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When you shop regularly at your favorite retailer, whether it's wholesale, online or a big box store, the cost of your purchases can quickly add up. One way to offset this bill is to open a store credit card so you can earn rewards at checkout.
Many well-known retailers, such as Costco, Amazon, Target and Walmart, offer credit cards that provide competitive rewards and free shipping on purchases from the retailer's website. Store cards have rewards rates that typically outmatch what you'd earn with a general-purpose rewards card, but in a few cases they are limited to the specific retailer only.
If you're a loyal shopper, opening a store credit card could be a great idea. However, you should keep in mind that store cards typically have higher interest rates, making it even more important to pay your bill in full every month. If you use your store card strategically, these cards could help you maximize savings on everything from groceries to apparel.
With an array of options to choose from at Costco, Amazon, Target and Walmart, you may have trouble deciding which one of these popular store cards deserve a spot in your wallet.
Below, CNBC Select compares credit cards from these four large retailers so you can see how they stack up.
- Membership requirements
- Where you can use the cards
- Annual fees and special financing
- Rewards and redemption
- Additional perks
- Bottom line
The Costco Anywhere Visa Card and both Amazon Prime cards (Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and Amazon Prime Store Card) require membership. In order to have one of these cards, you'll need to maintain an active membership. Annual Costco membership starts at $60 for Gold Star members while Amazon Prime costs $119 a year.
How they compare: If you're looking to open a new card without meeting more requirements than usual, you may want to consider one of the non-Prime Amazon cards, Target RedCard or Walmart cards. But if you're already a Costco or Prime member (or someone who's been wanting to join either membership), this requirement may not matter.
There are two types of store cards: Traditional cards that can only be used at the brand's properties (Amazon Store Cards can only be used at select Amazon properties) and co-branded cards that are backed by a major card network and can be used nearly everywhere (Amazon Visa Signature Cards can be used anywhere Visa is accepted).
Store cards include the Amazon Prime Store Card, Amazon Store Card, Target RedCard and Walmart Rewards Card. These cards can only be used in-store and online at Amazon, Target and Walmart properties, respectively.
Co-branded cards include the Costco Anywhere Visa Card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card and Capital One Walmart Rewards Card. All of these cards can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, except the Walmart card which can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
How they compare: The best type of card depends on where you want to use it. If the answer is nearly everywhere, opt for co-branded cards, which are offered by Costco, Amazon and Walmart. But if you only plan on using it at the retailer, a traditional store card works just fine.
Costco is the only store that doesn't offer a traditional store card, whereas Target only lets you apply for a store card (though there are instances of some cardholders being upgraded to a co-branded Mastercard).
Amazon and Walmart offer the option to either open a traditional store card that can only be used at the store's properties or a co-branded card that can be used anywhere, so the choice is up to you.
All of these credit cards have no annual fee (though the Costco and Amazon Prime cards require membership ranging from $60 to $120 a year).
- 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 special financing offers end, there's a 25.99% variable APR. Both Amazon Store Cards charge deferred interest, which means you'll incur a charge for all the interest you accrued since you made the purchase.
The remaining cards don't currently offer 0% financing and have the following APRs:
- Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card: 14.24% to 22.24% variable
- Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card: 14.24% to 22.24% variable
- Target RedCard: 24.40% variable
- Capital One Walmart Rewards Card: 17.99% to 26.99% variable
- Walmart Rewards Card: 26.99% variable
How they compare: All of the cards break even on the annual fee. However, both Amazon store cards are the best options for special financing since they offer no-interest periods up to 24 months. The other Amazon Visa, Costco, Target and Walmart cards don't provide 0% offers.
All of the credit cards offered by Costco, Amazon, Target and Walmart provide rewards programs. The rewards are typically geared to spending at the specific brand, though some co-branded cards also offer competitive gas, grocery, travel and dining rewards.
Here's a breakdown:
- Costco Anywhere Visa Card: Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year (then 1%); 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There is no welcome bonus.
- 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.
- Target RedCard: 5% discount at checkout on most purchases in-store and at Target.com. Check out our Target RedCard review for exclusions. Get $40 off a $40 Target purchase after approval for the Target RedCard from 9/13/20 to 10/10/20.
- Capital One Walmart Rewards Card: 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; 1% back everywhere else. The welcome bonus offer provides 5% back on in-store purchases when using Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval (after, earn 2%).
- Walmart Rewards Card: 5% back at Walmart.com, Walmart app, Walmart Grocery Pickup and Delivery; and 2% back at Walmart stores, Walmart and Murphy USA fuel stations. The welcome bonus offer provides 5% back on in-store purchases when using Walmart Pay for the first 12 months after approval (after, earn 2%).
The majority of the cards (those offered by Amazon and Walmart) provide the same rewards redemption options, such as statement credits and gift cards, as well as the ability to redeem rewards at any time.
However, two cards have very different rewards programs compared to the others: The Costco Anywhere Visa Card and the Target RedCard. And the Amazon Store Card is the only card without rewards.
The Costco Anywhere Visa Card issues an annual rewards certificate after your February billing cycle closes. And in addition to a year-long wait to redeem your rewards, you'll also have to visit a physical U.S. Costco warehouse to cash your certificate. (Learn more about how to redeem Costco rewards.)
Meanwhile, the Target RedCard provides an instant 5% discount on most Target purchases that reduces your bill at checkout. There's no need to accrue rewards and redeem them at a later date.
How they compare: The card with the best rewards and redemption options depends on the amount of flexibility you prefer and where you shop. If you want to earn the most rewards at your favorite store, simply stick to a card it offers. For instance, if you want to earn high rewards at Walmart, consider either Walmart card.
But if you shop at more than one retailer and don't want to open a card at each store, consider how the rewards programs work and your redemption options.
If you rather have an instant discount, opt for the Target RedCard's unique 5% off most items at checkout. But if you don't mind accruing rewards and redeeming them whenever, the Walmart and Amazon cards may be a fit. And if you find yourself frequently shopping at Costco and have a location nearby, the annual rewards certificate may not be an issue for you.
If you're looking for a card with extensive cardholder benefits, such as travel insurance and extended warranty coverage, co-branded cards provide the most benefits. The Costco Anywhere Visa Card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card and Capital One Walmart Rewards Card all provide a variety of added perks that make them worthwhile.
However, some store cards, particularly the Target RedCard, Amazon Prime Store Card and Amazon Store Card all offer free shipping on thousands of items with no order minimums. That's compared to the typical $25 or $35 requirement on Target and Amazon to get free shipping.
How they compare: The Amazon Visa cards provide the best of both worlds: Co-branded card perks, such as travel and purchase protections, plus store card benefits like free shipping at Amazon. Either card provides you with the ability to maximize benefits on Amazon purchases and other spending.
The co-branded cards from Walmart and Costco are also great choices if you travel and want to benefit from purchase protections.
If you want free shipping benefits, the Target RedCard and any Amazon card are a great asset. These cards allow you to skip the $25 or $35 order minimum that non-cardholders are required to meet to get free shipping.
Credit cards from Costco, Amazon, Target and Walmart all provide shoppers a way to maximize rewards at the retailer's properties. And if you opt for a co-branded card, you may even benefit from rewards on other common purchases, such as grocery runs and takeout orders. If you're loyal to any of these stores you may want to consider opening one or more of the store cards mentioned above.
Information about the Target RedCard™, 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.
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