Sorting through the many credit card options that are available today could cause a headache — what with business, travel, rewards and more. When you add store cards to the mix, the options may seem even more complicated. Allow us to explain the differences between store and conventional credit cards, as well as some advantages of both types.
How are store cards and credit cards different?
A couple major differences can help you distinguish store cards and conventional credit cards. They're not accepted in all the same places, and most stores also have cards that belong to major payment networks, such as Visa and Mastercard.
Where you can use them
Store cards are typically limited to use at a specific retailer's physical and online stores. Your ability to make purchases with a store card will still be limited to purchases at the store itself. In some cases, this could mean several retailers that are affiliated with each other — a family of brands, so to speak.
By contrast, conventional credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. Conventional credit cards are issued by financial institutions like Chase, and they are usually more widely accepted than store cards.
Although where you can use them is a key difference, sometimes it can be hard to distinguish store cards from conventional credit cards. Some retailers may offer both a store card and a conventional card. You might look at the Prime Visa credit card and think you can only use it at Amazon.com. However, this is called a co-branded credit card, a conventional credit card that is offered by a retailer in conjunction with the card's payment network (Visa, Mastercard, etc.). The Prime Store Card is a store card. Many travel credit cards are also co-branded with specific companies, such as hotel chains and airlines. These are conventional credit cards, even if they resemble store cards.
How rewards or discounts work
Rewards programs are another key difference between store cards and conventional credit cards. Both tend to have perks when you use the card, but how these features work can vary.
Discounts are usually more common offerings for store cards than they are for conventional credit cards. Imagine you're buying a pair of shoes at a retailer, for example. If you pay using a store card for that retailer, you might save a percentage, for example 15% on the purchase. If you pay using a credit card, you might earn rewards on the purchase instead of getting a discount on the shoes.
Although it's often a hallmark of conventional credit cards, a rewards program may be offered by a store card, too. In this way, both cards may reward spending at specific retailers with points systems. However, the opportunities to earn rewards with either type of card can be very different.
Store cards may run promotions which could provide additional points, like triple, for spending during a promotional period — maybe just because it's a national holiday. Of course, you'll still have to spend at the store itself to earn the bonus rewards.
Conventional credit cards may offer chances to earn rewards, too. Those opportunities tend to be more flexible, though. Rewards credit cards are known for this — offering cardmembers ways to earn rewards based on where a card is used.
As an example, a store credit card may offer 2 points per dollar you spend at any of the retailer's stores, including online. A conventional credit card, on the other hand, may offer 2 points per dollar when you spend on an entire category of purchases, such as stores.
Conventional credit cards can have a range of redemption options for rewards you earn with the card. Chase Ultimate Rewards®, for example, is a versatile rewards program for many Chase credit cards. Through this digital portal, cardmembers can identify their card's earning potential, transfer points, book travel and much more. These robust rewards opportunities aren't very common features of store cards. As described above, those typically rely on offering points or discounts on your spending with select retailers.
How are store cards and credit cards similar?
Store cards and conventional credit cards share a couple key features. One is that both can offer financing for purchases. When you charge a purchase to a credit card, you're usually not required to pay it in full right away. The purchase amount is charged to your line of credit, and you agree to make at least a monthly minimum payment. The same is usually true for store cards.
Both store cards and conventional credit cards often have sign-up or introductory offers for opening a new account. For store cards, the introductory offer is usually for opening a card and making a purchase with it, right then and there. For conventional credit cards, new cardmembers may be rewarded with a sign-up bonus for meeting certain terms. That could be thousands of points for spending a certain dollar amount within several months of opening the account.
Advantages of conventional credit cards and store cards
There are reasons why both types of credit card may be appealing: financing purchases, discounts, rewards, etc. If you're interested in the upsides, here are several to consider for each type of card.
Conventional credit card advantages
- Widely accepted: Major retailers and small businesses alike tend to accept conventional credit cards. That's often true of their websites, as well — you usually just enter the credit card details.
- Introductory/sign-up offers: This might mean you're charged little or no interest on purchases made within a certain time frame. Another possibility is that you earn a set number points for spending a certain dollar amount within a set period of time that can be redeemed in various ways.
- Rewards programs: Points can typically be redeemed in a variety of ways, including for cash back and travel discounts.
Store card advantages
- Periodic offers: Stores may run promotions throughout the year that are particularly useful to store cardholders. You could receive these offers directly, or they may be part of storewide events, such as a Labor Day sale.
- Free shipping: This may be a coveted perk if you prefer to shop your favorite retail store digitally. If you have a store card, that might be your ticket to free shipping on large and small purchases alike.
- Credit history: As mentioned, store cards and conventional credit cards have at least one thing in common: financing. Store cards can be used and paid so as to help you build credit history. This can be good if you're new to credit altogether, rebuilding your credit or looking for the chance to improve it. For more information on ways you can further improve your credit score, enroll in Chase Credit Journey®, a free online tool where you can feel empowered to improve your financial wellness.
Store cards tend to work like conventional credit cards, even if the places that accept your store card are limited. Both types can offer a way to finance purchases and receive certain perks. The big difference is where these cards are accepted. Conventional credit cards are accepted almost anywhere, while store cards are usually only valid ways to pay for purchases at select retailers. Store cards and conventional credit cards both have their advantages, though, and people might benefit from carrying both in their wallets.