If you’re a frequent shopper at Banana Republic, you’ve probably been hit up for a credit card at the checkout counter, along with a promise of a discount on the day's purchases. Should you say yes or steer clear?
Two Different Cards
Banana Republic actually offers two cards. The BananaCard is relatively easy to get; if your credit is exceptional, you might qualify for the Banana Republic Visa card. Both come with most of the same benefits. The Visa card, however, allows you to earn rewards at any place your Visa card is accepted. The BananaCard is only accepted at Gap stores.
Synchrony Bank (SYF) issues the Banana Republic credit cards. Once known as GE Capital Retail Bank, Synchrony Bank is part of General Electric’s financial arm.
In June 2014, the bank settled a case from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Justice related to questionable business practices. However, the bank had turned itself in; it wasn't the target of an investigation.
Customer reviews for Synchrony aren’t favorable, reporting confusing contract terms and disappointing customer service. All the same, it’s hard to find reviews of any bank that are highly favorable.
Since Banana Republic is owned by Gap (GPS), your cards are more Gap cards than just Banana Republic ones. Your purchases also count toward rewards if you shop at the Gap, Athleta, Old Navy and Piperlime. You'll get a $10 reward card for every $200 you spend at any Gap store or website. For any purchases outside of Gap stores, you receive one point for every $1 you spend if you qualified for the Visa card. Once you earn 1000 points, you receive a $10 reward card for redemption at any Gap store. This gives the Visa card a wider reach and utility than the standard one-chain-store-only card.
When you sign up for either card you earn 2,000 bonus points and 15% on your purchases that day.
Other perks for both cards are standard with most store cards: Advanced notice of sales, offers for your birthday and, in this case, 10% at certain Gap stores each Tuesday.
If you spend at least $800 in a single year on either card, you’re eligible to upgrade to Banana Republic's Luxe card, which earns you an additional 5% off one day per week, free basic alterations and triple-points days.
The Fine Print
The annual percentage rate for the Visa card is a hefty 23.99% – 24.99% for the BananaCard – but will vary based on the prime rate. Don’t expect the special introductory rate that some cards offer. However, there is no annual fee. The store card doesn’t allow cash advances or foreign transactions. On the Visa, the fee for cash advances is $10 or 4%, whichever is greater, and an APR of 25.99% applies.
The late payment fee is up to $35 based on payment history, but there is no penalty APR. If you use your Visa card outside of the United States, expect to pay a 3% foreign transaction fee. (See How Foreign Transaction Fees Work.)
The Bottom Line
Like most store cards, the offer is enticing, and it has the added benefit of applying to all the stores in the Gap group. All the same, measure it against what you would get from a regular cash back credit card.
First, crunch some numbers. Before you amass $50 in rewards points, you have to spend $1,000 in Gap stores. Compare that to what you'd get from a cash back credit card. For more, see Find The Top Cash Back Credit Cards.
If you do spend enough at Gap stores to take advantage of this card, avoid carrying a balance. With an either 23.99% or 24.99% APR and a less-than-ideal rewards structure, any interest payments you make could wipe out any benefit from your rewards.