The 5 Best Credit Cards for Fashion Lovers
When it comes time for checkout at your favorite stores, there's always that dreaded moment when the cashier asks if you want to sign up for the store credit card. Don't just say yes! We'll tell you why.
Open your inbox right now.
We're willing to bet that there are tons of offers from the stores you shop in (and some from stores you've never stopped in), asking you to sign up for a store card, or offering you a sign-up bonus or another discount as an enticement to apply for their card.
The truth is, there are so many different stores offering so many different reward credit cards with different bonuses, perks, and incentives to choose from that it's difficult not to get overwhelmed.
Still, a lot of these cards come with high annual percentage rates (APRs) or only work at one specific store.
Pick the wrong card and those interest rates and limited shopping options might cramp your style, not to mention your wallet.
And there's no one-size fits all reward credit card solution (just like there's no one store that will cater to all of your needs).
That's why this article will show you the best cards for filling up your closet without draining your bank account.
Plan ahead to avoid overspending
Because the right clothing is crucial for success in so many aspects of our lives, it's often easy to overspend (even when you have a budget).
'Just one more pair of shoes', can often lead to, 'And also the bag that goes with them.'
Or that red sale sticker starts calling your name. ('No, I've never worn green pants before, but LOOK at this price!').
No doubt it's important to remember that no credit card will help if your spending is out of control (like the 6% of Americans who have a shopping addiction).
But if you're smart about how you spend and the retail credit card you choose, you can really make the most of freebies and perks to make your wardrobe (and your wallet) full.
But with thousands of stores to choose from, how do you strike the balance between having the cards that fit your needs... and not having too many cards?
8 ways to spend less money on clothes
The right number of retail cards for the fashion obsessed
It's so easy to say yes when a store clerk asks, 'Do you want to save 10% by opening a store card?'
Only sign up for the number you can manage.
For some people, that's one, for others, making 15 payments on time is a breeze.
That may mean getting fewer retail cards if you're already juggling a traditional or business credit card.
And remember, that if you're buying a lot, the savings can be an incentive, though there may be a cap on the amount you can spend and the discount doesn't apply to all the subsequent purchases you'll make with that card.
Also, the interest you accrue if you can't pay off the balance can be more than the savings was in the first place, and other fees can burn through your cash as well.
If you end up with too many cards, and can't keep track of your spending, you are going to end up in debt.
And no new dress or checkout perk is worth the stress that comes with high-interest rates or picking the wrong card.
Plus, many of these cards come with high balance transfer fees that make trading balances between cards an expensive proposition.
And even just having the credit card will make you spend your hard-earned cash.
A study published in 2001, titled "Always Leave Home Without It," showed that in certain contexts, people were willing to pay up to twice as much for the same item when paying with a credit card instead of cash.
This is known as the "credit card premium".
Financial writer Matthew Frankel notes that it would take nearly 14 years for the typical indebted household to pay off its existing credit card debt, at a staggering cost of more than $40,200.
So before you pick a card, Chelsea Moore (blogger and reformed shopaholic) says she created a budget spreadsheet that she sticks to, by combining tools through Google Sheets and Money After Graduation.
Curbing your shopping impulses in an instant economy
In addition to brick and mortar temptations, the ease of shopping online makes spending feel like it's not even happening.
Plug in your store card (even at 11 pm, long after traditional retailers are closed), add to your cart, click, and get your items in a day or two.
It doesn't even feel like you've spent any money.... until the bill comes.
Financial writer Mikelann Valterra says that the longer you look, the more you'll buy and that browsing online is dangerous to your wallet.
The trick is knowing what you're looking for before you start wandering around.
Pick the cards that work for you
The good news is there are tons of cards to choose from.
The bad news?
There are tons of cards to choose from.
We've narrowed down the cards that work for every kind of fashioned-obsessed consumer, so you can find what works best for your shopping style.
Before we jump in though, there are three rules you should apply to be a responsible credit card holder no matter what your shopping style is, according to the Krazy Coupon Lady:
- Pay that baby off every month without fail. When you do this religiously, you're not worried about interest rates because you never actually pay them. This is the only way to go, both for healthy finances, avoiding fees and not getting a bad credit score!
- Purchase only what you can afford with cash. Don't spend money you don't have. Ever. Treat your credit card like it was a debit card.
- Put the card away. Don't let it live in your wallet. Make it live in a drawer at home to safeguard against impulse buying.
Some additional tips include watching out for cards that advertise balance transfer offers.
Many of these cards charge sky-high rates and fees to shift your balance on or off of your account — so make sure you read the fine print to avoid those fees.
How we chose these 5 cards
There are hundreds of stores offering hundreds of cards for the financially savvy fashionista.
Naturally, not all of them made the cut for this list. Here's how we selected our top five:
- Something for everyone. We avoided specialist clothing stores that cater to a small audience. All of these cards are for stores offering a full range of clothes for men, women, and children.
- Shop anywhere. If it's on the list, it's probably in your neighborhood. None of these stores are local or regional chains.
- Fits your budget. There's a wide range of retailers on this list. Some of them may be pricier than others, but we tried to present a selection of cards so that at least one of them will fit your budget.
Of course, there are many good cards that we left off this list.
For most shoppers, the five we cover will be perfect for whenever you start looking for the newest addition to your closet.
For the online addict: Amazon Prime Store Card
If you're doing your shopping online, there's likely one retailer you're going to more than any others, Amazon.
While the online behemoth has a few different card offerings, you're likely to find the most value in the Amazon Prime Store Card.
Great discounts and financing. This card offers 5% back on Amazon purchases, which gives you some great savings when it's time to add to your wardrobe.
Special financing offers. Amazon offers 0% financing for six months on purchases of $149 or more, 12 months for $499 and up, and 24 months on select items.
No annual fee. You won't be charged a dime for signing up for this card.
Gift card sign-up bonus. Once you're approved, you'll receive $40 in Amazon credit.
Prime required. You need to have a Prime membership to apply — a $99 annual fee (but if you're doing all that shopping, you probably do already).
High-interest rates. Unfortunately, this card offers a high-interest rate (26.24%), so be sure to pay the balance in full.
Is it worth the Prime subscription?
Financial blogger Kyle James says if you use Amazon Prime frequently, and pay off your debts every month, it seems to be a no-brainer.
Signing up and canceling
To sign up, just visit Amazon's web page for the card to apply.
If you want to cancel, you'll need to visit the website for Synchrony Bank. From there, you can cancel the card online.
For the brick and mortar shopper: Gap Card
The Gap, known for its extreme sales strategy, hopes you buy enough shirts to make its steep discounts worth it, according to Rheana Murray of Racked.
But it also makes those discounts even steeper for cardholders.
That's why we're recommending the Gap Credit Card for those who like to do their shopping in an actual store.
Discounts, introductory and otherwise. You'll get 15% off your first Gap purchase, and then 10% off every purchase made on Tuesdays at any brand locations.
Get rewarded. Each dollar spent at company stores translates into five reward points, while every dollar spent elsewhere gets you one reward point; for every 200 points you acquire, you get a $10 Gap Inc. credit.
The dollar-to-rewards ratio is good. Big non-Gap spends like plane tickets will net you tons of in-store rewards.
Points have an expiration date. While rewards have a nice lifespan, they do expire.
High-interest rates. Make sure you don't carry a balance, as the 23.99% interest rate will cancel out those big discounts.
Can I pay off my card balance at the Gap store?
Unfortunately, you can't.
Payments can be made online or over the phone.
Signing up and canceling
You can sign up online or at a GAP store.
To close your account, call 1-800-887-1198.
For the department store shopper: Nordstrom Card
If you're a fan of department stores (despite the sneaky tricks they use to make you spend more), Nordstrom offers a credit card that brings some hot benefits when looking for haute couture.
Low interest. The Nordstrom Card has lower interest than its department store competitors (10.9-22.9% depending on your credit).
Use it anywhere. This card can be used anywhere Visa is accepted.
Nice little sign-up bonus. You get $20 off the first $100 Nordstrom purchase you make on the card.
Rack up points. You also earn two points for every dollar spent at Nordstrom, and one point for each dollar spent everywhere else.
Earn rewards at multiple stores. All the Nordstrom cards earn 2x points per dollar at Haute Look and Trunk Club, too.
So if you're the type of shopper who gets your clothes delivered, that's an added bonus.
Easy points system. Get a $20 Nordstrom credit for every 2,000 points you rack up and extra points can be earned during special promotion times.
Early access to sales. Also, all cardholders also gain early access to Nordstrom's annual anniversary sale and there are plenty of opportunities to earn additional bonus points.
Expensive clothes. Let's face it: this is an expensive shop. Even if you can get a Nordstrom's Card, the cost of its items may put it out of reach for most people.
Do points ever expire?
Your points can expire if you don't use your points for three years.
Missing two consecutive payments on your Nordstrom's card also means your points vanish.
Signing up and canceling
You can apply online or in store.
To cancel your card, call 1.800.964.1800.
For the family fashionista: Target REDCard
For fashion finds for the whole family, you can't really go wrong with Target.
Whether it's a $5 pineapple tee or an amazing embellished clutch, Target is one of those places where you just might want one of everything.
After all, the store leads the way in access to affordable, designer collaborative fashion while keeping home goods, groceries and more all under the same roof.
Combined savings. The Target card comes with a 5% discount on every Target purchase you make and that discount can be combined with deals on CartWheel, Target's coupon app.
Special perks. Cardmembers get an extra 30 days for returns and free shipping for online purchases.
High-interest rate. Whether you use this card for your stilettos and your salad dressing, make sure to pay it off every month. The interest rate is 22.9%.
Do I get cash back with this card?
This card offers a pure discount, not points redeemable for cash back or other rewards.
Signing up and canceling
You can apply for this card at Target or by visiting their website.
To cancel, call 1-800-394-1829.
For the discount hunter: TJX Rewards Credit Card
Bargain hunters rejoice. The TJX Rewards Credit Card lets you earn points if you're a frequent discount shopper.
The store, known as a go-to destination for getting great deals on designer clothes and accessories (and the hangers to put them on) rewards loyal customers pretty nicely.
Multiple stores to get rewarded. If you're also a big fan of HomeGoods, TJ's sister store that specializes in home decor, you'll definitely want to leverage the TJX Rewards card.
You earn rewards there, too!
Earn points, get store credit. You'll earn a rewards rate of 5 points per $1 spent at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post.
For every 1,000 points you earn, you'll receive a $10 rewards certificate that is redeemable at participating stores.
Easy application. Also, if you're looking to build credit, users have noticed that this card may be easy to get with less than perfect credit scores.
High interest. Watch out - with its super high-interest rate (26.99%), this is not the card to leave a balance on.
Can I use this card anywhere?
If you signed up for just the store card, you can only use it at T.J. Maxx and its sister stores, while cardholders with the T.J. Maxx Mastercard can use their card anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
Signing up and canceling
You can sign up at T.J. Maxx or any of its sister stores, and also apply online.
To cancel, just call 1-866-517-4685.
What to do with the cards you don't want
It's easy to switch the cards that you don't use or that have high interest with the cards for stores you might frequent more often or that give you better rewards.
But should you close the retail store card you opened but won't use?
Financial blogger John Ulzheimer says that if you don't close the card immediately after getting it (you know, to get the bonus you were offered at the register), you shouldn't close it ever.
Retail cards don't charge monthly or annual fees, so the cost to simply hold onto the card is $0.
And, the unused credit limit, albeit a small one, is likely helping your credit scores because credit scoring systems like unused credit limits.
Ulzheimer, quoting Craig Watts, FICO's Director of Public Affairs, writes that "When assessing length of credit history, the FICO score considers the origination date on all accounts on the credit report, open and closed.
"So an account that was opened for just one year 10 years ago still counts 10 years toward length of credit history in the eyes of the FICO Score, everything else being equal."
The real results of the right card
When you use the right credit card (i.e. the ones with steep rewards, or at retailers you frequent often) and then pay it off in full (thus avoiding those dreaded high-interest charges), you can get yourself out of a negative financial situation and get rewarded!
Yes, your clothes matter but your financial future does, too.
No one will think about how great you look at dinner when they realize you can't pay for what you ate.
So, take the old cards that aren't good for you and put them away in a drawer, cut them up, or transfer your balance and cancel them.
Another great idea: Make a purse out of them. Now there's a way to save!
A quick story:
When I bought my first home, I went to one of the big home supply stores and applied for a credit card to cover the costs of a new washer and dryer.
I figured I would pay off the card after closing on the house, gain some rewards points, and not spend anything out of pocket before moving day.
What I did not know was the mortgage interest rate went up a point and a half when my credit score took a mere five-point hit from that one credit card application!
To put it in real terms, one credit card application cost me an additional $4,500 in interest on my mortgage.
I could have paid for four sets of washers and dryers with that!
What's your favorite (or most hated) fashion card?
How much have you hauled in with it?
Let us know in the comments below.