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With the Holidays Here, Kohl’s Is the Most Popular Store Card in Americans’ Wallets

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Gift-buying season is here, so shoppers may be inundated more than usual with on-the-spot offers for retail credit cards. The latest LendingTree study of store card usage across the 100 largest U.S. metros reveals which cards are the most popular, which areas have the most cardholders and where cards are most likely to get maxed out.

Choosing the right store card is all about doing your homework to make an informed decision, says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst.

“People tend to make bad decisions when rushed, and that can certainly be the case with credit cards,” Schulz says. For this reason, we include tips on how to utilize store cards this holiday season.

Key findings

  • The most popular store card across the 100 largest metros is from Kohl’s. Based on an analysis of anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users, 9.5% of all store cards held by these users are from Kohl’s. Lowe’s (6.3%) and Amazon (6.2%) follow.
  • Store cards are most common in Tennessee and Louisiana. More than 40% of cardholders have at least one store card in just four metros — and they’re in these two states. Nashville, Tenn., tops the list, with 47.5% of credit cardholders having a store card, followed by Baton Rouge, La. (47.2%), Knoxville, Tenn. (46.0%), and New Orleans (45.2%). Two California metros — San Francisco (12.3%) and San Jose (12.4%) — are at the bottom.
  • The average credit limit for store cardholders across the 100 largest metros is $2,241. The average is highest in Kansas City ($3,255), Albany, N.Y. ($2,969), and Omaha, Neb. ($2,916). The average is lowest in Little Rock, Ark. ($1,686), Harrisburg, Pa. ($1,733), and Fresno, Calif. ($1,765).
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (17.1%) credit cardholders in Bakersfield, Calif., have at least one maxed-out store card. The closest metros to Bakersfield are Scranton, Pa. (14.9%), and Ogden, Utah (14.3%). At the bottom among the 100 metros are Syracuse, N.Y. (5.5%), Raleigh, N.C. (5.8%), and Albany, N.Y. (5.9%).

Most popular store cards: Kohl’s, Lowe’s and Amazon

The king of store cards in the U.S., based on the anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users, is Kohl’s, representing 9.5% of all retail cards. With more than 1,100 retail locations across the U.S.., it makes sense. Rounding out the top five are Lowe’s, Amazon and Macy’s (each representing just over 6% of all store cards), with Target just behind at 5.3%.

What makes these cards so popular are their generous, ongoing rewards for cardholders, not to mention the overall popularity of the stores. For example, Schulz says the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is probably the best store card in the country.

Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval. Among the rewards, cardholders get 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants and gas stations and 1% back on all other purchases.

The Kohl's Charge card is known for its cardholder perks, and likely reels in many shoppers with its generous sign-up bonus. Once approved, take an extra 35% off your first purchase in-store or online when you use your Kohl's Charge card. However, it’s also followed up by monthly exclusive discounts, an anniversary promotion and more, making it wallet-worthy.

Both the Lowe's Advantage Card and Target REDcard™ Credit Card offer an automatic 5% discount on eligible purchases, which can add up if you’re a frequent shopper. And Macy's Credit Card shoppers enjoy perks like free shipping and points-earning on purchases.

The most popular store cards

RankStore cardPercentage of all store cards
1Kohl’s9.5%
2Lowe's6.3%
3Amazon6.2%
4Macy’s6.1%
5Target5.3%
6Victoria Secret4.7%
7Best Buy4.4%
8JCPenney4.1%
9Fingerhut Fetti3.7%
10Walmart3.6%

Source: Analysis of about 300,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users in the 100 most populous U.S. metros.

Store cards most common in Tennessee, Louisiana metros

The metro where the highest percentage of people have store credit cards — nearly 1 in 2 — is Nashville, Tenn. (47.5%). Next is Baton Rouge, La. (47.2%), Knoxville, Tenn. (46.0%), and New Orleans (45.2%), making Tennessee and Louisiana the biggest hubs for retail cards.

“Both of those states are among the lowest-ranked in the country when it comes to credit scores and household income,” Schulz says. “That could mean that many of those states’ residents may not have other credit options better than store cards, which are typically easier to get and more available to folks with imperfect credit than most regular credit cards.”

Four New York metros are also in the top 10 — Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Poughkeepsie.

At the bottom of the list are two California metros — San Francisco (12.3%) and San Jose (12.4%) — followed by Atlanta (12.5%) and Seattle (14.0%). Miami and Jacksonville also represent Florida in the bottom 10.

Higher incomes and/or higher credit scores in San Francisco and San Jose might play a role, Schulz says. For instance, a 2021 FICO Score study found that San Francisco residents had an average credit score of 746 — highest in the U.S. and well above the national average of 716. The two California metros also have the highest median household incomes in the U.S.

“Though higher incomes don’t always mean higher credit scores, they often mean more options when it comes to credit,” Schulz says. “In many of these metros, I’d suspect that lots of folks simply don’t need to use a store credit card and choose to use other cards in pursuit of better interest rates and more lucrative rewards.”

Credit cardholders with at least 1 store card

RankMetroPercentage of credit cardholders with at least 1 store card
1Nashville, TN47.5%
2Baton Rouge, LA47.2%
3Knoxville, TN46.0%
4New Orleans, LA45.2%
5Rochester, NY38.2%
6Buffalo, NY37.0%
7El Paso, TX36.8%
8Syracuse, NY36.4%
8Poughkeepsie, NY36.4%
10Memphis, TN35.6%
11McAllen, TX35.0%
12Scranton, PA33.4%
13Albany, NY32.9%
14Omaha, NE31.3%
15Jackson, MS30.8%
16Toledo, OH30.1%
17Bakersfield, CA29.7%
18New Haven, CT29.4%
18Akron, OH29.4%
20Pittsburgh, PA29.1%
21Riverside, CA28.5%
22Providence, RI28.1%
23Stockton, CA27.4%
23Cleveland, OH27.4%
25Harrisburg, PA27.3%
26Allentown, PA27.2%
27Fresno, CA27.1%
28Oklahoma City, OK27.0%
29Cincinnati, OH26.8%
29Grand Rapids, MI26.8%
31Little Rock, AR26.8%
32Hartford, CT26.7%
33Dayton, OH26.4%
33Madison, WI26.4%
35San Antonio, TX26.3%
36Columbus, OH26.2%
37Lakeland, FL25.9%
38Springfield, MA25.8%
39Louisville, KY25.7%
40Worcester, MA25.5%
41Des Moines, IA25.3%
42Chicago, IL25.1%
43Wichita, KS25.0%
44St. Louis, MO24.9%
44Tucson, AZ24.9%
46New York, NY24.6%
47Deltona, FL24.4%
48Indianapolis, IN24.1%
49Winston-Salem, NC23.9%
50Kansas City, MO23.7%
51Detroit, MI23.6%
52Spokane, WA23.5%
53Colorado Springs, CO23.4%
53Cape Coral, FL23.4%
53Milwaukee, WI23.4%
56Albuquerque, NM23.3%
56Palm Bay, FL23.3%
58Philadelphia, PA23.1%
59Birmingham, AL23.0%
60Phoenix, AZ22.9%
60Boise, ID22.9%
62Oxnard, CA22.6%
63Greenville, SC22.5%
64Virginia Beach, VA22.4%
65Tulsa, OK21.6%
66Richmond, VA21.5%
67Las Vegas, NV21.3%
68Tampa, FL21.0%
69Dallas, TX20.9%
70Minneapolis, MN20.8%
71Houston, TX20.4%
71Augusta, GA20.4%
73Sacramento, CA20.2%
74Honolulu, HI20.1%
74Greensboro, NC20.1%
76Charleston, SC19.9%
77Bridgeport, CT19.3%
78Orlando, FL19.2%
79Los Angeles, CA18.9%
79Charlotte, NC18.9%
79San Diego, CA18.9%
79Columbia, SC18.9%
83Austin, TX18.8%
83North Port, FL18.8%
85Ogden, UT18.6%
86Baltimore, MD18.2%
86Boston, MA18.2%
88Denver, CO18.1%
89Portland, OR18.0%
90Provo, UT17.4%
91Raleigh, NC17.3%
91Jacksonville, FL17.3%
93Miami, FL16.9%
94Salt Lake City, UT16.7%
95Durham, NC16.4%
96Washington, DC14.9%
97Seattle, WA14.0%
98Atlanta, GA12.5%
99San Jose, CA12.4%
100San Francisco, CA12.3%

Source: Analysis of about 300,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users in the 100 most populous U.S. metros.

Where average store card limits are the highest and lowest

Overall, store cardholders in the top 100 metro areas have an average credit limit of $2,241, but there’s a much wider range by metro. Kansas City has the highest in the nation at $3,255, followed by Albany, N.Y. ($2,969), and Omaha, Neb. ($2,916). Areas with the lowest store card credit limits include Little Rock, Ark. ($1,686), Harrisburg, Pa. ($1,733), and Fresno, Calif. ($1,765).

“Store credit cards don’t usually come with sky-high credit limits regardless of who applies for them,” Schulz says. However, those with lower credit scores and lower incomes will likely be offered lower credit limits when applying for a new card, he says.

With regular spending and good payment history, however, store cards increase cardholder credit limits over time.

Average credit limit on store cards

RankMetroAverage credit limit among store cardholders
1Kansas City, MO$3,255
2Albany, NY$2,969
3Omaha, NE$2,916
4Syracuse, NY$2,906
5Des Moines, IA$2,725
6Poughkeepsie, NY$2,684
7Boston, MA$2,672
8Charlotte, NC$2,623
9Buffalo, NY$2,545
10Dallas, TX$2,544
11Rochester, NY$2,539
12New York, NY$2,516
13Raleigh, NC$2,515
14Charleston, SC$2,497
15Honolulu, HI$2,474
16Miami, FL$2,466
17Oxnard, CA$2,419
18North Port, FL$2,408
19Birmingham, AL$2,378
20Washington, DC$2,359
21Akron, OH$2,358
22San Jose, CA$2,355
23Columbus, OH$2,345
24Austin, TX$2,344
25Philadelphia, PA$2,343
26Jacksonville, FL$2,335
27Atlanta, GA$2,321
28St. Louis, MO$2,311
29Ogden, UT$2,305
29Salt Lake City, UT$2,305
31Providence, RI$2,290
32Greenville, SC$2,289
32Wichita, KS$2,289
34Baton Rouge, LA$2,285
35Pittsburgh, PA$2,282
36Virginia Beach, VA$2,276
37Orlando, FL$2,269
38Oklahoma City, OK$2,267
38San Francisco, CA$2,267
40Grand Rapids, MI$2,263
41Houston, TX$2,257
42Chicago, IL$2,252
42New Orleans, LA$2,252
42Winston-Salem, NC$2,252
45Nashville, TN$2,251
45New Haven, CT$2,251
47Cape Coral, FL$2,247
48Dayton, OH$2,237
49Milwaukee, WI$2,231
50Knoxville, TN$2,229
51Hartford, CT$2,216
52Tampa, FL$2,213
53Colorado Springs, CO$2,211
54Richmond, VA$2,209
55Palm Bay, FL$2,207
56Cleveland, OH$2,205
57Scranton, PA$2,198
58McAllen, TX$2,191
59Columbia, SC$2,190
60Allentown, PA$2,187
61Cincinnati, OH$2,183
62Deltona, FL$2,180
63Indianapolis, IN$2,174
63Las Vegas, NV$2,174
65Provo, UT$2,169
66Augusta, GA$2,151
67Greensboro, NC$2,142
68Worcester, MA$2,140
69Baltimore, MD$2,129
70Sacramento, CA$2,128
71Denver, CO$2,125
72Phoenix, AZ$2,120
73San Antonio, TX$2,112
74Madison, WI$2,107
75Durham, NC$2,104
76Seattle, WA$2,100
77Memphis, TN$2,087
78Detroit, MI$2,072
79Minneapolis, MN$2,068
80Toledo, OH$2,064
81Bakersfield, CA$2,052
82Los Angeles, CA$2,047
83Bridgeport, CT$2,044
84Lakeland, FL$2,022
85Jackson, MS$2,018
86Albuquerque, NM$2,002
87San Diego, CA$1,986
88Spokane, WA$1,980
89Tulsa, OK$1,949
90Riverside, CA$1,943
91Boise, ID$1,935
91Louisville, KY$1,935
93El Paso, TX$1,912
94Stockton, CA$1,899
95Portland, OR$1,894
96Springfield, MA$1,891
97Tucson, AZ$1,856
98Fresno, CA$1,765
99Harrisburg, PA$1,733
100Little Rock, AR$1,686

Source: Analysis of about 300,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users in the 100 most populous U.S. metros.

Nearly 1 in 5 residents in Bakersfield, Calif., have a maxed-out store card — here’s a look at the most populous metros

Bakersfield, Calif., store cardholders aren’t managing their store cards well, with 17.1% of them having maxed-out balances. Right behind them are Scranton, Pa. (14.9%), and Ogden, Utah (14.3%), cardholders. The metros least likely to have a maxed-out store card are Syracuse, N.Y. (5.5%), Raleigh, N.C. (5.8%), and Albany, N.Y. (5.9%).

One thing worth noting is that store cards generally start with fairly low limits. And in areas that tend to have lower-income or credit-challenged folks applying, those initial offers may be even lower. So even a balance that doesn’t seem so terrible — say, a couple of hundred dollars — could quickly approach maxed-out territory.

Rate of store cardholders with at least 1 maxed-out store card

RankMetroPercentage of store cardholders with at least 1 maxed-out store card
1Bakersfield, CA17.1%
2Scranton, PA14.9%
3Ogden, UT14.3%
4Provo, UT14.1%
5Salt Lake City, UT13.4%
6Little Rock, AR13.2%
7El Paso, TX12.9%
8Winston-Salem, NC12.5%
9Virginia Beach, VA12.4%
10Spokane, WA12.1%
11Deltona, FL12.0%
12Stockton, CA11.9%
13Knoxville, TN11.7%
14Wichita, KS11.6%
14Louisville, KY11.6%
14Greenville, SC11.6%
17Riverside, CA11.5%
17Akron, OH11.5%
19San Antonio, TX11.4%
19Fresno, CA11.4%
21Los Angeles, CA11.3%
22Nashville, TN11.2%
22Lakeland, FL11.2%
24Oklahoma City, OK11.0%
25Birmingham, AL10.8%
25Durham, NC10.8%
27Orlando, FL10.7%
28Omaha, NE10.5%
29Richmond, VA10.4%
29Hartford, CT10.4%
29Augusta, GA10.4%
32San Diego, CA10.2%
32Pittsburgh, PA10.2%
34Tulsa, OK10.0%
35Portland, OR9.9%
35Las Vegas, NV9.9%
37Milwaukee, WI9.8%
37Springfield, MA9.8%
37Harrisburg, PA9.8%
40Grand Rapids, MI9.6%
41Seattle, WA9.5%
41Dallas, TX9.5%
41Jackson, MS9.5%
44Philadelphia, PA9.4%
45New Orleans, LA9.3%
45Oxnard, CA9.3%
47Toledo, OH9.2%
48Tucson, AZ9.1%
48Cleveland, OH9.1%
48Dayton, OH9.1%
51Jacksonville, FL9.0%
51Phoenix, AZ9.0%
51Indianapolis, IN9.0%
51Madison, WI9.0%
51Allentown, PA9.0%
56Cincinnati, OH8.9%
56New Haven, CT8.9%
56Sacramento, CA8.9%
59Houston, TX8.7%
59St. Louis, MO8.7%
59San Jose, CA8.7%
59Memphis, TN8.7%
63Greensboro, NC8.6%
63Atlanta, GA8.6%
65Charlotte, NC8.5%
65Detroit, MI8.5%
67North Port, FL8.4%
67Buffalo, NY8.4%
69Baton Rouge, LA8.3%
70Baltimore, MD8.2%
70Providence, RI8.2%
72Des Moines, IA8.1%
72Minneapolis, MN8.1%
74Chicago, IL8.0%
74San Francisco, CA8.0%
76Honolulu, HI7.9%
77Columbia, SC7.8%
77Colorado Springs, CO7.8%
79Tampa, FL7.7%
80New York, NY7.6%
80Albuquerque, NM7.6%
80Washington, DC7.6%
83Palm Bay, FL7.5%
83Boston, MA7.5%
85Worcester, MA7.3%
85Denver, CO7.3%
85Columbus, OH7.3%
85Austin, TX7.3%
89Bridgeport, CT7.2%
89Boise, ID7.2%
91Charleston, SC7.1%
91Miami, FL7.1%
93Kansas City, MO7.0%
94McAllen, TX6.8%
95Cape Coral, FL6.7%
96Poughkeepsie, NY6.1%
97Rochester, NY6.0%
98Albany, NY5.9%
99Raleigh, NC5.8%
100Syracuse, NY5.5%

Source: Analysis of about 300,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users in the 100 most populous U.S. metros.

How to utilize a store card this holiday season

When shopping for the holidays, being strategic with your credit cards, including store cards, can help you save money, earn rewards and stretch your budget. However, you always want to tread carefully whenever applying for a new credit card. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Don’t get baited by the initial discount offered. Last holiday season, a LendingTree survey found that just 29% of people planned to apply for a store credit card. With high inflation, it’s not surprising that the percentage jumped to 35% this year. While initial store card discounts may be enticing, you can easily negate savings if you spend beyond your means and carry a balance, so make sure to be careful.
  • Only open cards for stores that you shop at frequently. “The right store credit card, used wisely in a place where you shop frequently, can be a good deal,” Schulz says. In recent years, stores have done a better job at tailoring their offerings to the needs of their customers, including offering greater discounts and more lucrative perks to those who spend more in their stores, he says. In other words, if you do the bulk of your holiday (and year-round) shopping at a particular retailer, that card is worth considering. But if you’re picking up a sweater for your nephew from a fashion brand you don’t shop otherwise, it’s not worth getting.
  • Plan to pay the bill in full each month. “If you carry a balance, store cards probably aren’t for you,” Schulz says. “All credit card rates are sky-high these days, but rates for store cards are even more so.” For example, while the national average APR on new credit cards is 22.40%, the APR on the Macy's Credit Card is 29.74% variable, while the Lowe's Advantage Card APR is 26.99% variable.
  • Limit yourself to just one store credit card. “It’s OK to open a new store credit card while you’re out,” he says. “Just don’t do it in every store you visit.” Opening multiple lines of credit during the short holiday season will likely tank your credit score since new credit is one of the main factors impacting credit score calculations. Applying for a lot of credit at once can signal that you’re having cash flow problems. Not to mention that juggling multiple store card balances can get tough to manage.
  • Choose the best card for the holidays. If you’re in the market for a new card and a store card would unlock an exclusive deal, it could be worth opening. But if you’re pretty sure you won’t be able to pay holiday balances off right away, you may be better off with a regular credit card with a 0% APR introductory period.

Methodology

Analysts calculated the percentage of credit cardholders with at least one retail or store card by analyzing about 300,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users in August 2022 in the 100 most populous U.S. metros.

Specifically, analysts calculated the most popular store cards, the percentage of credit cardholders with at least one store card, the average credit limit for store cards and the percentage of credit cardholders with at least one maxed-out store card.

 

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