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Any shopper who's been to the mall this holiday season has heard the pitch: Do you have one of our store credit cards? If you sign up today, you'll get an extra 20 percent off your purchase. Plus rewards!
Maybe you shouldn't be so quick to turn a deaf ear to these offers. Racked.com dug into the terms for major retailers' cards and came up with nine that have juicier benefits than your typical rewards credit card. (There's also a naughty list including Saks and J. Crew that, the site said, aren't worth applying for.)
The Gap Visa card, for example, offers five points per dollar spent at Gap and its sister brands, which include Old Navy, Banana Republic and Piperlime, and one point per dollar everywhere else. Cardholders earn $10 in rewards for every 200 points earned—on the highest-earning, cash-back card, the same $200 in purchases would get you $4, max. Of course, you'd have to be a big fan of Gap brands to really benefit.
Still, it's worth noting that even the most rewarding store credit cards can be a horrendous deal if you carry a balance. The average low-interest credit card has rates of 11.09 percent, and cash-back cards 16.42 percent, according to Bankrate.com. The "best" cards Racked.com assessed, in comparison, have rates ranging from 10.9 percent to 26.99 percent. And that lowest rate, on Nordstrom's card, is only for applicants with excellent credit. Less-creditworthy applicants could see rates as high as 22.9 percent.
High rates haven't stopped people from applying. Retailers issued 21.7 million new cards in the first half of this year, a seven-year high and an increase of 2.7 percent from a year earlier, according to Equifax. In September, the credit bureau said, outstanding balances on store cards totaled $195 million, the highest level since January 2009.