The Bottom Line
Comenity Bank store credit cards are made possible by the partnership between Comenity Bank and more than 160 U.S. retail and service companies.
The cards come in two types. For starters, it's important to know there are two types of Comenity bank store credit cards.
One of the types can be used in the store, but nowhere else. There are credit cards offering in-store credit to customers, which cannot be used for purchases outside of the store (except possibly at partner or "sister" stores).
These store-based cards can't be used for normal credit card transactions like cash advances or balance transfers.
Major credit cards can be used just about anywhere. Then there are store-branded Visa and Mastercard credit cards.
These can be used anywhere these major credit cards are accepted.
Since these are proper credit cards, cardholders can use them for normal credit card functions like getting cash advances and transferring a balance from another card.
Store cards are notorious for their high-interest rates. And Comenity Bank store credit cards are no different.
Both types of store cards offered through Comenity Bank charge pretty outrageous annual percentage rates (APRs) on unpaid balances.
Each store's card has its own terms, but overall the rates charged are much higher than the 13.16% APR averaged across all credit cards in the United States.
Victoria's real secret is high-interest. For example, no matter what your credit score is, if you sign up for a Victoria's Secret Pink in-store credit card you'll be charged a variable rate currently set at 26.24%.
Lofty APR at LOFT. If you choose to get the LOFT Love Mastercard (associated with LOFT stores and Ann Taylor retail outlets) you'll be charged an APR of 25.24%.
Look elsewhere to borrow. If you're looking to borrow and keep a balance on these cards, you're probably better off checking out other credit cards with lower interest.
Those cards will be accepted at your favorite stores, as well as everywhere else.
Comenity cards reward customer loyalty. If you are a regular customer at a particular retailer and you love shopping at their stores, you might consider getting that retailer's store credit card.
Signing up for your favorite store's Comenity card will usually get you discounts, exclusive access to special deals or sales, and possibly let you earn rewards points or cash back.
Initial purchases come with special payment terms. Signing up for a Comenity Bank store credit card is usually part of a retailer's sales promotion.
For example, a store might offer a deal where you can pay no interest or set up a monthly payment plan by simply signing up and putting that first purchase on the card.
Other stores might entice you with a 25% discount on your first purchase with a new store-branded card.
Take advantage of the promotion, then put it away. Considering the high interest rates charged on store credit cards from card issuer Comenity Bank, there are quite a few people who sign up for the promotional offer, then, when it's over, stop using the card.
Keeping the account open but unused will help you avoid taking a hit on your credit score for closing the account.
These cards can be clever tools for building credit scores. One other important detail about Comenity Bank store credit cards is their usefulness in rebuilding tarnished credit ratings.
Sign up for the card using the "shopping cart" trick. When you shop online with certain retailers, upon checking out with your "shopping cart," a pop-up usually appears with a store-only credit card offer.
If you choose to accept the offer, a soft credit pull is performed.
Soft pulls don't affect your credit score like a hard credit inquiry, or "hard pull," will.
It's easier to get approved. People with low credit scores (i.e. "Bad" FICO scores in the 500s) report getting approved for a low credit limit (often under $500) using this easy trick!
Get a credit line increase without even applying. You can usually expect automatic credit limit increases after two or three billing cycles pass with no incident.
Just like that, these customers with low credit gain access to thousands of dollars in credit with the retailer that provided the store-only card.
More available credit = a better credit score. When you have available credit on your credit card account but you don't use it that much (i.e. low credit utilization), your credit score can improve a great deal.
Plenty of people trying to rebuild lower credit scores using the shopping cart trick with a variety of Comenity store credit cards have done so successfully.
We've heard of people with bad credit reporting success in using the shopping cart trick through various stores, including the Victoria's Secret Pink card, and the online retailers Wayfair and Boscovs.
Others have found luck implementing the same check-out hack at Macy's online store and Overstock.com as well.
It's common for people to have multiple cards. Some people report signing up for 10 or 12 cards, all from the card issuer Comenity Bank, just by using the shopping cart method!
When they don't use the credit they have available on these cards for a couple of years, their credit scores eventually start to climb, thanks to the combined credit impact from each of their cards.
No annual fee is key. Since the vast majority of Comenity Bank store credit cards don't charge an annual fee, you can have as many as you want at no extra cost to you.
Aside from the sky-high APR and the fact that you can only shop at the retailer that issued you the in-store credit card in the first place, the process of earning and redeeming rewards points can be a bit limiting as well.
Many people choose the credit card they carry based on the amount of rewards points or cash back they can earn by swiping it at the register.
Plenty of cards that aren't store based allow you to earn higher points in special rewards program categories, and earning is not restricted to one retailer only.
Most rewards cards offer different options for redeeming points. When you want to redeem rewards points with a typical credit card, you can shop at multiple partner retailers or travel providers through the credit card's rewards site.
If you want to redeem cash back, it shows up as a statement balance or check that you can go and spend anywhere.
Comenity Bank cards offer one option for earning, and one for redeeming. With the rewards programs offered by most of the Comenity Bank store credit cards, you're restricted to earning rewards by spending at the retailer the card is tied to.
When it's time to redeem the rewards, you can only use them for discounts in the same store.
Comenity Bank Store-Only Credit Cards
There are currently over 161 Comenity Bank store credit cards available, with over 34 million customers in the U.S.
It would be impossible to review them all here, so we're going to look closely at two good examples of store-only cards and two examples of Visa/Mastercard store cards to give you a good idea of what we're talking about.
The Abercrombie & Fitch Credit Card is for people who love buying upscale casual wear
The Abercrombie & Fitch Credit Card can be used at 1,049 stores across three different brands; the other two stores are Hollister Co. and Abercrombie Kids.
A standard store credit card. The Abercrombie & Fitch credit card is very similar to other Comenity store cards, making it a good example of how these in-store-only cards work.
Grab the Abercrombie & Fitch card if you want 25% off something expensive. The credit card's main perk, like many other Comenity store cards, is that it gets you a 25% discount on the first purchase after you sign up.
If you have your eye on a high-end piece of clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch but can't justify the big price tag, you can own it at three-fourths the price just by signing up for the card.
But once you've taken advantage of the 25% discount, there isn't much else the card is good for, really.
That said, with no annual fee, it doesn't cost you anything to keep it stashed in your wallet!
Don't use the A & F Credit Card if you can't pay it off. The variable APR charged on unpaid balances by the Abercrombie & Fitch Credit card is 26.24%.
The soaring interest rate charged on balances carried into the next billing cycle is highway robbery compared to the 13.16% national credit card average APR.
More than 2 years to pay off a sweater. If you put a $200 sweater on the card and tried to pay it off at $10 a month, it would take 27 months to pay back and it will cost you an additional $65.88 in interest.
Other perks are limited. Outside of the 25% discount on the first purchase, the other card terms are pretty underwhelming.
Cardholders can get access to exclusive offers and receive a "special birthday surprise."
People discussing Comenity Bank store credit cards online say the birthday gift is often just a coupon for $20 off, typically on something that costs a lot more than $20.
My Pier One Rewards Credit Card offers reward points for shopping and redeeming in-store
We chose the My Pier One Rewards Credit Card from the retailer Pier One Imports as an example of a store-only credit card with a rewards point program.
Another enticing sign-up discount. When you sign up for a Pier One Rewards card, you'll receive a coupon for 20% off your next purchase.
Although it's not as high as the 25% discount offered by the Abercrombie & Fitch card, it could still be worthwhile to sign up just to claim the discount.
With zero annual fees, it won't cost you anything to have it in your wallet.
You'll also qualify for special offers and discounts.
Earn $10 store-only credit for spending $200 at Pier One. When you use the card to buy stuff at Pier One Imports, you'll earn one reward point for every dollar you spend.
Every time your points total reaches 200 points, you're given $10 of in-store credit in the form of a reward certificate accompanying your monthly statement.
Spend enough and you graduate to the Platinum version. When people spend $1,000 on their Pier One Rewards card over a 12-month period, they are automatically upgraded to the Platinum Rewards Credit Card.
Platinum members get Platinum perks, which include 10% off on Tuesdays and access to exclusive bonus points events.
The APR is even higher! Apparently, the price you pay for a store-only card offering $10 in-store credit after spending $200 is an outrageously high APR interest rate.
The My Pier One Rewards Credit Card charges all of its members a whopping 28.24% on unpaid balances carried into the next billing cycle.
Other high costs associated with this and other Comenity store cards are late fees and returned payment fees. Each fee involves a $38 charge with the My Pier One Rewards card.
Comenity Bank Store Visa & Mastercard
We chose the next two Comenity store-branded cards as examples of full-on credit cards you can use in the store as well as anywhere else Visa or Mastercard is accepted.
Although they can be used pretty much anywhere, the credit card rewards are focused mainly on using the card at the company's designated stores.
My BJ's Perks Mastercard can offer good value if you spend a lot at the Wholesale Club
Your membership fee is your annual fee. The one difference setting the BJ's Perks Mastercard apart from other cards we're looking at here is that you have to pay a fee to get one.
The Wholesale Club, 3rd largest in the U.S. behind Costco and Sam's Club, advertises "No annual credit card fee" and explains, "Your credit card is also your membership card."
The annual BJ's membership fee is $50, which is the same fee for the card, so the basic My BJ's Perks Plus card does technically come for free.
If you want to earn more cash back by upgrading to the BJ's Perks Elite Mastercard, you have to pay an additional $50 yearly.
Earn cash back on everything, especially purchases at BJ's. The basic BJ's Perks Mastercard Plus version offers 2% cash back on all purchases at BJ's.
Upgrading to the Elite version lets you earn 5% on BJ's purchases.
The rest of the rewards earnings are the same with both cards, 2% cash back for dining out and getting gas from non-BJ's locations.
For all other shopping, cardholders earn 1% cash back.
Cardholders also all get 10 cents off gas at BJ's gas bars.
Cash back can only be redeemed in person at BJ's. Once you've earned $20 you can start spending your cash back at BJ's.
The only drawback is you can only spend it at BJ's brick and mortar stores, not at BJ's gas stations or its online store, or other retailers for that matter.
A BJ's card could be worth it if you shop in bulk. If you have a big family and need to stock up regularly on wholesale products from BJ's, it could be worthwhile to get this card.
Spending at least $2,000 a year (just over $166 a month) at BJ's using the BJ's Elite Mastercard would cover the $50 membership fee and the $50 annual fee.
Two APR offers based on creditworthiness. Unlike the store-only Comenity cards, both of the full-service store cards we've looked at here offer more than one APR.
For people with the best credit ratings, a BJ's Mastercard charges a low APR of 16.24% .
But those with a lower credit score will find the APR they get charged with is a lot higher at 26.24%.
While those rates are above average, they are not unheard of from a major credit card company.
Marathon Visa can earn you nearly 10% for spending $1,000 in a month
Marathon is one of the few gas station chains partnering with Comenity on a branded credit card.
It's also the card with the highest potential for earning among the four we've reviewed here, especially since it charges no annual fee.
Marathon Visa offers a unique way to calculate cash back. Marathon Visa is unique because its cash back earnings are tied to the price of a gallon of gas.
For all Marathon gas station purchases, you can get the equivalent of a $0.25 per gallon rebate.
The only catch is, you have to spend $1,000 in a single month to earn that rebate rate.
When you spend $500–$999 in a month you get $0.15 per gallon rebate, and for under $500 spent in a month, the rebate is $0.05 per gallon.
To get the $0.25-per-gallon rebate you, need to understand how it's calculated.
All purchases, including gas and in-station expenses, are divided by the current price of a gallon of gas.
At the current gas price, $1,000 would buy you a little over 358 gallons of gas.
The rebate at the $0.25 per gallon rate for 358 gallons comes in at $89.60.
If gas prices fall, the rebate amount goes up.
Recently it's been as high as $100 for $1,000 of spending in a month.
Buy gift cards to get your $1,000 spent. The problem is, very few people spend $1,000 on gas or on typical gas station purchases, so the real trick is to find a Marathon that's selling gift cards then buy a bunch of those.
You can buy gift cards at the gas station for companies like Amazon.com, grocery stores, or other retailers selling what you'd need to buy anyway.
You'd simply be converting your cash into gift cards!
When you've spent $1,000 in a month on both gas and gift cards, you'll get the equivalent of $0.25 for every gallon on a $1,000 fill-up.
Three APRs available. Similarly to the BJ's Mastercard, the Marathon Visa offers different interest rates to people with higher and lower credit scores.
The lowest rate offered is 18.24% for people with great credit, and then it goes up to 22.24% and then to 26.24% for those with fair and low credit scores, respectively.
What's the deal with the shopping cart trick?
The question everyone's asking is how exactly should they go about getting a store card with absolutely no hard credit pull through the shopping cart trick?
People posting in some internet forums say you should go to the online store of one of the companies listed earlier (e.g. Victoria's Secret).
You should fill your shopping cart with at least $100 worth of merchandise.
Hit "Proceed to Checkout" and start filling out the information the site needs to process your purchase.
Make sure your browser is set to allow pop-ups and, suddenly, a pop-up window will appear.
It will say something like:
You might be preapproved for a store card with Victoria's Secret, click here to apply.
You then follow the procedure for applying, and you should get approved on the spot.
Your purchase will show up as the first expense paid on the card, and typically with a nice discount as well.
When you look at your credit report, there should be no record of a hard credit check that would reduce your score, since only a soft pull was made.
Hang on to the card and use it sporadically to keep the account active, and always make sure you pay in full before the next billing cycle.
Over time, having the credit available without using it will cause your credit score to go up.
How It All Works
For each of the cards reviewed here, as well as every other Comenity store credit card, there's a corresponding online account page where you can log in and view your balance and pay your bill.
You can get 24/7 access to your account from any device and also sign up for paperless billing if you prefer.
The Comenity Care Center is available to all Comenity customers regardless of the card they have
When it comes to customer service, all of the store cards Comenity issues receive support from the bank's Care Center.
The customer support ratings for the Comenity Care Center are quite high, as the bank claims it ranks in the top 5% of all U.S. credit card call centers.
Each card has its own number to access the Care Center, so look at the back of your card or log into your account page to find yours.
Comenity provides security for all of its cards
Comenity credit cards are protected against unauthorized charges.
The company monitors for suspicious activity on all of its cards.
If ever you lose your card, you can contact the Care Center and they will cancel it to prevent fraud and send you a new one in 48 hours.
All of the credit cards listed here have online application portals you can visit to sign up.
If the company has brick and mortar stores or locations, you can usually obtain an application in person, so just fill it out and submit it on-the-spot.
You can cancel your card by calling the Comenity Care Center and following the customer service representative's instructions.
That said, we don't recommend canceling credit cards (especially ones with no annual fees) since having unused credit and older accounts leads to a healthier credit score.
If you have the kind of Comenity credit card you can only use at the store, unfortunately you won't be able to get a cash advance.
For Visa or Mastercard store cards, cash advances are available but will be charged a high cash advance APR rate.
Comenity offers flexible payment options, including paying your bill by mail, over the phone through the Care Center, and online through your personal online account.
In a lot of cases, you can also pay in person at the store checkout counter.
If you opt for mail, Comenity recommends mailing a payment one week before the due date.
The mailing address is:
Comenity Bank PO Box 182273 Columbus, Ohio 43218
Enjoy the perks from Comenity Bank store cards but don't carry a balance
If you need to borrow money to buy things from your favorite stores, you are much better off looking for a credit card with a lower APR than Comenity credit cards offer.
For people looking to earn high cash back or rewards, you can find plenty of other cards allowing you to earn a lot more of points per dollar at virtually every store.
From our point-of-view, there are actually three types of people who can benefit from a Comenity Bank store credit card like the ones reviewed here:
First is someone who is fiercely loyal to a company and its products and shops there all the time.
They will appreciate the special deals on offer and won't mind earning points that can only be spent in-store.
Second is a person who wants to take advantage of a one-time promotional offer where signing up for the card is required to qualify.
Zero-interest periods, big discounts, payment plans, and other features can make an out-of-reach purchase a reality.
Finally, a person who wants to build their credit score can use a Comenity Bank store credit card (or several ones) to their advantage.
By using the shopping cart trick, or opening accounts and not using them, a person can increase their unused available credit and see their score eventually start to increase.