One of the keys to building and maintaining high credit scores is to have a good mix of different types of credit accounts. One way to “diversify” your credit portfolio is to have two or three retail or gas cards (these cards are commonly referred to as “private label cards”). However, if you’ve had a major credit problem, such as a bankruptcy, this is not as easy as filling out an application at the store, handing it to the cashier, and expecting an automatic approval. Here’s why it has become more difficult than it used to be…there are very few independently owned retail store or gas cards anymore. This means that, despite the name of the store on the card, you are actually a customer of some other company. Fifteen years ago, most stores had their own credit departments and banks, and they made their “approve” or “deny” decisions in-house, which is why they had a reputation for being easier to get credit with. This has changed. Today your Best Buy ® , Macy’s, Gap, or Home Depot ® credit application is being looked at by people at a company that has nothing to do with DVD players, dress pants, or lumber. In fact, four major companies now issue most of the retail and gas credit cards available. The four companies are Citibank ® , GE ® Money Bank, HSBC ™ , and WFNNB.
Below is a list of the top 15 retail stores and the companies that issue their retail cards:
When you apply here……You’re really opening an account with…
1 Wal-Mart® GE® Money Bank 2 Home Depot® Citibank® 3 Target® Target National Bank 4 Lowe’s® GE Money Bank 5 Sears Citibank 6 Best Buy® HSBC™ 7 JC Penny® GE Money Bank 8 Federated Dept. Stores (Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, May Dept. Stores – Marshall Fields, LS Ayres, etc.)
Citibank 9 Gap GE Money Bank 10 Staples® Citibank 11 Office Depot® Citibank 12 OfficeMax® HSBC 13 Kohl’s® Chase™ Bank 14 Meijer® GE Money Bank 15 The Limited, Inc. (Victoria’s Secret, Express, Bath and Body Works, etc.)
Just like retail cards, there are very few independent gasoline credit card issuers left. Citibank and GE Money Bank are the dominant lenders in this industry. Below is a list of the top 10 gas cards, and their issuers:
When you apply for this gas card……You’re really opening an account with…
1 ExxonMobil GE Money Bank 2 Shell Citibank 3 BPAmoco Citibank 4 Chevron Chevron Credit Bank 5 ConocoPhillips Citibank 6 Citgo® Citibank 7 Sunoco Citibank 8 Speedway Super America SSA, LLC 9 Valero DSRM National Bank 10 Marathon Marathon Petroleum Company, LLC
For the most part, the large retail card issuers have fairly conservative credit guidelines. In fact, based on our research, the only one of the “big four” that will not automatically deny an applicant with a bankruptcy is GE ® Money Bank. So, when you’re looking for a retail or gas card, it’s best to focus on the places that issue their own cards—that way the decision is being made by someone who actually works for the store. Remember, you have to be extremely careful when you apply for a retail card. You don’t want an unnecessary credit inquiry by applying for a retail card with a lender that is going to automatically deny you simply because you’ve filed bankruptcy. Before you do anything, you need to call the credit department of the store or gas station you would like to apply for credit with, and ask to speak to someone in the credit department. When you call, you may have to go through their automated services first. Be patient and persistent. When they ask for your information, enter the pound sign (#) or choose to speak to an operator. Keep entering # until they send you to a live operator. Then ask for the credit department. They may ask you for your credit card number. Just tell them, “I don’t have a card yet. I am thinking about applying for a credit card, but would like to ask some questions about your terms, first.” And remember—don’t settle for a low-level customer service representative. Their job is to try to get you to apply for their card and get you off the phone. The first person you speak with may not have all the information you need. Try to speak to a supervisor, or someone in the underwriting department. When you reach a person who knows what they are talking about, ask them these nine important questions. Don’t give out any personal information until you are absolutely sure you’re ready to apply. 1. Do you offer a retail credit card? 2. Does a third party issue the credit card? If so, who is it? (GE, Citi ® , HSBC ™ , WFNNB)? 3. How does a bankruptcy affect my chance for approval? Which credit reporting agency do you use to make your credit decisions? 5. What is the minimum credit score that you will approve? 6. What is the minimum credit score that you will approve for the lowest rate? 7. Do you report to all three national credit reporting agencies? 8. Can I apply for the card at the store? 9. Is there an appeal process if I am initially denied? After you get answers to all your questions, get a copy of the card’s “Terms and Disclosures,” and look at your options. The best cards are ones that will: 1. Not automatically deny you for a credit card because of one thing (bankruptcy, foreclosure, collection account, etc.) on you credit report 2. Offer you a comparable rate to other, similar cards (retail and gas cards typically have higher rates than other types of credit) 3. Report to all three national credit reporting agencies 4. Offer on-line bill pay 5. Regularly increase your credit limit if you handle your account responsibly (retail and gas credit cards typically have lower initial credit limits than other types of credit cards) 6. Offer their retail or gas credit through a revolving credit card issued by a b-a-n-k…not a b-a-n-c (“bancs” are nothing but finance companies masquerading as “banks”) 7. Offer low or no annual fee
According to our research, the Target ® store card and Marathon gas card meet all of the criteria above, making them excellent retail and gas credit cards. Below is a list of some of the features we found during our investigation: Target: • A discharged bankruptcy is not a sole factor in determining approval • Target generally requires the applicant to have two credit accounts in good standing for at least two years • Primarily reviews FICO ® credit scores from Experian • Reports to all three national credit reporting agencies Marathon Oil: • A discharged bankruptcy is not a sole factor in determining approval • FICO score requirements needed to get their regular card: 630-670 = $250 limit 670+ = $500 limit • FICO score requirements needed to get their premier card: 660+ and a good credit history = $1,000 limit • May work with customers nearing 630 • Primarily reviews FICO credit scores from Equifax • Reports to all three national credit reporting agencies The information we provide is as accurate as possible based on the information we received at the time of our research. However, results can’t be guaranteed as lending guidelines change frequently. Before applying for credit, always perform your own investigation first.