What is Synchrony Bank, and Why Should You Care?

You may have never heard of Synchrony Bank, but there’s a chance you’re already a customer.
Last updated Mar 26, 2020 | By Matt Miczulski
What Is Synchrony Bank and Why Should You Care

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Whether you’re buying clothes, furniture, sporting equipment, or gas, if you’ve been offered a store credit card at some point, there’s a good chance it was a Synchrony Bank product.

Synchrony Bank may not be as well-known as other popular banks, but its impact on the consumer financial services industry hasn’t gone unnoticed. With a footprint that encompasses many popular retailers, health-care providers, manufacturers, and more, Synchrony Bank is the bank behind many of the retail credit cards we use each day.

So what exactly is Synchrony Bank, and what does it do? Let’s take a look.

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What/who is Synchrony Bank?

Synchrony Bank is a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and based out of Utah. Synchrony has been a leader in consumer financial services for more than 85 years and provides a variety of financing options for many well-known brands across the country, including companies such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay.

Synchrony offers three financing solutions — retail credit cards, CareCredit for healthcare-related financing, and promotional financing for major consumer purchase — and has more than 80 million active accounts. In addition to its financing options, Synchrony also offers a variety of FDIC-insured savings products.

There’s a possibility that you already have a Synchrony Bank card in your wallet. Why? Synchrony is the largest provider of private label credit cards in the U.S., with over 120 credit cards and store-branded cards. If there’s a retail chain store you like to shop at, chances are it offers a credit card — and that credit card has a good chance of being a Synchrony Bank product.

Synchrony works with businesses across a broad range of markets and industries, such as:

  • Auto parts and services
  • Electronics and appliances
  • Flooring
  • Hardware
  • Health care and optical
  • Heating and air conditioning
  • Home furnishings
  • Home improvement
  • Jewelry
  • Lawn and garden
  • Music
  • Powersports
  • Sewing
  • Sporting goods

Synchrony offers both store cards and credit cards

Synchrony has partnered with over 100 different brands to provide credit cards and store cards to customers across the country.

Store cards, also referred to by Synchrony as “private label credit cards,” are intended for use only at specific stores. While Synchrony is the bank that’s extending the credit to the customer, the store name is what’s branded on the card.

Synchrony also provides a patented “Dual Card,” which is a credit card that functions as a store card when used in-store and as a general-purpose credit card when used anywhere else. Store cards can only be used at the merchants they’re connected with, but since these Dual Cards are issued on the Visa and Mastercard networks, customers can use the card anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted.

The requirements for getting approved for Synchrony store cards are generally more lenient than their Dual Cards, though store cards tend to have higher annual percentage rates (APRs) and lower credit limits. You may also find special financing options offered with many store cards, but these promotions will vary from store to store.

On the other hand, Synchrony Dual Cards generally require customers to have a better credit score than what’s required for store cards, but they also typically offer better terms and rewards. Depending on the card, you can usually earn between 1X and 5X points on purchases, which is on par with other rewards credit cards. Many Synchrony Dual Cards also offer other benefits, such as no annual fees and a sign-up bonus for new cardmembers.

The best cards offered by Synchrony Bank

Amazon Prime Store Card

If you’re an eligible Amazon Prime member, the Amazon Prime Store Card offers 5% back on purchases at Amazon.com, as well as a variety of special financing offers and no annual fee. You can choose between paying for your purchase with 6, 12, or 24 equal monthly payments at 0% APR. Or you can opt for special financing, where you’ll pay no interest if the purchase paid off within 6, 12, or 24 months. How many equal payments and how long the promotional period is depends on the price of your purchase.

Keep in mind that Amazon’s special financing offer defers the interest during the promotional period, so if there’s a remaining balance when the offer ends, the full interest backdated to the date of purchase will be added to your account. This is important to remember as the APR is on the high side — also a good reason to pay your balances in full every month.

If you’re a frequent online shopper who specifically enjoys shopping on Amazon and pays your balance in full each month, you shouldn’t have any issue finding value in this card. If you don’t have a Prime membership, you won’t earn the 5% back at Amazon.com, just the promotional financing offers.

Sam’s Club Mastercard

In order to apply for the Sam’s Club Mastercard, you must be a Sam’s Club member; annual memberships currently cost $45 for Select Club and $100 for Select Plus. New cardmembers can get a $45 statement credit when a new account is opened, but you have to spend $45 online the same day you open the account to get it.

Sam’s Club Mastercard cardholders can earn 5% cash back on the first $6,000 spent on gas purchases, then 1% after that. They’ll also get 3% cash back on dining and travel. For every other purchase you make, you’ll earn 1%. The maximum cash back you can earn on all purchases each year is $5,000. This card also has zero foreign transaction fees and no annual fee.

While the Sam’s Club Mastercard offers a competitive 5% cash back on eligible gas purchases, spending in this category is capped at $6,000 per year. So, depending on how much you spend annually on gas, other cards may provide more value.

Lowe’s Advantage Card

If you frequently shop at Lowe’s, the Lowe’s credit card might actually give you an advantage. You can get 5% off your eligible purchase or order when it’s charged to your Lowe’s account and six months special financing on purchases of $299 or more. If you’ve got a big project coming up where you’ll be spending $2,000 or more, you can enjoy up to 84 months of fixed monthly payments with reduced APR financing until the balance is paid in full.

While some other credit cards may offer 5% cash back at stores like Lowe’s, the rewards are usually on a rotating category basis. With the Lowe’s Advantage Card, however, you get 5% off every day of the year.

Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card (Formerly Ebates)

The Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card is particularly interesting because of the potential to earn a lot of rewards. Even without the credit card, customers using Rakuten have the potential to earn cash back, deals, and shopping rewards on a vast selection of online products and services. The percentage you get in cash back depends on the store and category of the purchase, but earning 6%, 10%, and even 40% cash back is a thing — really.

With the Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card, you can earn 3% cash back on qualifying purchases made through Rakuten.com, Rakuten Hotels, and Rakuten Travel, as well as on in-store cashback offers. This is on top of the cash back earned on purchases for simply shopping through Rakuten. On every other purchase you make where Visa is accepted, you’ll earn 1% cash back. There’s no earning cap on your purchases, no annual fee, and a $10 first-purchase bonus to help kick off your savings.

While the rewards will vary from store to store, shopping through Rakuten is one of the best ways to earn rewards. Add the 3% cash back from the credit card and you’ll be earning rewards in no time.

Synchrony also offers multi-store category cards

Aside from the many retail-specific cards Synchrony provides, it also offers category-specific credit cards, which broaden the locations where your card is accepted.

Health care

CareCredit is a Synchrony credit card that’s accepted at more than 210,000 locations nationwide. With it, you can finance health, beauty, and wellness needs that aren’t covered by insurance. With the CareCredit health-care credit card, you’ll get a revolving line of credit that can be used for things like dentistry, cosmetic treatments, LASIK surgery, eyeglasses, and even pet care.

The card offers reduced APR special financing options for purchases of $200 or more, but the standard APR is pretty high.

Car care

The Synchrony Car Care credit card is designed for pretty much every car expense you can think of. It can be used for routine maintenance like gas and car washes, as well as larger purchases such as tires, brakes, transmissions, and more.

There’s no annual fee for the Car Care credit card, and interest-free special financing offers are available for purchases of $199 or more. And, yes, you guessed it: The purchase APR is high, so you’ll want to never carry a balance.

Sporting goods

Golf Galaxy and Field & Stream are both owned by Dick’s Sporting Goods, so opening a ScoreRewards store card or Dual Card allows you to earn points at any of these three stores. Cardmembers can earn 2X points on qualified in-store purchases, and ScoreRewards Mastercard cardholders can also earn one point for every three dollars spent anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

Additionally, both the store card and Dual Card offer 12 months of special financing on in-store purchases of $399 or more through Nov. 1, 2019.

Home goods

The Synchrony HOME Credit Card allows cardholders to shop at thousands of locations nationwide for qualifying home-related purchases, including things like furniture, decor, appliances, flooring, and mattresses.

Depending on how much you spend, this card offers 2% cash back on purchases under $299 and six months of promotional financing on purchases of $299 or more. While there’s no annual fee for the Synchrony HOME Credit Card, the APR on purchases is high.

The complete list of cards offered by Synchrony Bank

Synchrony Bank credit cards

Synchrony Bank store cards

Getting approved for a card from Synchrony Bank

With any credit card, the higher your credit score, the better your chances for approval — and Synchrony Bank cards are no different. But generally speaking, the minimum credit score for Synchrony’s store cards is going to be lower than what’s needed for its Dual Cards.

That being said, the credit score required will vary from store to store, so it’s best to always try to maintain as best a credit score as possible.

Some final words on Synchrony Bank

Synchrony Bank credit cards probably aren’t going to provide you with the best terms and rewards when compared to other credit cards, but they can come in handy. In fact, since they generally have lower credit score requirements, a store card might be a good option as a first credit card if you’re looking to build your credit history. With such high APRs, though, you’ll want to always make sure to pay your balances in full each month.

The promotional financing options offered by many of the Synchrony credit cards can also be useful, allowing you to pay off the charge over time without racking up any interest. But again, be careful — because if you don’t pay off the balance within the promotional period, the deferred interest will kick in, and this could cost you a lot.

One final thing to be aware of is that Synchrony has had some issues with marketing and service in the past. In 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered Synchrony Bank to provide nearly $225 million in relief to consumers affected by “illegal and discriminatory credit card practices.” Aside from employing deceptive marketing practices, the bank was also found to have excluded approximately 108,000 borrowers from debt relief offers because of their national origin.

As with any credit card — whether it’s your first card or not — use it responsibly and pay the card off each month. This way, you can get the most benefit from the rewards or discounts it offers without having to pay a fortune in interest charges.

Earn Easy Cash Back at Amazon.com

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Benefits

  • Get a $70 Amazon gift card upon approval
  • 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee