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Target card or Target Visa? Which is better?

The world of credit cards is getting more complicated, if that's possible. More and more retail stores are teaming up with American Express, MasterCard or Visa to issue credit cards that carry the name of the store and the logo of the card issuer. But they also still offer cards that can be used only in their own stores. How does a consumer choose?

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Known as private-label credit cards, the one-store-only cards have introduced reward programs that pay cardholders to use their cards again and again.

"Private-label cards used to be pretty plain vanilla; they charged interest, you could use them to buy in that store, and that was it," says Margaret Keane, president and CEO of the retail consumer finance division of GE Money. "Now, more and more, you're seeing retailers look at how they can reward their customers to get them back in the store to spend more."

With the GapCard -- accepted at Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and piperlime.com -- you earn 5 percent in rewards on all purchases at any of those stores, free standard shipping on all online purchases over $100, and 10 percent off any purchase "the first Tuesday of every month," among other incentives, big and small, that come and go as the Gap companies work to keep their customers coming back for more.

"For instance, they'll give their Gap cardholders $10-off coupons or 20 percent off at different times in the year -- those kinds of things," Keane says.

Compare the 2 types of cards
Private label: Co-branded cards:

In the store and beyond
Nowadays, private-label cards have company.

Co-branded cards that sport the names of Gap, Target or eBay and have a Visa or MasterCard logo firmly planted in one corner are doing their part to increase in-store sales, as well.

Holders of Visa co-branded GapCards, for example, receive all the benefits of the Gap's private-label cards plus the ability to earn 1 percent back on all their purchases anywhere Visa is accepted. EBay cardholders earn points on their MasterCard purchases that they can use to pay their membership and other fees on eBay.

"And purchases made with the Best Buy Reward Zone MasterCard earn 4 percent on Best Buy purchases and up to 2 percent on purchases everywhere else," says Cindy Savio, a spokeswoman for HSBC.

Next: Check the APR on private label cards.
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