Nordstrom's credit card is the best store card ever

Entrance to Nordstrom store

Normally, I'm not a fan of store-branded credit cards.

They typically carry sky-high interest rates, inundate you with ads and coupons that implore you to spend more, and offer zero range as a financial product outside the boundaries of that store and its website.

But over the past couple of years, Nordstrom's credit card has proven to be a wonderful exception to the rule.

OK, I still can't use it anywhere other than Nordstrom. But the interest rates are surprisingly low, and the rewards program is incredibly well thought out.

Much like the rest of the store.

I have always done most of my shopping at Nordstrom because I like its generous return policy (no questions asked when my boyfriend returned his sunglasses after his nephew broke them).

I can also find a range of products at very different prices, from boots that I'll wear for the next 10 years to severely discounted running clothes (they have the lowest price on my running shoes, hands down).

That led me to sign up for the department store's credit card in 2010.

The Nordstrom card's reward system has four tiers, and the perks you receive depend on the average amount you spend per year.

Nordstrom credit card reward tiers

Level Minimum annual purchases Maximum annual purchases
1 $1 $1,999
2 $2,000 $4,999
3 $5,000 $9,999
4 $10,000 None

Here's what shoppers get for using it:

Money back. You earn two points for every dollar spent, and when you reach 2,000 points, you get a $20 gift certificate. Plus, they add in days per quarter where you earn double or triple points and, for Levels 2 through 4, a 10-point-per-dollar day around the holidays. When you're buying clothes for two professionals (and many birthday and holiday gifts), it adds up.

Gift shipping. Speaking of gifts, for Levels 2 and above, you can buy gifts at a store and have them wrapped and shipped for $11. That's $11 for the entire transaction, so I could buy gifts for my entire family (and there's a lot of us) and have them all wrapped and shipped for $11, which is a big time and money saver.

Free tailoring. Because I run, I don't fit in standard pant sizes, so whatever I buy needs to be tailored, even jeans. With the Nordstrom card, you get free tailoring, from $100 a year to unlimited, depending on the level of your card. This is a huge cost savings to me, and a big time saver, too, since they have tailors on-site and will measure to hem and tuck before you walk out of the dressing room. Plus, they'll ship you the item after it's tailored, eliminating the need for another trip to the mall.

Low APR. Should the car die, my house explode and my dog need emergency surgery all in the same week, I might be forced to carry a balance on one of my credit cards. If that were the case, the Nordstrom card has the lowest APR out of the bunch, coming in at 10.90% compared to 15.24% on my Chase Sapphire and 11.99% on both my Chase Freedom and my Discover Card. Unlike other store cards, Nordstrom does not farm out its card duties to another company. They run their own Nordstrom Bank, which lets them offer lower interest rates to customers with good credit.

Is it tempting to spend more because I can just put it on the Nordstrom card? Sure. But that's the case with any kind of credit card, so the same discipline applies.

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