The American Eagle Credit Card from American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE: AEO) offers a convenient method to finance purchases at the clothing retailer and enjoy special perks available only to cardholders. Applying for and using the American Eagle Credit Card results in discounts, rewards points and access to special cardholder savings events. As with any credit card, however, reading the fine print is vital, as the terms and conditions list several stipulations with which cardholders should be familiar.

How the Card Works

The American Eagle Credit Card offers a revolving line of credit, just like a traditional Visa or MasterCard, though it is only accepted at American Eagle, Aerie retail locations and the company's website. Cardholders cannot use the card to make purchases at other retailers or withdraw money from ATMs.

Applying for the card only takes a few minutes. Interested customers can complete the application on the American Eagle website or at any of the store's physical locations. The credit decision is almost instantaneous. For credit card applicants, the higher their credit rating, the higher their credit limit upon approval. Once the card is activated, it can be used right away.

The card carries a variable annual percentage rate (APR) based on the prime rate. As of August 2016, the card's APR is 25.24%.

Customers also have the option of applying for an American Eagle Visa card. The card offers the same perks and benefits as the American Eagle Credit Card but can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. Credit approval for the Visa card is slightly more selective, and the card's APR is slightly lower at 24.24% as of August 2016.

Rewards and Benefits

American Eagle Credit Card customers enjoy special benefits literally from the first moment they use the card. The store offers a 15% discount for the first purchase made on a new card. For every $25 spent on the card at American Eagle or Aerie, the cardholder receives one Extra Savings Point. These points can be redeemed for discounts, with 10 points worth $10 in savings.

The store hosts four special savings events each year exclusively for cardholders. In addition, active cardholders receive a 20% off coupon each year on their birthday.

Who Benefits the Most

Those who shop at American Eagle frequently benefit the most from the American Eagle Credit Card. Even a person who buys clothes there a few times per year can save money, as Extra Savings Points do not expire, and the birthday coupon does not have to be used that day; it can be saved for a later purchase.

A person who rarely shops at American Eagle but makes a one-time major purchase there -- perhaps a back-to-school ensemble for a teen-aged child -- might consider signing up strictly for the initial 15% discount. If the purchase amount is, say, $200, the customer saves $30 with very little time and effort.

Alternatives

The Gap Credit Card from Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) offers similar terms to the American Eagle Credit Card. The Gap card has the added benefit of being accepted at other retailers owned by Gap, such as Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta. The card's APR, as of August 2016, is 24.99%. Cardholders receive 15% off their first purchase, just like at American Eagle. Customers who apply for a card can choose between the standard Gap store card and a Gap Visa card that is accepted other places and at ATMs.

The EXPRESS NEXT Credit Card from Express Inc. (NYSE: EXPR) extends an even greater discount of 20% to first-time users. Cardholders receive an exclusive birthday gift each year their card is active. Those who spend enough money on the card qualify for an A-list card that provides even bigger benefits, such as faster accumulation of rewards dollars and a premium birthday gift. The card carries an APR of 25.24% as of August 2016.

The Fine Print

The American Eagle Credit Card's terms and conditions stipulate that multiple discounts cannot be applied to a single purchase. For example, a cardholder may not use Extra Savings Points and a 20% birthday coupon at the same time.

Moreover, the birthday discount only applies to active accounts in good standing. A cardholder who is delinquent or in collections is ineligible to receive the coupon. To apply the birthday coupon to a purchase, the customer must pay with the American Eagle Credit Card.