This past weekend I was speaking with a friend at Travelcon 2 and we were debating the merits of a credit card that most of you probably don’t know about. On the surface it is not very exciting, but there is a whole lot more to it. The card is the Banana Republic Visa card. Let’s take a look at it and then debate whether it is worth a hard credit inquiry or not.
Banana Republic Visa Benefits
The Banana Republic Visa card is issued by Synchrony Bank. One interesting quirk about applying is there is no way to guarantee you get the Visa. According to the application you have to agree that the bank gets to decide which version of the card you get. Strike 1 in my opinion.
Here are some benefits of the card:
- Earn 5 points for every $1 spent in their brands (Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta) in-store and online.
- Earn 1 Reward point for every $1 spent wherever Visa is accepted.
- Receive $5 for every 500 points you earn. (Points can only be redeemed in Gap brand stores.)
- Save 15% on your first purchase at BananaRepublic.com within 90 days.
- Reach Luxe status by earning 5,000 points in a calendar year.
- Sign up for paperless statements and earn 500 points.
- Cardmember perks: Double points shopping days, Cardmember-only offers and discounts, free standard shipping on all online orders over $50, birthday gift and no receipt required for returns.
So What Is Good About This?
First off, you can get Luxe status when earning 5,000 points in a calendar year. That gives you a 20% bonus on the points you earn, triple shopping days, free shipping on all orders, complimentary basic alterations and other small perks. Nice, but who wants to earn 5,000 points on this card?
Well, normally most people wouldn’t. Except, from time to time the bank decides to run bonus specials on the card. For example, here is an uncapped offer they sent out to targeted cardholders for November and December of this year!
So each point is worth $.01 each for redemption at Gap brands and they will pay 5X, so you will get 5% back towards clothing. Very interesting. Additionally if you spend $5K and qualify for “Luxe” status (bonus points don’t count towards Luxe qualification) then you get a 20% bonus on points earned. I don’t see any bonus point exclusion in the Luxe terms, so your 5X turns into 6X with the 20% bonus.
Note: They also recently offered 10X per dollar spent in select categories with no cap. Crazy.
MS With This Card?
So the question then becomes whether this is a good card for manufactured spend (MS)? Anytime you can get 6X, even if it is only good on clothing, then you should probably take a closer look. Here are some pros & cons in my opinion:
- 6X is not easy to get on any card. You could basically get clothing for free or close to free.
- Card is not issued by one of the bigger banks and is thus not taking up a slot with them.
- Some of the perks are quite decent, especially if you reach the Luxe level.
- These promotions are not guaranteed and could stop at any time.
- Points earned are stuck within Gap brands for redemptions.
- You may get a small credit line which would make it hard to spend large amounts.
- Very small sign-up bonus.
Is It Worth a Hard Hit?
This is a tough call and one I am sort of split on. First off, MS bandwidth is limited for most people. If you are MSing Banana Republic points then you are probably giving up another currency. What is the value trade-off? You must answer that first.
Of course if you could MS 5% in straight cash that would be a better option. I am not aware of any cards that allow you to do that on an ongoing basis with no limits. Some people MS on 2% cards. Is 2% in cash better than 6% in Banana Republic credit? Probably not, but you must also be careful not to MS more credit than you need.
Then of course there is an argument that you might shift spend to Banana Republic when you would rather shop somewhere else. Are you giving up better deals and prices by shifting spend to Banana Republic? Are you going to get the style and quality of clothing that you are looking for? So many questions for which the answer will differ depending on the person.
Doctor of Credit once wrote a post that rewards points could somehow be converted to gift cards. Apparently some people have done it, but it is not supposed to be possible in the terms. I wouldn’t count on being able to convert to gift cards, but if you do then those could be sold at 72% of face value currently. Check the comments of this post if you want to see recent experiences. As I said, most people seem to say it isn’t possible.
In the end I actually think this card may be worth the hard credit inquiry for a select few who can shift some spend, but not take away from their main MS goals with other cards. This card doesn’t have an annual fee so it is something you can keep forever. There is of course a risk that the 5X-10X promotions stop coming, but at the very least you are building account history. There is a lot of upside, but it isn’t guaranteed. You can find all of the details of this card on the Banana Republic website.
I have actually known about this card for awhile and my conversation this past weekend got me thinking about it. I’m still not sure if this is the right time for me personally to get this card, but I’m definitely intrigued by it.
What do you think? Is it worth a hard credit inquiry? Do you have the card? Let me know in the comments!