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Co-branded credit cards are the result of partnerships between retailers, card issuers and card networks. Think loyalty card meets credit card – if you make frequent purchases on Amazon or travel with Delta, a co-branded card may be the right choice to help you earn extra rewards on those purchases – or in some cases on any purchase. You can often access exclusive perks and perks through co-branded credit cards.
What is a co-branded credit card?
A co-branded credit card is created through a partnership between a card network (i.e. Visa, Mastercard, American Express), a card issuer or bank, and a retailer or other brand. They often act as loyalty cards for consumers who frequently shop at certain stores or travel with particular businesses, but can also be associated with charities and other organizations.
Co-branded cards usually have the brand’s logo and name on the card. These cards offer cardholders exclusive benefits associated with the brand, but also network or issuer specific benefits, such as the Visa Signature program which offers travel and purchase protections beyond the issuer and retailer offer. Cardholders can use most co-branded cards anywhere, as these cards are accepted not only at the specific retailer offering the card, but with any card-accepting provider on the network.
Major airlines like American Airlines, Delta, and United offer co-branded credit cards in partnership with major banks like Chase or Citi and card networks like Visa or American Express. Other examples of popular co-branded cards include the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.*Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card* and the Citi Costco Anywhere Visa® Card*.
How does a co-branded credit card work?
Co-branded credit cards work like any other credit card. Cardholders can use these cards anywhere the card network is accepted. Unlike store cards which limit purchases to the specific store and its partners, co-branded cards can be used much more widely.
Co-branded cardholders typically receive exclusive retailer or airline-specific rewards and offers. As long as you maintain an account in good standing, you can take advantage of reduced fares or travel benefits. Benefits may include the ability to earn upgraded membership status, especially for airlines and hotels with tiered membership systems.
Each co-branded card has a bank or issuer that directly manages the account and reports your activity to a credit bureau. You’ll likely need to log into your online account on the card issuer’s website where you can access your purchase history, make payments, and manage other aspects of your account.
The retailer partners with a bank or issuer to approve new cardholders and provide exclusive offers. The retailer in turn earns a portion of the transaction fees charged by the network and issuer. You can usually apply for a co-branded credit card at a store or service point or online.
Should you get a co-branded credit card?
There are several advantages to subscribing to a co-branded credit card, especially if you frequently use a specific retailer for shopping or travel. You can limit the number of cards in your wallet and better manage your spending (instead of tracking your spending across multiple cards). Co-branded cards provide exclusive perks and benefits to cardholders that they would not otherwise receive.
For example, co-branded airline cards can waive baggage fees and offer priority boarding. Hotel cards sometimes offer room upgrades, late check-out, and elite status. Co-branded store cards can offer deep discounts and cash back potential.
Despite the advantages, a few disadvantages exist with co-branded cards. Most of the benefits available to you with a co-branded card are limited to the brand associated with the card issuer and network. Points or rewards may not be transferable to other retailers or services, making these cards less versatile than cash back or flexible rewards credit cards that allow you to redeem points for greater variety of services or products.
Co-branded cards can also have a higher than average APR, which means you’ll need to be more careful with your payments if you want to avoid high interest charges. Some maps have strict rules for qualifying. For example, Citi’s Costco Anywhere Visa® card* requires applicants to be Costco members first.
However, if you constantly shop on Amazon or fly American Airlines, signing up for a co-branded credit card can be a lucrative and beneficial decision.
How to Get a Co-Branded Credit Card
Applying for a co-branded credit card generally follows the same process as applying for traditional credit cards. You can apply online on the card issuer’s website or you can fill out an application in store or even on the plane while you are traveling.
Since card issuers handle co-branded credit cards, expect to see a rigorous credit check on your credit reports when applying. Be sure to research what credit rating is recommended for your preferred card before applying.
Check the pre-approval tools on a card issuer’s website. Pre-approval requests won’t hurt your credit score, and they can let you know if you’re likely to qualify for a credit card.
Co-branded credit cards can be a great option for you if you do most of your shopping with the same airlines, hotels, or retailers. But be sure to analyze the downsides of any co-branded card – you might lose flexibility with rewards points by signing up for a co-branded card and you might receive higher APRs than with others credit card. Practice responsible spending to improve your credit score and keep your balances low.