If you’re just starting out and looking for ways to build a positive credit history, a store credit card may be exactly what you need. Store cards are much like regular credit cards, except that they are meant to be used with a single retailer — or a collection of partner retailers. Since they do not have the same wide acceptance as a traditional credit card like a Visa or Mastercard, they come with much less inherent risk. As a result, stores that issue their own co-branded cards can approve applicants who have less than stellar credit or a very thin credit profile.
If you're able to get approved for a store credit card, you'll generally start out with a moderate or low limit. With regular use and on-time payments, however, you can use your store card to build good credit that helps you qualify for better credit cards and loans later in life.
If you’re curious which credit cards you may be able to qualify for with fair or poor credit, here are some of the stop options to consider.
Kohl’s Charge Card
Kohl’s offers its own co-branded charge card that can be used in its stores or at Kohls.com. Credit card customers get access to a wide range of offers and sales throughout the year, as well as the opportunity to become a Most Valued Customer (MVC) after spending $600 on a Kohl’s charge card within a calendar year. While discounts for Kohl’s charge customers can be steep (often up to 30% off), beware of its steep variable APR of 21.9% for purchases.
Macy’s Credit Card
Consumers who like to shop at Macy’s stores can also consider signing up for the Macy's credit card. New credit card customers often get up to 20% off their first purchase as well as access to special sales and promotions throughout the year. Keep in mind that Macy’s credit card is an American Express card, so it might be slightly more difficult to qualify for when compared to others on this list. However, you can use it for purchases outside Macy’s. You can even earn 3% back on dining, 2% back at gas stations and supermarkets, and 1% back on all other purchases.
JCPenney Credit Card
If you live near JC Penney stores and shop there frequently, also consider signing up for the JCPenney Credit Card. This credit card gives you ongoing rewards for purchases you make in the store and online year-round. If you climb the ranks of the JCPenney rewards program, you can even qualify for a free gift certificate on your birthday, a free coupon book, and other perks. While the JCPenney Credit Card may offer special financing deals from time to time, keep in mind that it comes with a high variable APR of 26.99%.
Menards Big Card
The Menards Big Card is another store credit card that may be easier to qualify for than regular, unsecured credit cards. Not only that, but this card gives you a 2% rebate on all your Menard’s purchases, which can add up in a big way if you spend a lot at the store. You can also qualify for reduced rate financing for a limited time on purchases over a certain amount, which gives you the option to make a large purchase and pay it down without an exorbitant interest rate. Just keep in mind that the ongoing variable APR for this card is high at 26.49%.
Nordstrom Retail Card
Nordstrom also offers a store credit card that rewards you for each dollar you spend in their stores. Specifically, cardholders can expect to earn 3 points per $1 spent with the retailer, which they can accrue for Nordstrom “Notes” they can redeem for more Nordstrom purchases. Nordstrom cardholders can also access private sales opportunities and invite-only events. On the downside, the Nordstrom Retail Card comes with a variable APR of 25.90% for purchases.
Old Navy Credit Card
Old Navy offers a store credit card and a Visa credit card, but we'll focus on their store card here. Unlike some other store credit cards that are only good for purchases with a single store brand, the Old Navy Credit Card can be used in a family of store brands including Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta. New applicants may receive a discount off their first purchase made with the card, and store card holders earn rewards for each dollar they spend. Just keep in mind that the Old Navy store credit card comes with an ongoing variable APR of 28.249% on purchases.
The Target REDcard is a store card that lets Target customers receive discounts on their in-store and online purchases with the brand. Specifically, cardholders get 5% off almost everything they buy, as well as access to special promotions and sales. Target REDcard holders also qualify for perks like extended return periods and free two-day shipping on thousands of items at Target.com. If you do run up a balance, however, expect to pay an exceptionally high ongoing APR of 22.90% on purchases.
The Bottom Line
If you need a way to boost your credit score but can’t seem to qualify for an unsecured credit card with a broader reach, a store credit card may be ideal. These cards may limit you to shopping at a single store or a family of stores, but they can still help you build credit since your payments will be reported to the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Ideally, you'll pick up a new store credit card, use it responsibly for a while, and improve your credit enough that you can qualify for the best credit cards on the market today. And even then, some store cards are worth keeping for the long haul since they make it easier to save money with ongoing promotions and they tend to come with no annual fee.
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