Everything You Need to Know About the JCPenney Credit Card

FT Contributor  | 

Now one of the largest retailers in the U.S., with more than 850 locations, JCPenney had humble beginnings as a general store in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Founded in 1902 by local merchant James Cash Penney, the first store was called The Golden Rule, and operated on a very simple principle: treat customers the way you want to be treated.

Since 1959, JCPenney has offered customers a store-branded credit card. For customers who shop in the stores regularly, and want to enjoy increased savings on their purchases as well as earn rewards for future purchases, opening one of these accounts could be a good value.

JCPenney Minimum Credit Approval Score

Unlike some other credit cards, the JCPenney credit card, which is issued by Synchrony Bank, is relatively easy to get. Most consumers only need a fair credit score — generally between 620-659 — to be approved for the card. Because there is no annual fee for the card, it can be a good option for someone trying to build or improve their credit.

There are several ways to apply for the JCPenney credit card, but the most common are online or in-store. To apply online, you simply need to visit the credit card application site to enter your personal information (including your income and whether you own or rent your home). While many people are instantly approved and receive their card within seven to 10 business days, some applications take longer to process and you may not receive an answer for a few days.

You can also apply for a JCPenney card in store. Typically, an associate will ask you if you want to apply when you make a purchase. This offer usually comes with a discount you can use right away, even if your application isn’t approved. The associate will collect personal information from you, submit the application, and let you know if you’re approved on the spot.

If you’re approved for a card, the credit line depends on the information in your application, but most cards have a limit somewhere between $300 and $1,000. Whether you open an account online or in-store, you can use the account before you receive your card. If your online application is approved, you can visit any JC Penney store with your ID and request a temporary card. Associates can also look up your account information with your photo ID when you make a purchase.

JCPenney Credit Card Rewards and Benefits

The greatest benefit to opening a JCPenney credit card account are the discounts and rewards you receive. JCPenney offers a rather generous rewards program and increased discounts for cardholders, so you can save money on your purchases — if you pay the card balance in full each month.

The benefits of the JCPenney credit card include:

  • Discount on your first purchase with the card: 15% for select clothing, shoes, accessories, home items, and salon products, and 5% for electronics and special collections like Tempur-Pedic and smartwatches.
  • Exclusive savings days when your card entitles you to bigger discounts (for example, 20% off your purchase as opposed to the 10% offered to all customers with a coupon).
  • Extra rewards points. Holding the card automatically enrolls you in JCPenney rewards, and you earn two points per $1 spent. At 200 points you earn a $10 rewards certificate that can be used on select items.
  • A $10 coupon for your birthday.
  • Special financing offers on certain items.

Reaching spending thresholds on your JCPenney credit card can increase the perks. If you spend $500 in a year, you are upgraded to Gold status, which increases your discounts and earns you an extra $10 coupon for your birthday. Spend $1,000 in a year, and your status increases to Platinum, for more discounts, points earning opportunities, and a $15 birthday coupon.

JCPenney Credit Card and Financial Strategy

For people who shop at JCPenney frequently, holding a store credit card can be beneficial, helping them save money on purchases they would make anyway. The approval threshold for this card is fairly low. The card can help you improve your credit if you use it wisely, meaning you pay it off in full each month on time.

Because — like many store cards — the interest rate on the JCPenney credit card is high (27.99% APR), not paying off your purchases each month or within promotional periods will effectively negate any savings and ultimately cost you more.

That said, if you use it responsibly, this card can increase your  available credit and help you demonstrate a good payment history. The longer you hold it and establish a credit history, the more likely you’ll be to add points to your overall score.

JCPenney Credit Card Drawbacks

While the JCPenney credit card has benefits to frequent shoppers, there are some drawbacks — in addition to the high interest rate. The discounts offered, for instance, aren’t always applicable to every item in the store. Often, these coupons and offers come with restrictions that prevent them from being used on some of the more upscale brands or categories. For instance, coupons cannot be used on Nike products or at in-store Sephora locations, or on in-store services (like salon services), service plans, shipping and handling charges, and purchases made at stores that are closing.

There are also restrictions on rewards earnings. You may only earn up to 2000 points in any transaction (or earn points on up to $2,000 in a single purchase) and there are restrictions on how you can use your rewards certificates similar to the coupon restrictions. Rewards certificates do expire — although points do not as long as you use your account at least once every 12 months — and you only earn points on the purchase amount after all discounts have been applied.

JCPenney Credit Card Interest Rate

The JCPenney credit card has a fixed interest rate of 27.99%, which is very high. At this rate, not paying your balance in full each month will negate most, if not all, the savings you enjoy by being a cardholder.

Synchrony Bank does not charge an annual fee for this card. There are also no over limit fees, but a late payment will incur a $38 fee. Cardholders have a 23-day grace period on new purchases.

Where Can I Use My JCPenney Credit Card

The JCPenney credit card can be used in any JCPenney store, as well as online at jcp.com. You can also use the card at Sephora stores inside JCPenney stores, and Sephora.com, but not at freestanding Sephora locations.

The JCPenney Upgrades & Mastercard

Frequent shoppers at JCPenney are rewarded for their spending with the Gold or Platinum JCPenney cards. Spending $500 in a year earns the Gold JCPenney card, while spending $1,000 in a year gets you a Platinum card. These cards come with perks like additional savings days, points earnings opportunities, and exclusive offers.

Some eligible JCPenney cardholders may qualify for the JCPenney Mastercard. Although the qualifying details aren’t publicly available, the benefits to this card appear to be the same as the JCPenney card, with the added ability to use the card anywhere that Mastercard is accepted and earn more rewards points. Otherwise, the JCPenney Mastercard appears to be exactly the same as the store card, down to the 27.99% APR and the $38 late payment fee.


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