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Best Store Credit Cards for Bad Credit

April 2024

Store credit cards are an excellent option for people with not-so-great credit. Find out how to avoid the high APRs and fees of department store cards while still scoring the best rewards and rebuilding your credit.
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If you have poor or even fair credit, you’ll be turned down for the best offers from major credit card companies. The credit cards you do qualify for will often carry less-than-appealing terms, such as low credit limits, high APRs, and few or no perks.
Department store credit cards often fall into that category of cards with high APRs and relatively low credit limits. However, credit requirements are usually less strict than for major credit cards, plus customers receive discounts from the stores issuing the cards. This makes store credit cards a good option for people with bad credit who are trying to reestablish their credit.
The list below includes the best department store credit cards and their basic terms. If you shop regularly at one of these stores, carrying and using their branded credit cards will allow you to enjoy customer perks while you boost your credit score. Happy shopping!
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FAQs on department store cards for bad credit

What are department store credit cards?

Store credit cards are issued by a bank and co-branded with a retailer. They offer rewards, discounts, and other benefits to loyal shoppers who use them. Usually, they offer lower credit limits and charge higher interest rates than traditional credit cards.

What credit score do you need to get a store credit card?

Most store credit cards require fair credit (more than 640) for approval, which means department store credit cards are easier to get than most regular credit cards. However, if you have bad credit you may need to apply for a secured credit card.

Do department store credit cards hurt your credit?

Department store credit cards, like any credit card, can hurt or help your credit. It depends on how you use them. Applying for a new card typically means you will get hit with a hard inquiry, which will temporarily lower your credit score by a few points. However, as with any credit card, store cards report your payment history to the major credit bureaus. When you make at least the minimum payment on time each month, it will help your credit score. If you can't, it will hurt your score. Additionally, using the right amount of your credit limit is important. If you keep your usage low, preferably well under 30%, a store credit card can help your credit, while anything over may hurt it.

Can you use a department store credit card anywhere?

It depends on the type of store card. There are two main types of store credit cards. Closed-loop store cards only work at the merchants they're connected with. However, store credit cards that belong to a card network, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover, can be used anywhere that network is accepted.

What is an instant approval store credit card?

Instant approval credit cards are those issued by lenders that approve or deny you in the moment. Further, they grant you immediate access to the credit line, if approved. For example, say you are checking out at Kohls, and you decide to apply for the store's credit card. If it was an instant credit card and you got approved, you could use that credit right away to pay for your purchase. Otherwise, they will send your card in the mail within a few days, and then you can use it.

How are store credit cards different from regular credit cards?

Store credit cards are designed to be used at a particular store and come with unique benefits for that store. However, some will allow you to use them elsewhere while others -- known as closed-loop cards -- will only work within the store.

Can I get a department store card with bad credit?

It depends on what you call bad credit. According to the FICO scoring system, bad credit is a score between 300 and 579. Typically, if your credit is that bad, you won't qualify for most department store cards.

How do you get bad credit?

Credit scores are based on various factors. These include your payment history on loans and credit cards and your credit utilization. Additionally, public records, inquiries to your credit report, and the number of new accounts you have will be considered.
Your score will drop when you:
  • Make late payments
  • Default on a loan or credit card
  • Use more than 30% of a credit line
  • File bankruptcy
  • Apply for too much new credit in too short a period
  • Have too few accounts open
  • Have too short a credit history
If you make too many mistakes, your score will drop into the zone considered "bad." This makes it hard to get approved. If you want to increase your chances of getting approved for a department store card, work on improving your score to at least 640, which is in the "fair" range.

Why do department stores offer their own credit cards?

Department stores offer their own credit cards as a way to increase customer loyalty and revenue. Store cards enable customers to purchase more thanks to their credit line, which can also be an incentive to shop at a particular store. Additionally, they often offer rewards when you shop so you can earn cash back or other benefits.

Can you get a store credit card after bankruptcy?

It depends on the department store, how recent the bankruptcy was, and how much it affected your credit score. Check your credit score to see how it was impacted and research store cards to find out about the card's eligibility requirements. Some may explicitly state they don't allow bankruptcies within a certain amount of years or at all. However, others may be more flexible.

How can I fix bad credit to get approved for a store card?

You may be thinking you want to get a store card to fix your credit, but you may need to fix your credit before you get a store card. If so, consider applying for a secured credit card.
Secured credit cards require you to put down a deposit, which often becomes your credit line. This offers security for the lender in case you default. Besides the deposit, you can use a secured credit card like a regular credit card. As you use it and make regular and on-time payments, they will be reported to the credit bureaus, which can help you improve your credit score.
Look for secured credit cards with benefits like an automatic increase in credit line and low fees. For example, the Capital One Platinum card has no fee and will automatically increase your credit line after five months, without requiring you to make an additional deposit.

How long does it take to fix bad credit?

Fixing bad credit is a process. All you can do is ensure your credit reports are accurate and that you are making good financial decisions from here on out. As time goes on, items from the past will drop off your credit report, and only the positive will be left. Many people start to see improvements after six months or so of making timely payments. However, hard inquiries stay on your report for two years. Additionally, payment activity remains for seven years, and bankruptcies can stay for up to 10. But with persistence, even with poor credit, you can likely get to fair credit within a few years, which will enable you to get approved for a store card.

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