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Amazon vs. Walmart: Which retailer offers the best credit card?

Amazon and Walmart both offer free shipping and the ability to maximize savings when you open one of the retailer's co-branded credit cards, but which store has the best option?

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Amazon and Walmart are the two biggest retailers in the U.S., and both offer customers many reasons to shop regularly, from their low prices on everyday products to free two-day shipping. And if you find yourself swiping your credit card at either retailer, it might be time to consider one of their store credit cards. But does one stand out from the bunch?

Amazon offers four cards: the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, the Amazon Prime Store Card and the Amazon Store Card.

Walmart offers two cards: the Walmart Rewards Card and the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card

The two co-branded Amazon Visa Signature cards and the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card are accepted everywhere, whereas the two Amazon store cards and the Walmart Rewards card can only be used at the respective retailers.

Below, CNBC Select breaks down what you need to know about the four Amazon and two Walmart credit cards, from membership requirements and rewards to fees and added perks. For our comparison, we'll focus on the consumer cards mentioned above, though there are business versions available.

Amazon vs Walmart cards

  • Membership requirements
  • Rewards and redemption
  • Fees
  • Added benefits
  • Bottom line

Membership requirements

Amazon credit cards

Out of the four Amazon cards, two require Prime membership — the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and the Amazon Prime Store Card. Prime currently costs $119 for an annual membership or $12.99 per month (which is $36.88 more than an annual plan). You may be able to piggyback off someone else's Prime membership through Amazon Household by simply joining a Household that has a Prime membership. This will qualify you to apply for one of the Amazon Prime Rewards cards.

If you decide to cancel Prime or are removed from an eligible Prime Household, your card will be downgraded to the non-Prime version of your card, either the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card or the Amazon Store Card. These cards come with the same rewards structure as the two Prime cards, but with lower rewards rates. 

Similar to most store cards, the Amazon store cards are only accepted at select Amazon properties. You can only use the Amazon store cards on Amazon.com, Audible.com and select Pay with Amazon merchants. You can't use the store cards at the Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market or for some other Amazon transactions, such as video rentals and digital add-on subscriptions, like Showtime. 

Walmart credit cards

There are no membership requirements for the Walmart Rewards Card and Capital One Walmart Rewards Card. But like most store cards, you can only use the Walmart Rewards Cards at Walmart-owned properties, which includes Walmart and Murphy USA fuel stations. 

Rewards and redemption

The Amazon and Walmart cards offer competitive rewards programs that benefit different types of consumers. Here's the breakdown:

  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card: Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; and 1% back on all other purchases. Receive a $100 Amazon.com gift card upon approval.
  • Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card: Earn 3% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; and 1% back on all other purchases. Receive a $50 Amazon.com gift card upon approval.
  • Amazon Prime Store Card: Earn 5% back on Amazon.com and receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card upon approval. 
  • Amazon Store Card: No cash-back rewards, but new cardholders receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card upon approval. 
  • Walmart Rewards Card: Earn 5% back at Walmart.com, Walmart app, Walmart Grocery Pickup and Delivery; and 2% back at Walmart stores, Walmart and Murphy USA fuel stations. New cardholders also earn 5% back on in-store purchases when using Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval (after, earn 2%).
  • Capital One Walmart Rewards Card: Earn 5% back at Walmart.com, Walmart app, Walmart Grocery Pickup and Delivery; 2% back at Walmart stores, Walmart and Murphy USA fuel stations, restaurants and travel; and 1% back everywhere else. New cardholders also earn 5% back on in-store purchases when using Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval (after, earn 2%).

The card with the best rewards depends on where you do most of your shopping. When it comes to groceries and household goods, both cards are pretty similar, so the best choice for these purchases varies on the store you primarily shop at. If you shop at Whole Foods Market and/or Amazon, choose an Amazon Visa card. Whereas if you shop at Walmart, choose a Walmart card.

Looking at the other rewards categories, the rewards rate on restaurants is the same for cards from each retailer at 2%, while gas station spending appears the same (2%) — but there's a catch on what purchases qualify for the 2% rate with the Walmart cards. The cards limit 2% rewards to gas at Walmart and Murphy USA fuel stations. If you travel, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card offers the highest rewards rate at 2% on travel purchases.

Comparing the welcome bonus offers, Amazon stands out for offering an instant $10, $50 or $100 Amazon gift card upon approval, depending on the card you open. In comparison, both Walmart cards offer 5% back on in-store purchases when using Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval (after, earn 2%).

Both Amazon and Walmart cardholders can redeem rewards at any time for a variety of options, including statement credits and gift cards. Plus you can apply rewards at online checkout on Amazon.com and Walmart.com, respectively. Like most cards, the redemption rates vary based on how you redeem rewards.

Winner: Tie — the Amazon and Walmart cards offer similar rewards and redemption options, so the best choice relies on where you do your shopping. And if you want to earn a welcome bonus, the Amazon cards offer Amazon gift cards worth up to $100 with no spending requirements.

Fees

Annual fee

All cards have no annual fees, though the Amazon Prime cards require a Prime membership.

Special financing and APR

The options are limited to the two Amazon store cards if you want a 0% APR period. These cards offer no interest on Amazon purchases of $150 or more if the entire purchase amount is paid in full within six, 12 or 24 months. Here are the current offers:

  • Pay no interest on Amazon.com purchases of $150 or more if the entire purchase amount is paid in full within six months.
  • Pay no interest on Amazon.com purchases of $600 or more if the entire purchase amount is paid in full within 12 months.
  • Pay no interest on select Amazon.com purchases of $800 or more if the entire purchase amount is paid in full within 24 months.

After the no-interest periods end, there's a 25.99% variable APR. Take note that these cards charge deferred interest, which means you'll incur a charge for all the interest you accrued since you made the purchase — if you don't pay off your balance before the interest-free period ends.

The Amazon Visa cards have no 0% APR periods and a 14.24% to 22.24% variable.

The Walmart cards also don't offer any intro 0% APR periods. There is a 26.99% variable APR for the Walmart Rewards Card and a 17.99% to 26.99% variable APR for the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card.

Foreign transaction fee

The Amazon Visa cards and Capital One Walmart card all have no foreign transaction fees. The Amazon store cards and Walmart store card can't be used outside the U.S.

Winner: The Amazon and Walmart cards break even on the annual fee and foreign transaction fees. However, if you want to take advantage of no-interest periods, choose one of the Amazon store cards since they're currently the only cards providing special financing.

Added benefits

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card offer:

  • Extended warranty protection
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Purchase protection
  • Access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection
  • Visa Signature concierge service

Amazon store cardholders don't receive these perks.

The Capital One Walmart Rewards Card offers:

  • Extended warranty protection
  • Car rental insurance
  • Travel assistance services
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Emergency roadside assistance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Trip cancellation and trip protection insurance
  • Price protection
  • Capital One experiences, which offer special access to culinary, music and sporting events

The Walmart Rewards Card doesn't offer these perks.

Winner: Tie — the Amazon Rewards Visa cards and Capital One Walmart card offer a similar variety of travel and purchase protections. The main differences are that the Amazon Rewards Visa cardholders receive lost luggage reimbursement and access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, while the Capital One Walmart cardholders get trip cancellation and trip protection insurance.

Bottom line

Ultimately the best credit card for you depends on whether you prefer to shop at Amazon or Walmart since both retailers offer no-annual-fee-cards that provide up to 5% back in rewards on purchases made with them.

If you shop at both stores and can't decide on which card to choose, here's a simple breakdown:

  1. If you frequently order from Amazon, buy groceries at Whole Foods Market and Prime Fresh, and/or want to benefit from special financing, choose one of the Amazon cards.
  2. If you shop at your local Walmart store or on Walmart.com, go for a Walmart card.
  3. If shop regularly at both stores, you may want to consider opening a card with Walmart and Amazon.

You can benefit from earning generous rewards on Amazon or Walmart purchases with a card from one or both of the retailers. However, if you want to maximize rewards on other purchases, such as groceries and gas, you may want to consider alternative rewards cards that provide higher rewards rates on those types of spending.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a great choice for both groceries and gas with 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. Take note that grocery purchases at Walmart and Amazon don't qualify for the higher cash-back rate, though Whole Foods Market purchases are eligible. Cardholders also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back on transit and 1% cash back on other purchases.

Learn more:

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.

Information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, Amazon Prime Store Card, Amazon Store Card, Walmart Rewards Card and the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of the cards prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.