period on purchases
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
Citi® Double Cash Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Mastercard is accepted
Issuer: Citibank

The Citi Double Cash Card doesn’t actually offer any grocery-specific spending rewards, but it’s still the best card for most people to use at grocery stores and supermarkets. It earns 2% cash back (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off) on all purchases.

While many other cards out there offer more than 2% back, most come with limitations like a rewards cap—for example, you earn 3% on your first $2,500 in quarterly spending, then 1%—or an annual fee.

We like the Citi Double Cash for its convenience. As long as the store takes Mastercard (sorry, Costco shoppers), and you pay your bill in full, you get 2% back, whether you’re filling your cart with groceries, loading up at the Target Dollar Spot, or shopping at the mall.

Read our full review of the Citi Double Cash Card.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

 

Our favorite card for US supermarkets

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

6% is the highest cash back rate on any grocery card we reviewed.

What we love

If you spend $100 or more at US supermarkets each week, you’ll easily earn cash back rewards from purchases you would have probably made anyway.

  • $250 bonus after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first three months
  • 3% cash back at US gas stations makes it useful at the pump
  • User-friendly mobile app is rated No. 2 in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Mobile App Satisfaction Study

What we don’t love

There are some limitations on how many rewards you can earn.

  • Once you hit $6,000 in US supermarket purchases in a calendar year, you’ll earn only 1% on grocery shopping after that
  • 6% rate applies only to US supermarkets, not at Costco, your local cheese shop, or the corner store
  • The Blue Cash Preferred charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so don’t bring it overseas or use it to purchase things in a foreign currency
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on American Express’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

12.99% to 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$250

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere American Express is accepted
Issuer: American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers the highest rewards rate we could find for groceries: 6% cash back at US supermarkets (on up to your first $6,000 in spending per calendar year, then 1%). If you spend more than $100 a week at the grocery store, you’re looking at $200-plus a year in cash back rewards (once you account for the $95 annual fee).

You break even on the annual fee if you spend about $30 a week at qualifying supermarkets, but you should get this card only if you spend at least $60 a week. Let us explain:

  • If you spend $60 or less at US supermarkets per week: You’re better off with the Blue Cash Preferred’s sibling card, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. You earn only 3% at US supermarkets, but there’s no annual fee, so you easily come out ahead by not having to fork over that $95.
  • If you spend between $60 and $90 per week: You earn more rewards with the Preferred than the Everyday at this spending level, but the difference in net cash back is less than $100 a year. When you account for both the up-front cost of the Preferred’s annual fee and the marginally higher return on your spending you’d get with it, you might just want to stick with the Everyday.
  • If you spend more than $90 per week: The Preferred’s rewards are swell. And if you manage to hit the $6,000 annual max—that’s about $115 a week in US supermarket spending—you’re looking at $265 in your pocket after the annual fee.

This formula can help you calculate if this card’s—or any card’s—annual fee is worth paying.

The Preferred has one semi-annoying caveat: You earn 6% cash back only at places that American Express considers a supermarket. Superstores (such as Target and Walmart), warehouse clubs (like Costco), and specialty stores (like your local corner grocer) won’t count. (Confusingly, though, Walmart Neighborhood Markets do qualify for bonus rewards.)

Here’s where else the Preferred gets you 6%:

  • Gristedes
  • Foodtown
  • Meijer
  • Trader Joe’s
  • ShopRite
  • Stop and Shop
  • Vons
  • Whole Foods
  • Winn-Dixie

Read our full review of the Amex Blue Cash Preferred Card.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

 

Our pick if you shop at Whole Foods or Amazon

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Earn cash back on groceries from Amazon and Whole Foods, and on almost everything you buy on Amazon.

What we love

With no spending caps and a tremendous array of items for purchase beyond groceries, you have the potential to rack up tons of cash back.

  • No spending cap means huge potential to rack up cash back rewards if you mostly shop at Amazon
  • Receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval

What we don’t love

You have to be a Prime member and primarily shop at Whole Foods or Amazon to make this card worth it.

  • 5% cash back rate applies only to Amazon and Whole Foods, so don’t expect to use this at other supermarkets
  • 5% rate also excludes purchases made through international Amazon sites like Amazon.co.uk and some Amazon-owned sites such as Audible
  • You need Amazon Prime membership to apply (which can cost $119 annually)
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0 with Prime Membership

Regular APR

14.24% - 22.24% variable

Intro Bonus

$70

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Chase Bank

You get 5% back on all eligible purchases at Amazon.com (which includes Amazon Fresh, the company’s grocery-delivery service) and Whole Foods. Rewards are particularly easy to redeem if you already shop at Amazon: Just apply them to your order total at checkout, no minimum redemption amount required.

If you’re super-meticulous, you can get a better deal by claiming your rewards for cash. When you redeem points for a statement credit or a direct deposit into an eligible checking or savings account (you need at least 2,000 points, worth $20), you can turn around and spend that money at Amazon or Whole Foods and earn another 5% back.

Read our full review of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.

Target RedCard Credit Card

 

Our pick if you shop at Target

Target RedCard™ Credit Card

Save 5% on groceries from Target (and nearly everything else you buy there).

What we love

Instant 5% off at the cash register makes it easy to earn discounts on not just groceries but also anything else you buy at Target.

  • For qualifying purchases, there’s no cap on the 5% discount
  • Cardholders get free shipping and an extra 30 days (past the standard 90 days) to make returns

What we don’t love

You can’t use this card anywhere beyond Target. Plus, the high interest rate on purchases means any interest charged on an unpaid balance could quickly negate the value of rewards.

  • Card works only at Target
  • High APR on purchases
Target RedCard™ Credit Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Apply Now
Apply now for this Partner Offer on Target’s secure website.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

22.90% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Closed loop (works only at Target and a few other places, such as in-store Starbucks locations)
Issuer: TD Bank

You earn 5% on groceries (and most everything else you buy) at Target, which has been ramping up its fresh-food offerings since 2010. The rewards structure here is maximally convenient: Instead of accumulating points or cash back that you claim later, the RedCard gets you an instant 5% off at checkout. You can combine that 5% with other discounts (like Target Circle offers) for more instant savings, too.

Read our full review of the Target RedCard Credit Card.

Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

 

Best if you’re a Costco member

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

3% cash back on restaurants is above-average, though not the best rate. But this card also functions as a great gas rewards card and a $0 annual fee travel card.

What we love

This card is good for dining, but we also love it for travel and gas.

  • Cardholders also get 3% back on eligible travel and 4% back on eligible gas
  • No foreign transaction fees makes this a good card to bring internationally if you don’t have a dedicated travel rewards card
  • The undernoted but delightful extended warranty perk

What we don’t love

Rewards are easiest to redeem on Costco purchases, yet the rewards rate on Costco purchases isn’t that impressive.

  • The 2% cash back rate on Costco purchases is disappointing, considering 2% is the standard for good cash back cards anyway
  • Rewards aren’t instant; you receive them as an annual certificate redeemable only at US Costco warehouses
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.24% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Citibank

If your ideal style of grocery shopping entails buying 4-plus pounds of Nutella in one go, consider the Costco card. You earn just 2% back at the warehouse club, which isn’t wow-worthy. But given that the Amex Blue Cash and Citi Double Cash cards won’t work there (Costco accepts only Visas), many people will find that this card gets them a good—if not the best—rate on their Costco spending.

Where the Costco card really shines, though, is in its myriad other benefits, including 3% back on travel and dining purchases. You also get 4% back on gas at most gas stations worldwide (not just at Costco) on your first $7,000 in purchases per year (then 1%).

Read our full review of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi.

You should get an electronics-store credit card if you find yourself upgrading your electronics at least a couple of times a year. Maybe you always buy the latest iPhone, or you’re a camera geek who is constantly augmenting your collection with new lenses, tripods, and SD cards.

If you’re just looking for a card to cover the cost of your next computer after accidentally spilling coffee on your current laptop’s keys—or if you anticipate getting a new iPhone now that your old iPhone 6 is finally slowing down—skip the store card in favor of a general rewards credit card.

My Best Buy Visa Card

 

Great if you spend more than $3,500 a year at Best Buy

My Best Buy® Visa® Card

The rewards are sky high, especially if you spend more than $3,500 annually at Best Buy. But stay far away from the card’s flexible financing options.

What we love

All cardholders earn 5% back on Best Buy purchases, a rate that increases to 6% after you spend $3,500 in a calendar year.

  • No other card we found offers as high a rate for your Best Buy spending
  • 3% on gas (for a limited time) is pretty good too

What we don’t love

We disdain the card’s deferred-financing offers. If you fail to pay off your balance in full by the time the promo period is up, you’ll pay interest from the date of purchase, which could be huge.

  • Rewards come in the form of Best Buy certificates, which can be spent only at Best Buy
My Best Buy® Visa® Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

Up to $59

Regular APR

12.24% - 29.49% variable

Intro Bonus

10% back

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Citibank

Why we like it: The My Best Buy Visa Card earns big rewards at Best Buy (5% back in rewards certificates for most people, and 6% for more loyal shoppers). But it also offers great rewards outside the store: 3% back at gas stations (for a limited time), 2% on dining and grocery purchases, and 1% on everything else.

The average American household spends almost $2,000 a year on gas, which means you could earn $60 a year in Best Buy certificates—enough to nab a fun toy drone, perhaps, or to put toward a more expensive electronics purchase—when you use the card to fill up your tank. (Best Buy doesn’t specify the duration of the “limited-time” gas offer; its website states that it “may be withdrawn without notice.”)

This card is especially great for big spenders: Once you shell out $3,500 at Best Buy in a calendar year, you become an Elite Plus member. (If you buy one home theater projector, you’re already there). At that point, your purchases earn 6%, which is the highest rate we found. So when it’s time to turn around and buy, say, a new $1,600 fridge, you’re looking at $96 in rewards certificates (versus the $80 you would’ve earned without the Elite Plus bonus).

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The card occasionally comes out with a deferred-interest offer, which the retailer likes to refer to as a “flexible financing option.” But if the item is not paid off in full by the end of the promo period, you pay interest dating back to the original purchase date—and the Best Buy card’s APR is a very high variable 12.24% – 29.49%.

Instead, if you need to finance an expensive electronics purchase, consider a 0% APR credit card, which charges interest on only your remaining balance once the promo period ends. (Before you apply for a 0% APR card, read more about how to avoid paying interest.)

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

 

Our pick if you shop at Whole Foods or Amazon

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Earn cash back on groceries from Amazon and Whole Foods, and on almost everything you buy on Amazon.

What we love

With no spending caps and a tremendous array of items for purchase beyond groceries, you have the potential to rack up tons of cash back.

  • No spending cap means huge potential to rack up cash back rewards if you mostly shop at Amazon
  • Receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval

What we don’t love

You have to be a Prime member and primarily shop at Whole Foods or Amazon to make this card worth it.

  • 5% cash back rate applies only to Amazon and Whole Foods, so don’t expect to use this at other supermarkets
  • 5% rate also excludes purchases made through international Amazon sites like Amazon.co.uk and some Amazon-owned sites such as Audible
  • You need Amazon Prime membership to apply (which can cost $119 annually)
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0 with Prime Membership

Regular APR

14.24% - 22.24% variable

Intro Bonus

$70

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Chase Bank

Best Buy Elite Plus cardmembers can earn 6% back per dollar spent on electronics, but it might be smarter to make those purchases on Amazon using the Amazon Prime Rewards card (which earns 5% on eligible items).

Why? Two words: purchase protection. The Amazon Prime card has a number of handy benefits that could come into play when buying big-ticket electronics, and purchase protection is one of our favorites. Items paid for with the card are covered against damage or theft for 120 days—regardless of where you bought it. (Note: The benefit is capped at $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.)

Read our full review of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

 

Generous rewards in rotating categories

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

The Cash+ has a more generous rewards structure than many other rotating-category cards—if your regular spending fits neatly into the bonus categories and you’re willing to be hands-on.

What we love

Earn 5% (up to $100 in rewards per quarter) on two specialty spending categories and additional cash back on other everyday spending.

  • 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spending per quarter in two categories you choose and activate
  • 2% cash back on all spending in one additional category (again, you have to choose and activate it)
  • Lots of ways to redeem your cash back

What we don’t love

You have to actively manage your bonus categories—and some merchants may not qualify.

  • The bonus reward categories require you to opt in every quarter—which is one more thing for you to remember
  • Categories and merchants may change each quarter, making it difficult to plan your spending
  • Your preferred stores may not participate in the bonus rewards program
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/16/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$150

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: U.S. Bank

If you’re always shopping around for the best deal, you might actually be best off with a store-agnostic card.

Sometimes Best Buy has the best price on what you’re looking for, and sometimes Amazon does. While many big electronics retailers will price match (Walmart.com confirmed that it price matches items found on the websites of Target, Best Buy, and Amazon; Target’s price-match policy includes Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart), it might not be worth the effort.

In that case, consider the U.S. Bank Cash+, which earns 5% cash back in two bonus categories of your choice (on up to $2,000 in total spending per quarter). Electronics stores eligible for 5% rewards include (but aren’t necessarily limited to):

  • Apple Store
  • Best Buy
  • Bose
  • Fry’s Electronics
  • Magnolia

Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card.

You should get a home-improvement store credit card, well, pretty much never. We read the fine print of all the major home-improvement store cards, and we found that they don’t do anything store-agnostic cards don’t already do—plus, they often lack rewards and/or come with pretty grim terms, like dangerous deferred-interest offers.

If you’ve got a home-improvement project on the horizon, skip the store cards and go for one of these general rewards credit cards instead.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card

 

Best cash back card if you’re a Bank of America customer

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

0% APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then a variable APR of 13.99% - 23.99%). Plus, the bonus rewards will keep this card at the top of your wallet for years to come.

What we love

3% cash back on a category of your choice (either gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings) is great, but it can get even better. Once your account balance hits $20,000 or more, you’ll be eligible to get bonus rewards through BofA’s Preferred Rewards program.

  • $200 bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 90 days
  • You earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (or 3.5% for the highest tier of BofA’s Preferred Rewards program customers)

What we don’t love

In order to get bonus rewards, you need to have at least $20,000 saved with Bank of America. To qualify for the highest 5.25% rate, you need to park a whopping $100,000.

  • You receive 3% and 2% bonus rewards only on the first $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter, then 1%
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$200

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Bank of America

Why we like it: Maybe you shop at Lowe’s one day and at Home Depot the next. Maybe your bathroom remodel has you walking into Menards three times a week right now, but you have no plans to set foot in there once you’re finished installing the new bidet.

If that’s true, you can use the Bank of America Cash Rewards card to earn 3% back at home-improvement stores on your first $2,500 in quarterly purchases. That’s because the card lets you pick a 3% bonus category from a preset list that includes—you guessed it—home improvement and furnishings. (And depending on your Preferred Rewards status, you could potentially earn as much as 5.25%. Learn more about how.)

Eligible home-improvement stores include:

  • Ace Hardware
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Harbor Freight Tools
  • IKEA
  • Lowe’s
  • Menards
  • Pottery Barn
  • Sherwin-Williams
  • Home Depot
  • TruGreen
  • Williams Sonoma

If your purchase is too large to pay off right away, you also get more time to repay your debt before interest kicks in. The card has an introductory APR offer of 0% on purchases and balance transfers for your first 15 billing cycles (a billing cycle is about the same length of time as a month).

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The average flooring project costs $3,283, while a typical bathroom remodel costs a colossal $6,362. But the card’s bonus rewards apply to only your first $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases, after which you get just 1% back. If you’re trying to maximize your earnings on a project that exceeds $2,500, consider putting the rest on another cash back card that earns more than 1%.

Read our full review of the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

 

Our pick for a 0% APR card with staying power

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card

The Unlimited really shines if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, as your 1.5 points per dollar spent could be worth 2.25 points when combined with the Reserve and redeemed for travel.

What we love

1.5% cash back on everything you buy, plus 15 months of 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers (then a variable APR of 14.99% - 23.74%), makes it valuable long after you’ve paid off your debt.

  • A $150 intro bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months
  • No penalty APRs or revoked 0% APR offers if you miss a payment (though you'll still incur late fees and it may hurt your credit)
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides between now and March 2022

What we don’t love

1.5% cash back is good but not great, so the card is less valuable if you aren’t using the intro APR offer or pairing your rewards with another complementary Chase card.

  • 3% foreign transaction fees
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% variable

Intro Bonus

$150

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Chase Bank

Why we like it: If you need more time to pay down your home-improvement purchases, consider our pick for the best overall 0% APR card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited. As a new cardholder, you get 15 months of 0% interest (then a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74%). You also earn 1.5% cash back on everything you buy, whether it’s a $2,000 shower from Lowe’s or a $20 shower curtain you found at Target.

Plus, your Freedom Unlimited rewards may be worth even more when combined with some other Chase cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: You could get hit with high interest charges if you don’t pay off your project in full by the time the intro APR offer expires. The card’s standard variable APR is 14.99% – 23.74%, so any interest you accumulate will quickly start to put a dent in the value of this card.

If you think you might have a balance left over at the end of 15 months, check out our guide to the best 0% APR credit cards. While not all of our picks offer rewards, there are a handful of cards with longer interest-free periods; the longest we found is 20 billing cycles.

Read our full review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card.

You should get a department-store credit card if you care more about status than spending rewards.

Department-store cards are most meaningful for frequent shoppers. Retailers typically send tons of coupons, which can be a big savings if you were planning to shop there anyway, though they might compel you to spend more than you intended if you weren’t. Early sale access might help you get the good stuff before it’s picked over, but it could also drive you into the store to buy things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Not many department-store cards actually made the cut, since most of their rewards rates are measly for all but the most loyal shoppers. (For instance, Macy’s cardholders earn only 2% back until they spend at least $500 a year, upon which the rate gets bumped up to 3%.)

Nordstrom Visa Signature credit card

 

Great if you want status while shopping at Nordstrom

Nordstrom Visa Signature® credit card

The spending rewards are just okay, but the card really shines by offering benefits like early access to sales and alteration reimbursement.

What we love

This card is for serious Nordstrom fans who want to shop the good stuff before it’s gone, thanks to early access to the department store’s Anniversary and Clear the Rack sales.

  • 3x points per dollar spent at Nordstrom (that’s 3% back in Nordstrom rewards certificates, officially known as Nordstrom Notes)
  • 2x points per dollar spent on dining, travel, and entertainment
  • Get reimbursed up to $300 a year in Nordstrom Notes for alterations
  • No foreign transaction fees

What we don’t love

Points can be exchanged for Nordstrom Notes in $20 increments, so you’ll need at least 2,000 points before you can cash in your rewards.

  • 3% back at Nordstrom is fine, but we found other non-Nordstrom-branded cards that could earn you 5% or more on Nordstrom spending
  • You get more benefits based on how much you spend, but you’ll need to shell out at least $5,000 annually to reach the highest benefit tier
Nordstrom Visa Signature® credit card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/16/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

10.90% - 22.90% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: TD Bank

Why we like it: The Nordstrom Visa Signature credit card is for Nordstrom-obsessed fashionistas. You earn 3x points per dollar spent at Nordstrom (that’s 3% back as a Nordstrom Note), plus 2x points per dollar spent on travel, dining, and entertainment.

Cardholders get early access to the department store’s annual Anniversary Sale, when Nordstrom makes new arrivals available at reduced prices (which go up after the sale ends). The card also grants you early access to Nordstrom’s “Clear the Rack” event, where Nordstrom Rack items that were already on sale get even deeper discounts. Holding the Nordstrom card gets you in the door before the good stuff is gone.

If you’re not already earning rewards on your travel and dining spending, you could use your Nordstrom card (which doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees) to pay for those purchases. That said, there are tons of other no annual fee cards that earn 3% or more in those categories.

We’re quite impressed with the card’s entertainment rewards: You get 2x points per dollar spent at a range of venues, including concert arenas, theaters, theme parks, aquariums, and bowling alleys. Most cards get 1% back on entertainment spending (cards like the Capital One SavorOne are few and far between).

Note that there are a few variations on the Nordstrom card. When you fill out the application for a Nordstrom Visa, you may be approved for either the Visa Signature or the Visa Platinum. The two cards are mostly similar, but one of the biggest differences is that the Signature card has no preset spending limit. Nordstrom also offers a closed-loop version (called the Nordstrom Credit Card) that requires its own application.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The card isn’t necessarily the best for earning rewards at Nordstrom. While it offers a decent 3% back, you can earn anywhere from 3% to 5.25% (on your first $2,500 in quarterly purchases) when you shop at Nordstrom online with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card. Or you could earn 5% on all Nordstrom purchases, both in store and online, with the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa card (more on that next).

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

 

Generous rewards in rotating categories

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

The Cash+ has a more generous rewards structure than many other rotating-category cards—if your regular spending fits neatly into the bonus categories and you’re willing to be hands-on.

What we love

Earn 5% (up to $100 in rewards per quarter) on two specialty spending categories and additional cash back on other everyday spending.

  • 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of spending per quarter in two categories you choose and activate
  • 2% cash back on all spending in one additional category (again, you have to choose and activate it)
  • Lots of ways to redeem your cash back

What we don’t love

You have to actively manage your bonus categories—and some merchants may not qualify.

  • The bonus reward categories require you to opt in every quarter—which is one more thing for you to remember
  • Categories and merchants may change each quarter, making it difficult to plan your spending
  • Your preferred stores may not participate in the bonus rewards program
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/16/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$150

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: U.S. Bank

Why we like it: We recommend that most people who want to earn bonus rewards at department stores go for the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card, which gets you 5% back on your first $2,000 spent each quarter across two categories of your choice.

Pick department stores as one of your bonus categories, and you earn 5% back at not only Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack but also at:

  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bon-Ton
  • Boston Store
  • Dillard’s
  • JCPenney
  • Kohl’s
  • Loehmann’s
  • Macy’s
  • Off 5th
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Sears
  • Soma Intimates
  • Von Maur

Flaws but not dealbreakers: We don’t like that $2,000 quarterly cap on bonus spending rewards. You could easily hit that by purchasing just one wedding dress or designer bag. If you’re forking over thousands of dollars a year at a specific department store, its co-branded card is probably better for you. (Besides, store cards are generally only valuable for people who hit big spending thresholds—think $1,000 and up—anyway).

Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card.

You should get a wholesale-club credit card if you’re already a member of that club and you’re looking for gas rewards.

Most major wholesale-club cards offer okay rewards on in-store purchases. But they all have one thing in common: awesome rewards at gas stations.

We’ve also included a few cards that are great for swiping at wholesale clubs, even though they’re not tied to any one club in particular.

Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

 

Best if you’re a Costco member

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

3% cash back on restaurants is above-average, though not the best rate. But this card also functions as a great gas rewards card and a $0 annual fee travel card.

What we love

This card is good for dining, but we also love it for travel and gas.

  • Cardholders also get 3% back on eligible travel and 4% back on eligible gas
  • No foreign transaction fees makes this a good card to bring internationally if you don’t have a dedicated travel rewards card
  • The undernoted but delightful extended warranty perk

What we don’t love

Rewards are easiest to redeem on Costco purchases, yet the rewards rate on Costco purchases isn’t that impressive.

  • The 2% cash back rate on Costco purchases is disappointing, considering 2% is the standard for good cash back cards anyway
  • Rewards aren’t instant; you receive them as an annual certificate redeemable only at US Costco warehouses
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/20/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

15.24% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Citibank

Why we like it: The Costco credit card is perhaps more valuable outside of Costco than inside. It earns 3% on eligible dining and travel purchases, plus 4% on your first $7,000 in gas-station purchases per year (then 1%). It also earns 2% on eligible Costco purchases.

That’s on top of other great benefits like worldwide travel accident insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty. Plus, the credit card doubles as your Costco membership card—that’s one less piece of plastic in your wallet.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi is a bit peculiar in that it’s not the best card we’d recommend using at Costco. Two percent is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not amazing either.

Also, though this is technically a cash back card, your receive your rewards only once a year as an annual rewards certificate, which you can apply toward a Costco purchase or redeem for cash. (If you choose the latter, you still need to visit a Costco club in person.)

Read our full review of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi.

Sam’s Club Mastercard

 

Great for gas rewards

Sam's Club® Mastercard®

If you’re a Sam’s Club member, this card earns an amazing 5% cash back on gas.

What we love

5% back at gas stations in the US and Puerto Rico (on up to $6,000 in annual spending, then 1%) is one of the highest rates you’ll find.

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 3% on dining and travel makes this a great top-of-wallet card, with no annual fee to boot

What we don’t love

The 1% cash back rate on Sam’s Club purchases is one step short of pathetic.

  • 1% on purchases made at Sam’s Club itself is disappointing for a Sam’s Club-branded card
  • Rewards come only once a year, and if you want to redeem them for cash, you have to visit a Sam’s Club in person
  • The card is issued by Synchrony, which has received a number of customer service complaints
Sam's Club® Mastercard®
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 5/20/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.90% - 22.90% variable

Intro Bonus

$45

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Mastercard is accepted
Issuer: Synchrony*

*Synchrony has received a number of customer service complaints. While we still endorse this card for some people, we want you to be aware of the risks of holding it. Learn more here.

Why we like it: The Costco card’s 4% rate on gas is impressive, but the Sam’s Club Mastercard does one better: It offers 5% cash back on your first $6,000 in gas purchases per year (then 1%). And like the Costco card, the Sam’s Club card also gets you 3% back on dining and travel.

While there are a number of ways you can redeem your rewards (including applying them toward a purchase, your membership renewal, or your card balance), you need to visit an in-club register if you want cash back. You get your rewards only once a year in February, when they’re automatically loaded to your membership account.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: We’re not impressed with the Costco card’s 2% rate on Costco purchases, but the Sam’s Club card is even more perplexing. Aside from gas, you earn just 1% cash back on purchases made at Sam’s Club. That rewards rate is flat-out bad.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

 

Our pick for a 0% APR card with staying power

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card

The Unlimited really shines if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, as your 1.5 points per dollar spent could be worth 2.25 points when combined with the Reserve and redeemed for travel.

What we love

1.5% cash back on everything you buy, plus 15 months of 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers (then a variable APR of 14.99% - 23.74%), makes it valuable long after you’ve paid off your debt.

  • A $150 intro bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months
  • No penalty APRs or revoked 0% APR offers if you miss a payment (though you'll still incur late fees and it may hurt your credit)
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides between now and March 2022

What we don’t love

1.5% cash back is good but not great, so the card is less valuable if you aren’t using the intro APR offer or pairing your rewards with another complementary Chase card.

  • 3% foreign transaction fees
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% variable

Intro Bonus

$150

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Chase Bank

Why we like it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited gets, well, an unlimited 1.5x points on all purchases (that beats the sad 1% rate on the Sam’s Club card). And if you also hold a Chase Sapphire card (either the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred), you can increase the value of the rewards you earn.

Let’s say you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Unlimited’s 1.5x points per dollar at warehouse clubs could become 2.25x points per dollar when combined with your Reserve and redeemed for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Sometimes you can get even better value by transferring Ultimate Rewards points to an airline or hotel partner.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: A flat 1.5% rewards rate is good, but if you’re looking for the best overall cash back rate (and you don’t want to pay an annual fee for one of the Chase Sapphire cards), you could do even better with the Citi Double Cash, which offers 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off).

Read our full review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card

 

Best cash back card if you’re a Bank of America customer

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

0% APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then a variable APR of 13.99% - 23.99%). Plus, the bonus rewards will keep this card at the top of your wallet for years to come.

What we love

3% cash back on a category of your choice (either gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings) is great, but it can get even better. Once your account balance hits $20,000 or more, you’ll be eligible to get bonus rewards through BofA’s Preferred Rewards program.

  • $200 bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 90 days
  • You earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (or 3.5% for the highest tier of BofA’s Preferred Rewards program customers)

What we don’t love

In order to get bonus rewards, you need to have at least $20,000 saved with Bank of America. To qualify for the highest 5.25% rate, you need to park a whopping $100,000.

  • You receive 3% and 2% bonus rewards only on the first $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter, then 1%
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 4/2/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% variable

Intro Bonus

$200

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Bank of America

Why we like it: This card pops up a bunch in this guide because it offers 3% cash back in one bonus category of your choice. But on top of that, you get 2% back at grocery stores and warehouse clubs. (Your 3% and 2% bonus rewards apply to your first $2,500 in combined purchases every quarter. You get 1% after that.)

Since the card is part of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, you get a rewards bonus based on how much money you have in an eligible BofA or Merrill account, though you need to have a balance of $20,000 or more.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The best rewards rate on wholesale-club spending (3.5%) is really tough to qualify for: You need to have at least $100,000 saved or invested with BofA or Merrill.

The $2,500 cap on qualifying purchases is also super-annoying. The card is great for racking up rewards in a ton of categories, which is a blessing and a curse. If you spend a combined $830 or so at grocery stores, at warehouse clubs, and in your 3% bonus category each month, you max out your rewards.

Read our full review of the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card.

You should get a furniture-store credit card only if you find yourself buying new cookware, decor, or other home items about four times a year or more. Perhaps you get new planters every spring, or you really love the holidays and want different dinnerware sets for each season. Maybe you’re a passionate home chef who’s constantly buying new kitchen gadgets. If that’s the case, read on.

But if you shop at furniture stores only for that once- or twice-in-a-lifetime move or home remodel, skip the furniture-store-specific card. Instead, go for a general rewards credit card that not only earns a great rate at furniture stores but also continues to deliver value after all of your new stuff is moved in.

Pottery Barn Credit Card

 

A stellar rate on Pottery Barn purchases

Pottery Barn Credit Card

You’d be hard-pressed to find a card that offers better rewards for purchases at Pottery Barn. That said, the card offers little beyond in-store spending rewards.

What we love

You’ll earn an incredible 10% back in Pottery Barn rewards certificates for purchases made at Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, and PBteen.

  • Cardholders gain access to additional sales and promotions like Double Rewards days

What we don’t love

Stay far away from the card’s “special financing” option. You’ll end up paying a ton in interest if you don’t pay off your balance before the promo period ends.

  • You don’t earn rewards if you use the special financing offer (though you should skip it anyway)
  • Points expire after three years, while rewards certificates expire after about six months
  • This card is issued by Comenity Bank, which has received a number of customer service complaints
Pottery Barn Credit Card
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/4/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

28.49% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Closed loop (works only at Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, and PBteen)
Issuer: Comenity Bank*

*Comenity Bank has received a number of customer service complaints. While we still endorse this card for some people, we want you to be aware of the risks of holding it. Learn more here.

Why we like it: You get an incredible 10% back in Pottery Barn rewards certificates (dispensed in $25 increments for every $250 spent). Spend $400 on one of our favorite cribs, the Pottery Barn Kendall Convertible Crib, and you’re looking at $50 in rewards.

On top of that, Pottery Barn regularly provides cardholders with special promotions, such as double rewards days (yes, that’s 20% back) and early access to sales.

The card also earns 10% back at Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen, though we’re disappointed that the rewards rate doesn’t apply to purchases made at sibling stores like Williams Sonoma or West Elm.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Most people should avoid the card’s “special financing offer” like the plague. When you spend at least $750 on purchases, you’re eligible for 12 months of 0% interest—but there are two big reasons why that’s a bad deal:

  1. You forego spending rewards any time you use the special financing plan.
  2. It’s a deferred-interest offer, so if you don’t pay your balance in full by the end of the promo period, interest is charged to your account from the date of purchase. That means you’re paying interest on the entire purchase amount, not just on the remaining balance. (If you plan to finance your next Pottery Barn shopping spree, consider one of our favorite 0% APR credit cards.)

And finally, we mean it when we say that this card is for Pottery Barn regulars. If you buy that $400 crib but don’t plan to shop at Pottery Barn in the future, it’s not worth signing up just to get $40 back in rewards. (You get a $25 rewards certificate for every 250 points you earn, but points expire after three years, so if you only manage to accrue 200 points before then, you’re left with nothing. And once you’re issued a certificate, it expires within 180 days.)

Williams Sonoma Visa Credit Card

 

Great for Williams Sonoma enthusiasts

Williams Sonoma Visa Credit Card

This card offers a healthy mix of spending rewards for purchases made at Williams Sonoma, coupled with coupons and discounts.

What we love

This card offers a healthy mix of spending rewards for purchases made at Williams Sonoma and extra coupons and discounts.

  • You get 5% back in rewards certificates for your Williams Sonoma spending
  • Get 20% off a same-day purchase when you open and use your Williams Sonoma card, plus a $20 Welcome Certificate after you receive your new card in the mail
  • Other discounts include a $25 certificate during your birthday month and free standard shipping

What we don’t love

The tight expiration date on using your rewards drives us crazy.

  • Points expire after 36 months (so if you spend less than $500 in a three-year window, you’ll be left point-less)
  • Rewards certificates expire after 90 days, so you might struggle to use them if you shop at Williams Sonoma only a couple of times a year
  • This card is issued by Comenity Bank, which has received a number of customer service complaints
Williams Sonoma Visa Credit Card
See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply.
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/4/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

18.24% - 25.24% variable

Intro Bonus

Save 20%

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Comenity Bank*

*Comenity Bank has received a number of customer service complaints. While we still endorse this card for some people, we want you to be aware of the risks of holding it. Learn more here.

Why we like it: Williams Sonoma is the parent company of Pottery Barn, and while we wish its own card offered the same 10% rewards rate (you get only 5% back), it does have tons of other benefits for aficionados of gourmet food and cookware.

As long as you make at least one Williams Sonoma purchase in the prior 12 months, you get a $25 certificate during your birthday month (use it to buy your very own cake mix, if you like). Other benefits include free shipping and a $20 welcome certificate after you receive your new card.

While the card doesn’t offer the best rate for dining purchases, it’s better than nothing: You earn 2% back at restaurants (and 1% back everywhere else).

And Wirecutter loves tons of products from Williams Sonoma. Paying with your Williams Sonoma card could get you about $5 back on the Hotel Dinner Napkins and Tablecloth, for instance, or $9 back on the Brasserie All-White Dinnerware collection.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Like many retailer-specific cards, your rewards can only be redeemed at Williams Sonoma. You get a $25 certificate for every 2,500 “reward dollars” (think of them like points) you earn with this card, which means you must spend $500 at Williams Sonoma, $1,250 on dining out, or $2,500 on general purchases (or some combination of those) before you get one.

And if you intend to spend your rewards on seasonal items like Peppermint Bark, you’ll have to rely on a bit of fortuitous timing. Certificates expire 90 days from the date they are issued, which means you have a narrow window in which to redeem them. Points expire after 36 months, too, so consider this card only if you’re confident that you can spend at least $500 at Williams Sonoma over a three-year period.

IKEA Visa credit card

 

Great if you frequent IKEA

IKEA® Visa® credit card

This card is great for shopping at IKEA, and it’s surprisingly decent for grocery and restaurant spending too.

What we love

You get 5% back in rewards certificates for your spending at IKEA, plus 3% on dining, grocery, and utility purchases.

  • Dining and grocery rewards are fairly easy to come by, but we’re impressed with the card’s rare bonus rate on utilities
  • Get a bonus $25 IKEA rewards certificate if you make $500 in qualifying purchases within your first 90 days

What we don’t love

The expiration window on rewards is narrow.

  • Points expire after 36 months
  • Rewards certificates expire after just 45 days, so skip this card if you don’t think you’ll be able to redeem yours (whether online or in person) within that time frame
  • This card is issued by Comenity Bank, which has received a number of customer service complaints
IKEA® Visa® credit card
Learn More
We don't earn a commission on this offer.
Product details have been collected independently by Wirecutter and are accurate as of 3/4/2020. Learn More.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

21.99% variable

Intro Bonus

N/A

Recommended Credit

Good to excellent

Type of card: Works anywhere Visa is accepted
Issuer: Comenity Bank*

*Comenity Bank has received a number of customer service complaints. While we still endorse this card for some people, we want you to be aware of the risks of holding it. Learn more here.

Why we like it: Frequent IKEA shoppers should consider the IKEA Visa credit card, which earns 5% back in rewards certificates for your future purchases at the Scandinavian design mecca.

You also get 3% back on dining, grocery, and utility purchases. Few cards offer rewards for utility spending, which makes this a great card to pay your electric bill with (if you’re also an IKEA fan). Plus, 3% on dining and groceries is actually a pretty competitive rate among no annual fee credit cards.

If you love IKEA but hate putting your stuff together, you’ll be happy to know that the card gets you 5% back when you book TaskRabbit (essentially the Uber of freelance labor) to come assemble your furniture. The rate doesn’t apply to all of your TaskRabbit spending—just IKEA-specific requests.

Rewards certificates are doled out in $15 increments, so you have to spend $300 at IKEA (or $500 on groceries and/or dining) before you earn one.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: You need to shop at IKEA on a fairly regular basis to make this card worth getting. Rewards expire after 36 months, but since the card earns solid rewards on dining and groceries—two categories in which you likely spend money on a weekly basis—that’s probably not a huge dealbreaker. But once you have your $15 rewards certificate, you have just 45 days to use it. Unless you’re buying new stuff from IKEA every month, that tight redemption window borders on dealbreaker territory.

While we like the IKEA Visa, skip the IKEA Projekt credit card, which is somewhat of an evil twin: It doesn’t offer rewards, and as a closed-loop card, it doesn’t work anywhere besides IKEA. The 0% purchase APR offer is okay, but other 0% APR offers are much better.

If you’re not in the market for low-cost Swedish chattels, well, hopefully you like meatballs.

If you have a less-than-perfect credit history due to past errors but want a credit card to help you demonstrate good habits, getting a store card can be a smart move. And if you’re new to credit and want a foot in the door, a store card could be your ticket in.

Bar charts of data from the 2019 Consumer Credit Market Report
Data from the 2019 Consumer Credit Market Report (PDF) shows that approval rates are significantly higher for retail cards than general purpose-cards among applicants with near-prime and prime credit scores.

Data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows that store cards have higher approval rates than general-purpose cards for people whose credit scores are considered near-prime (between 620 and 659) or prime (between 660 and 719).

  • If you have a credit score between 620 and 719, you’re more likely to be approved for a retail credit card than a general-purpose card. If you think you might be rejected for a general-purpose card but want to increase your total available credit or establish a positive payment history, a retail card may help.
  • If you have a credit score below 620, a retail card probably isn’t the way to go. According to CFPB data, people whose scores fall within lower credit tiers actually have much higher approval rates for general-purpose cards than retail cards. (You may have a better chance of qualifying for a secured credit card.)

Before you apply for any retail card—even one of our picks for the best store credit card—here are some red flags you need to be aware of:

  • High APRs: Interest rates on retail cards are usually higher than those on other cards. The average APR for a general-purpose card was 20.3% in 2018, compared with 26.4% for a retail card, according to the 2019 Consumer Credit Card Market Report (PDF) from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
  • Low credit lines: Assuming your spending remains the same, having a higher credit line is more beneficial to your credit score than a lower credit line, thanks to something called your credit utilization ratio. Expressed as a percentage, your credit utilization ratio—which is one of the biggest factors in determining your credit scores—is the total of how much you currently owe across all of your cards divided by your total credit limit. Experian, one of the three major US credit bureaus, recommends that your debt comprises no more than 30% of your total credit limit or of an individual card’s limit (the lower the better).
  • Higher fees: Store cards also tend to have more fees than other cards. We’ve seen fees to pay by phone, to get your statement printed, for exceeding your credit limit (which is easier to do if your credit limit is already low), and more.
  • Poor customer service: According to a CreditCards.com analysis of 22,500 complaints filed with the CFPB in 2017, the company with the most complaints (relative to the size of its card business) was Alliance Data Card Services. That’s the parent company of Comenity Bank, which you may recognize as the issuer of tons of store cards (including many of our own picks, like the Express Next card, the Pottery Barn card, and the Williams Sonoma card). Synchrony Financial, which also issues a number of store cards, came in at number three in the CreditCards.com analysis, with 3.34 complaints per $100 million in credit card balances. (We recommend Synchrony cards—including the AEO Connected Visa card, the Sam’s Club card, and the GapCard—in this guide, too.) Common complaints about store cards include aggressive sales pitches from store clerks, unexpected fees and interest, trouble closing accounts, and problems with a purchase on a statement (such as disputing a fraudulent charge).
  • Bad “special financing” deferred-interest promos: With deferred-interest offers, if you don’t pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you’re charged interest on the entire purchase.
  • Few big-bank conveniences: While some store cards are issued by big banks (Chase issues the Amazon Prime card, for instance), most aren’t. In addition to frequent customer service complaints, holding a card issued by a bank like Synchrony or Comenity means it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to walk into a brick-and-mortar branch to get help from an actual human. And few store cards are compatible with digital wallet apps like Apple Pay.

You shouldn’t necessarily be afraid of store credit cards, but you should be cognizant of their pitfalls. And if the pitfalls seem too deep, don’t get one. Here are a couple of other ways you can build or rebuild credit:

  • If you need to rebuild credit: If you have a black mark on your credit report and are prepared to establish a new, positive payment history, consider a secured card. Secured credit cards are a type of card you can get by putting down a deposit as collateral. Experts say they’re typically easier to be approved for than an unsecured card—what likely comes to mind when you think of a credit card—because the deposit can serve to pay off any unpaid balance. Even Amazon’s store card has a secured version, the Amazon Credit Builder.
  • If you’re young and new to credit cards: Consider a student credit card or other first credit card options. A number of banks offer cards geared toward students. If you’re a young person, the banks know you’re probably credit invisible. While issuers of fancy rewards cards expect to see a positive credit history when evaluating an application, issuers are less likely to expect that from student applicants because they know you’re young. (The trade-off: You likely won’t earn big rewards or receive high credit limits.) Our student-card picks have a number of measures in place to help you build credit, like payment reminders, 24/7 chat features, and alerts when you near your credit limit. Most retail cards don’t have those features, and we wish they did.

1. Make a promise to pay off your purchases each month: While we know there may be situations where you need to make a purchase that you can’t afford to pay off in full right away, retail credit cards are not the solution. Even the best store cards have interest rates that are too high for carrying a balance. If you can’t commit to paying your bill in full, skip retail cards. Instead, look at cards that have low ongoing interest rates. Or if you have a big purchase coming up, consider a 0% APR card.

2. Implement a plan for making on-time payments: To avoid late-payment fees and other pitfalls that come with forgetting to pay your bill—such as needing to make a rush payment over the phone, which may have its own fee, depending on the card—create a plan that helps you follow through with step one.

3. Skip the “special financing” deals: If you’re applying for a store card because you need to take advantage of a promotional “no interest for six months” offer, don’t. Most store cards have terrible financing terms.

4. Find out if it’s an open- or closed-loop card: Some store cards work anywhere the payment network is accepted (open loop), while others can be used only at specific merchants (closed loop). We don’t want to say that one is necessarily better than the other, but if you apply for a closed-loop card—say, the Target RedCard—don’t expect to use it at Costco too. (Learn more about the differences between closed- and open-loop cards.)

5. Read the rewards terms: According to the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, 36% of credit card users say they do not fully understand the rewards available to them. Retail cards in particular tend to have rewards structures with tons of caveats and confusing fine print, including:

  • Minimum rewards thresholds: Many retail cards dole out rewards only in certain increments (which may mean you need to spend something like $500 at that store to start reaping the benefits). If that’s the case, get a store card only if you know you’ll shop there frequently. It might be easy to spend $500 at a wholesale club or big-box store, where you regularly purchase things like groceries and cleaning supplies (as well as one-off items like clothing or gifts). No matter how much you love buying jeans at a particular store, it might take you longer to reach the spending minimum in niche categories like clothing or home goods.
  • Expiration dates on rewards certificates: Pay attention to expiration dates, which store cards often enforce for earned points and rewards certificates. If you have a $10 Williams Sonoma reward that expires next week, you might find yourself rushing out to buy something just to spend it. But if you purchase a $20 apron and save $10, you’re still spending money on something that you probably didn’t need.

Whether you can use a store credit card anywhere or only at that specific retailer depends on the type of card it is.

Open-loop cards: General-purpose cards that are part of the American Express, Discover, Visa, or Mastercard networks are called open-loop cards. You might get a high rewards rate at a specific store and a meh rate everywhere else, but at least you can use that card at more than one retailer—as long as it accepts credit cards on that network. For example, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card is a Mastercard, so you can swipe it anywhere that accepts Mastercard (like at Target) but not at merchants that don’t (like at Costco).

Closed-loop cards: Retail cards that work only at one store (and perhaps at sibling brands owned by the same company) are closed-loop cards. Closed-loop cards aren’t necessarily bad, but we generally prefer cards that a) you can use at most of the places where you already spend money, and b) are less likely to collect dust if you decide you don’t want to shop at that store anymore. Also, the rewards you earn with a closed-loop card are usually redeemable only at the issuing store.

If you want the best rewards rate for the shopping you do at a particular store, that store-branded card probably isn’t your golden ticket. The Costco Anywhere Visa card is beloved by many, including Wirecutter, but even we don’t always use it to pay for our Costco purchases.

We found store-agnostic credit cards that can earn you 5%—and sometimes even more—at retailers you frequent. If that sounds appealing, check out our favorite credit cards for shopping that aren’t tied to one store.

To decide whether a store card is worth your time, ask yourself these questions:

Do I spend enough money at this store (and earn enough rewards) to justify applying? Most retail cards have high rewards rates, but the rewards you earn generally have to be spent at the same store, and you often have to accrue a certain number of points before you can convert them into something usable (like a rewards certificate). Triple points mean nothing if you never end up earning enough to cash ’em in.

Plus, once you have a rewards certificate, you have to go back to the store to use it, which typically means you have to spend more money. A $10 certificate might seem like a nice way to reduce the blow of your next mall outing, but if you put it toward a $20 shirt, you still have to fork over another $10.

Are the rewards actually good? Many store cards offer rewards in nebulous currencies. Earning 5x points per dollar might sound incredible, but less so if you need to accrue 5,000 points just to get $10 back in rewards (that’s a 1% rewards rate).

Here’s a simple formula for calculating the actual rewards rate on a store card:

(Number of points earned per dollar spent × value of rewards certificate) ÷ number of points needed to earn a rewards certificate

Then take the result and multiply it by 100 to arrive at your effective rewards rate.

So let’s go back to the Express credit card, which—despite an inflated points ratio—still has a great rewards rate. The calculation looks like this:

(20 points earned per dollar spent × $10 rewards certificate) ÷ 2,500 points needed to earn a rewards certificate

The result is .08, which means you’re getting an 8% rewards rate:

.08 × 100 = 8

Don’t settle for anything less than 2% (stick with a cash back credit card instead). If the rewards rate is 5% or higher, you’re in good shape. If the rate falls somewhere between 2.1% and 4.9%, consider whether the other benefits (such as free shipping or alterations) are enough to make the card worth it to you.

What are the fees? If a retail card has an annual fee, odds are you should skip it (we’re looking at you, Disney Premier Visa Card by Chase, and your $49 annual fee). From there, look at other fees the card carries. Foreign transaction fees on retail cards are common, so don’t fret if your card charges them (consider getting a card with no foreign transaction fees to use abroad).

What you do want to look out for are uncommon fees, such as those for inactivity (to reinstate your card and its rewards if you haven’t used it for a period of time, for instance), paper statements (to get your statements by mail versus electronically), or printing (to have a second copy of your statement mailed to you), among others.

Some of our own picks come with annoying fees (pay-by-phone fees were a recurring theme in our research), so weigh whether the risk is worth the reward.

Consider these strategies for using any credit card—store-branded or otherwise—to save money while you shop:

If you have an airline credit card (or even just a frequent-flyer account): Look for shopping portals to rack up miles

Many airlines—including Southwest, Alaska, and American—offer shopping portals that you can use to earn extra miles. (Visit the frequent-flyer page on your chosen airline’s website to see if it has one.)

Shopping portals are landing pages that link out to other retail websites. When you begin your online shopping spree in one of these portals and navigate to a store website from there (rather than going to the site directly), you earn miles for any purchases you make.

A screenshot of a Southwest Rapid Rewards page
Examples of the bonus Southwest miles you can earn through the airline’s Rapid Rewards Shopping portal. (Note: Offers change frequently.)

Once you click a link in the shopping portal—which redirects you to the online store of your choice—the rest of your experience is the same as usual. The only difference: After you complete your purchase, the miles you earned are added to your frequent-flyer account (typically within a few weeks).

Many airlines also offer browser extensions that alert you when you’re shopping on a website that qualifies for bonus miles, making it even easier for you to rack up rewards.

If you have certain Chase, Bank of America, or American Express credit cards: Look for their “deals” programs

Most people who have a credit card issued by Chase, Bank of America, or American Express have access to deals programs:

A screenshot of a BankAmeriDeals page
The BankAmeriDeals program offers cardholders a way to earn bonus points when they pay with an eligible BofA debit or credit card at qualifying retailers.

These programs offer additional savings at preselected retailers. The deals, which vary by card, are personalized based on the user’s spending history. We’ve spotted offers of 10% back at Dick’s Sporting Goods and 10% back at Madewell for a Bank of America Premium Rewards cardholder.

The deals are also stackable with your card’s rewards program, which means a $50 Madewell purchase would earn not only 75 points (when paid for with your Premium Rewards card) but also a $5 statement credit from BankAmeriDeals.

A screenshot of a Chase Offers page
If you have a Chase card that qualifies for Chase Offers, you have to click Add to card to earn the bonus cash back rate for purchases you make at that retailer.

To take advantage of these offers, you usually just have to log in to your account, navigate to the deals page, and click an offer to add it to your eligible card (they aren’t automatically applied). When you pay with your card at one of those merchants, a statement credit will be applied to your account (typically within a few weeks).

What are store credit cards? Store credit cards are branded by a particular retailer (say, Express or Pottery Barn), and usually offer significant rewards for purchases made at that store.

How do store credit cards work? Some store cards work only at a specific merchant. If that’s the case, it’s considered a closed-loop card. Other store cards work anywhere its payment network (American Express, Discover, Visa, or Mastercard) is accepted. Those are open-loop cards.

What’s the difference between a store card and a cash back card? With a store credit card, the rewards you earn are usually doled out as certificates that—you guessed it—can be used only at that store.

A cash back card is exactly what it sounds like: It pays you back a percentage of each purchase you make. There are plenty of ways to redeem the moolah you earn with a cash back card, including as a paper check, statement credit, direct deposit into your bank account, or gift card.

Some store cards, like the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, offer cash back.

How does applying for a store card affect your credit score? Applying for any credit card impacts your score, but we can’t definitively say whether it’s for better or worse over time. You generally get hit with a hard inquiry when you apply for credit, which can result in a small drop in your scores (think 10 or so points, depending on your credit history).

But getting a new credit card also means an increase in your total credit limit. Assuming your spending remains the same, a higher overall credit limit lowers your credit utilization ratio, which can be good for your scores.

Whether you hold a store card, a general-purpose card, or a mix of both, make sure you pay your bills on time every month, maintain a low credit utilization ratio, and keep your accounts open to establish a long credit history. Those are all good ways to boost your credit score over time.

About your guide

Sally French

Sally French

Staff Writer

Sally French is a staff writer at Wirecutter, covering personal finance. Previously she spent five years writing for MarketWatch, where she reported on everything from comparing meal kit costs to detailing her own personal experience buying a home in San Francisco. Her personal finance stories have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other publications. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Editorial note: The evaluations of financial products in this article are independently determined by Wirecutter and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

Edit