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Use Credit Cards to Get Free Clothes

There seem to always be numerous posts about credit cards with all sorts of varied opinions.  You can look at the facts posted by Kurt at Money Counselor. Some think all credit is evil, and we should burst into flames if we apply for a card. Some feel we should make all purchases with a credit card for ease of tracking finances and rewards. I fall somewhere in the middle. If you are smart and disciplined, you can make the best use of credit cards and take advantage of cash or merchandise rewards. I personally hate to spend money on clothes for myself. For the past couple of years, I have gotten almost all my clothes for free.  All I had to do was pay my bills on time.

Back in the day, our household did not have a healthy credit card relationship. At our lowest (or highest) point, we owed over $30,000 to Visa, Mastercard, AmEx , and Discover. Since then, we have seen the error of our ways and do not use credit for things we don’t have the money to purchase. When we used to apply for any credit card that was available, I signed up for an Old Navy Visa card.  I’m sure I carried a balance on it at a time much blacker than now. Now that I’m smarter, I  use a store card to my advantage. I realize that store cards can be a black hole, but if you use them correctly, some offer great rewards.

I don’t really enjoy shopping. I’m not sure if it’s the redistribution of flesh that comes after childbirth, or having to chase a five year old around the store while trying to find clothes, but I need one store that works for us. I don’t have the time or desire to visit that many places. Because I live in a town where the only people who wear suits are the DA and the undertaker, I can get away with wearing khakis or a simple dress to work.   Old Navy or Gap works fine for what I need, but you can find similar cards at other stores if those are not your cup of tea.

Pros of Store Credit Cards

  • Takes less points to get rewards-For the Old Navy card, you get a $5 reward for every 500 points.
  • Offers more points for money spent in their stores-For purchases in their stores, you get 5 points per dollar spent.
  • Free shipping online-If you uses your card online at their site, you usually get free shipping
  • Bonus offers-This is how I earn most of my points. It seems there is always some sort of special offer to get 1000 or 2000 points.  Sometimes, you have to sign up for promo emails. One offer gave 1000 points for using your card for any purchase within so many days.

 Cons of Store Credit Cards

  • Higher interest if you don’t pay off your balance each month. Our interest is 23.99% if the balance is not paid in full.
  • Can red flag your credit if you are applying for a mortgage.  This is true for any credit you apply for, but some people don’t think store cards count.
  • You get email almost daily. You do get the bonus points, but you also have to contend with lots of emails.
  • You might be tempted to buy more. If the store is offering some sort of bonus for using your card, you might be tempted to buy something you don’t need to get the reward.

In our case, we use this card to pay most of our monthly bills; electricity, gas, internet, and TV. We also use this card when we travel or need to make a household purchase. Between those expenses, I usually get around $200 a year, which covers my work clothes budget. If I didn’t work, I’d probably wear old T-shirts and sweats every day, so it’s probably good that I have to dress up for something.

Of course you can use any reward card this way and get cash back, but with what little we put on credit now, it would take a long time to get any sort of reward. Usually you need 10,000-25,000 points to make it worthwhile. It would take a few years for that to happen in our house. I do still have my business credit cards until I sell my office at the end of the year. It rakes in the points because we put all of our business expenses on it. We usually use those points as cash back when we go on trips.

The key to any credit card is discipline. If you know you will spend more by having a credit card, then don’t have one. My husband doesn’t feel comfortable with one. He did have one weak moment during our debt pay down when he had a relapse and made a stupid credit purchase. Since then, he has given me all of his credit cards to hide. Now, he only uses a debit card or cash for his personal spending. If you can’t pay off the balance in full each month, then you really shouldn’t use a credit card, no matter how many points you might receive.  Whatever your motivation for getting a credit card,  choose one that meets your needs and offers the best rates or rewards. If you are unsure, there are many sources of information. Check out Modest money’s Best Credit Card Offers to start with. For me, paying bills with a credit card has been a great way to get free clothes.

Do you use credit cards for rewards? What is your favorite thing to use credit card points for?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I used to have a store credit card for Express (I actually never closed it, just don’t use it). I think sometimes it makes sense, but they can hurt your credit score if you open them too often. I think as long as you don’t have a big loan application coming up it’s okay to open one from time to time.

    • I had just about all of them back in the day. Those are ones I did close for the most part. The $500 limits were not hurting or helping anything, and it just seems likeley I might use them more if I have them.

  2. I’ve never given in to the temptation to get a store credit card. I guess the main reason is that there are so few stores that I shop at regularly. So for me I just go with cash back rewards since it’s nice and simple, while not forcing me to spend more to redeem the rewards. Each month I pay off the balance in full and essentially get paid to use my credit card.

    By the way, thanks for mentioning my credit card page. Much appreciated.

    • Using credit responsibly to get rewards is a smart way to take advantage. Getting affiliate income from credit cards is an even better deal!

  3. I don’t use my store card enough to rack up rewards, but they do send me outrageously good coupons because I have a card. I’ve gotten a ton of free clothes this way; I would’ve been spending $50 anyways, so the extra $50 of clothes was free. I’ve been tempted to buy more, though, for sure!

    • I do get tons of emails for discounts and spend $20 get $20 free. If you needed to buy, they work great, but not for buying just to get the reward.

  4. I don’t shop at one particular store for clothing and none of those stores have their own credit card. The card I use for rewards is my Mastercard. I collect points with every purchase and when I have enough points, I redeem them to get free groceries. :)You get extra points if you bring your own reusable grocery bags.

  5. I’ve never paid interest on a credit card. Owing money at 19%+ is definitely money-stupid so, for people who can’t manage credit, getting a card just to enjoy the occasional bonus is a terrible choice.

    With that said, I’ve often used credit card reward programs. I get 3% cashback on gas and groceries with my MBNA SmartCash card. That’s the primary card I use. I sign up for others to get bonuses. I recently got $100 in gas cards for getting a Visa card. In the spring I got a MasterCard for $40 in free groceries (and ended up making this well over $50 with some bonuses like signing up for an electronic statement).

    • It’s funny how they have so many offers for signing up for emails or e statements. As long as you pay it off and aren’t needing a mortgage, I say go for the rewards.

  6. We’ve had a smattering of these cards over the years. My first card was with Circuit City and I bought a VCR ($800!) with it. My wife has a Kohl’s card which we do pay off every month. She was a Sales Associate there for two years which, combined the Employee Discount with Card savings, and it did add up to a nice chunk of saved change.

    I still haven’t figured out if we paid Kohls more in purchases during that time than she made in salary… somethings are just better left unknown 😉

    • I worked at the big devil, WalMart for a while when I was in school. I do believe I might have spent more that I made even with my employee discount. It’s just hard to walk through that size store and not see something you think you need. $800 VCR, those were the days!

  7. Credit cards are a good way to get rebates or freebies from the rewards program.But sometimes this could get out of hand if not controlled properly

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