Welcome to my review of Synchrony credit cards! Other posts in this series:
The retail card extravaganza continues! In my last post, I talked about credit cards issued by Comenity, one of the two major retailer credit card issuers. The other one is Synchrony Bank, which you may remember as GE Capital, or possibly as GE Money. Hopefully they can settle on a name and be done with it.
A couple of points about Synchrony credit cards vis-a-vis Comenity. First of all, compared to Comenity, the credit lines are much lower in my experience. Every Synchrony card I’ve had has started out with a limit of around $1,000. With Comenity, on the other hand, my first card had a five-figure line, and my second one was mid-four figures. Which is to say, manufactured spending and/or large purchases may be more difficult with this bank.
Another point: Comenity does not offer any Amex cards, while Synchrony does. It can be nice to have an extra no-annual-fee Amex or two for things like Small Business Saturday.
Something else I’ve concluded in my dealings with the two banks: Synchrony is larger and perhaps a little more competent. Last time I called Comenity to ask about something, I didn’t get the answer I needed and the rep connected me to a department he shouldn’t have, wasting a lot of time in the process. I called back half an hour later hoping to get a hold of somebody more competent only to be connected to exactly the same rep I had talked to before. There was no wait time either. I’ve never experienced anything like this with a bank before: it felt like he was the only employee and I was the only customer. The point is, CSR roulette may be a little more difficult with Comenity.
My final point: Synchrony’s marketing varies strongly from card to card. The Gap brands cards, for example, seem to get a lot of good marketing offers, while I’ve received no offers whatsoever on my Dillard’s Amex since the first month.
Now then, let’s get started with…
Part 1: The Synchrony credit cards I have
5% back for in-store purchases at Gap brands stores, 1% elsewhere. But that’s not why I got this one. I got it after reading the write-up by Miles Abound wherein he details the ridiculously generous promotions offered for this card. They’ve obviously wised up since then, as I haven’t heard of any uncapped offers recently. But still, I’ve received maybe $100 worth of freebies this year, which isn’t too bad, and hopefully the gravy train will continue. A few months ago I received an offer for 200 points (i.e. $2 worth of gift certificates) per purchase on the card, capped at 5,000 points. An easy $50 for me! A couple of days ago I received an offer for $10 when swiping my card anywhere outside of the Gap brands stores. And recently I got a nice 5X promo for groceries, gas stations, dining, and Costco. Also, there are occasional cardmember discounts which you can combine with your rewards certificates.
This actually just switched over to Wells Fargo, but I’m going to write about it anyway since it was Synchrony when we got it last year. (Technically it was GE, but whatever.) My verdict on this one: lame. You can read my full review here. The rewards are an anemic 1.3% for purchases at Dillard’s, gas stations, and supermarkets, and 0.67% elsewhere. I’m hoping that somebody at Wells will pull the trigger on a sweet promotion to goose the volume for this thing, but no luck so far. I recently received my first-ever marketing promo after a few years of having the card, but it was pretty weak. One virtue of this card is that it’s a fee-free Amex. You can see more info and a full review of the Dillard’s Amex card here.
4% in-store, 1% everywhere else. Not a whole lot of promotions on this one (though I have had a few recently–see here, here, and here), certainly nothing like the Banana Republic card. You do get a $20 certificate every year on your birthday, which is nice, and as with the Banana Republic card, there are occasional cardmember discounts. But then, Brooks Brothers clothing is a little pricier than, say, Old Navy. I’ve effectively earned a shirt in my first year as a cardmember. Nice shirt, but still… You can probably pass on this one.
The most interesting / frustrating one of the four we have. I wrote about the 10% rewards on offer recently as well as the lame gift card rack they have, so take a look at those posts if you’re interested. 10% rewards is really good. If you buy a lot of diapers and baby supplies from Babies R Us, this card might be worth considering. If your local Toys R Us has Kindle or Ebay gift cards on its gift rack, it could conceivably be a good card for you. I haven’t tested out buying gift cards with this thing, so I can’t guarantee you’ll get rewards. They don’t so a ton of marketing promotions, though.
One other thing: rewards certificates expire pretty quickly with this thing. I recently received a $20 rewards certificate (I have no idea why, by the way, as I have no recollection of using the card recently, though frankly my memory tends to suck for the first year of each of our children’s lives) and it expires soon.
Part 2: The Synchrony credit cards I don’t have
This card is interesting in that it offers unlimited 3.75% cash back for the first 90 days. Read my discussion of it here.
This is one I’m curious about because of what looks to be a respectable rewards program. (Edit: I ended up getting this card after all.) With Dick’s rewards program and no credit card, you get 3% back on your in-store purchases. With the credit card, you get 6% back, and that increases to 10% during your birthday month.
Looking at the rewards details a little more closely, it appears the math is off a bit. Here’s the text:
6% back in Rewards** on in-store purchases.
- Earn Points for Purchases
- $1 of in-store purchases = 2 points
- $3 of out-of-store purchases = 1 point
- 300 points = $10 Reward
So if you buy $150 in-store, that’s 300 points, which gets you a $10 reward. 10 divided by 150 is 6.67%. Is my math off? I can’t imagine somebody would want to understate their rewards, but that’s what the math is telling me.
You can get $25 when signing up for this… big deal. There’s a five cent per gallon discount on gas purchased at Walmart… big deal. Rewards are a flat 1% on everything. Lame.
This one might be worth a look for some people. It gives an extra 3% on all purchases done through the ebates portal, and in the regard it seems similar to the Upromise card, which I have written about here. If you’d like to know more, Doctor of Credit wrote it up here, as did Maximizing Money here.
5 cents per dollar spent at T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post; 1 cent on the dollar everywhere else. I have no idea if any of those stores have gift card racks.
These appear to be the same thing. Both offer 3 points per dollar spent on gas & restaurants, 2 points per dollar on eBay and PayPal transactions, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The redemption options look like you’ll get less than a penny per cent, however, which is what this guy says as well. I’m not seeing much of interest here.
Here’s one that doesn’t get much attention as it should since it offers 5% back on gas purchases (up to $6,000 per year) with no annual fee. It also gives 3% cash back on dining and travel. Note that there is a business version of this card as well as a personal.
Ten cents per gallon discount if you spend $300 per billing cycle; or a twenty-cent discount if you spend $1,000 per billing cycle. The maximum gas discount per calender year is $300, while giving up $1,000 per month on a 2% cashback card would cost $240. No thanks.
Stein Mart recently renewed its agreement with Synchrony, so it looks like this one will be around for a while. The rewards are lousy, only 1% back on purchases, even Stein Mart purchases. It looks like the big draw with this one is periodic 10% discounts on purchases.
Anybody have any of these?