Can store credit be used online?

As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, more and more customers are wondering if they can use store credit and gift cards from brick-and-mortar retailers to make purchases online. The short answer is usually yes, you can use store credit online, but there are some caveats and specifics to be aware of depending on the retailer.

How Store Credit Typically Works Online

Most major retailers that operate both physical stores and ecommerce sites allow customers to redeem store credit or gift cards online. This includes large department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom, big box retailers like Target and Walmart, and clothing brands like Gap and Banana Republic. Here’s how it generally works:

  • Customers can enter their gift card number or store credit code at checkout on the retailer’s website, just like entering a coupon code.
  • The available balance is automatically applied to the purchase total upon completing the order.
  • Any remaining balance stays on the card or store credit account to be used for future online or in-store purchases.

So in most cases, using store credit online is a seamless process and functions much like paying with an e-gift card. The store credit code acts like a digital coupon that can be easily redeemed at checkout.

Check Retailer Policies on Store Credit Online

While most major retailers allow online redemption of store credit, there are some exceptions. Some important things to verify before assuming store credit can be used online:

  • Make sure the retailer allows store credit to be used for online purchases. Check their website for specific policies.
  • Ensure the store credit does not have any restrictions only allowing in-store use.
  • See if the credit has an expiration date, and whether that expiration applies to online use.
  • Find out if any fees apply for using store credit online versus in-store.

For example, some department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom do not allow store credit from gift card exchanges or merchandise returns to be used for online purchasing. So it’s always best to read the fine print!

Typical Limitations When Using Store Credit Online

While most major retailers allow customers to redeem store credit online, there are some common limitations to be aware of:

  • No splitting payment methods: Typically the full order total must be covered either using the store credit balance for the entire amount, or charging another payment method for the full amount. Splitting the total across multiple tenders like store credit and a credit card is often not allowed.
  • No returns to original tender: If you use store credit for an online purchase and need to return the items, in most cases the refund will be issued back to the store credit balance rather than the original payment method.
  • No cash back: Store credit and gift card balances cannot be exchanged for cash back online (or in stores). Any remaining balance stays on the account.

So when using store credit for online shopping, be prepared to use the full value on your purchase and have any returns credited back to the store credit itself.

Factors to Consider When Using Store Credit Online

Here are some key factors to consider when deciding whether to use store credit for online purchases:

  • Expiration dates: Make note of any expiration date for using the store credit online or in-store. You don’t want the credit to expire before you can use it up.
  • Returns and exchanges: Understand the retailer’s policies if you need to return or exchange online purchases made with store credit.
  • Remaining balance: Track your balance to avoid leaving unused funds on the card after the expiration date.
  • Fees: Check if any fees apply to use store credit online instead of in-store, which may impact the decision.

Taking these factors into account can help shoppers make the most of their store credit for online purchases.

Pros of Using Store Credit Online

There are many advantages to using store credit for online shopping:

  • Convenience: Shop from home and still benefit from the store credit you already have.
  • Assortment: Often retailers have expanded product selections online vs. in physical stores.
  • Availability: Items may be in stock online when sold out at local stores.
  • Price matching: Many retailers match their online and in-store pricing.
  • Speedy shipping: Online orders can be faster than visiting a crowded mall.

The convenience factor alone makes store credit highly useful for online purchases.

Cons of Using Store Credit Online

There are also some potential downsides to consider when redeeming store credit online:

  • No in-store perks: Store credit used online excludes any in-store benefits like special discounts or promotions.
  • Can’t split payment: Having to use the full store credit balance for the purchase rather than splitting payment methods.
  • Returns may be difficult: Potential hassles returning an online purchase with store credit vs. original payment.
  • Expiration dates: Forgetting about expiration before using the full balance.
  • Fees: Some retailers charge fees for using store credit online versus in-store.

However, for most major retailers that allow store credit online, the pros tend to outweigh the cons for shoppers.

Types of Store Credit That Typically Work Online

Here are some examples of the most common types of store credit that can be used for online purchases:

  • Gift cards: Plastic or digital gift cards purchased from the retailer, its website, or third-party sellers like grocery stores typically work online.
  • Store credit accounts: Credit balances issued by retailers for merchandise returns or exchanges function online in most cases.
  • Promotional credit: Credits issued by stores for completing certain actions like opening a credit card or cardmember rewards can often be used online.
  • Refund gift cards: Store credit balances issued for refunds on previous purchases generally redeem online.

As long as the retailer allows it, these types of store credit tend to have no issues being used for ecommerce purchases.

Examples Where Store Credit May Not Work Online

While most major retailers enable online redemption, here are some examples where store credit is more limited to in-store purchases only:

  • Department store exchanges: Credit from exchanging items without a receipt at stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom generally can only be used in-store.
  • Gas station rewards: Points and credits earned from loyalty programs for gas brands often have restrictions limiting online use.
  • Small specialty retailers: Local mom-and-pop shops may not have integrated systems allowing customers to redeem store credit online.
  • Returns without original tender: Refunds issued back to store credit rather than original payment method may be store-use only.

When in doubt, smaller and more specialized retailers likely have greater restrictions requiring store credit to be used in person.

Policies for Top Retailers on Using Store Credit Online

To illustrate the nuances of store credit policies, here are examples from several major retailers:

Retailer Policy on Using Store Credit Online
Target Target gift cards and store credit from returns/exchanges can be used online with no fees or restrictions.
Walmart Walmart allows gift cards and credit to be fully redeemed online with free shipping.
Amazon Amazon gift cards and account credits from returns can be used online. $0 minimum balance for redemption.
Home Depot Home Depot gift cards and merchandise credits work online and in-store with no fees or minimums.
Starbucks Starbucks Cards can be registered online and used to pay for merchandise or gifted e-cards.

As shown, major chains tend to allow store credit online with minimal restrictions, if any. Consumers can redemption options by retailer.

Tips for Using Store Credit Online

To make the most of store credit for online shopping, keep these tips in mind:

  • Check the expiration: Use any credits with looming expiration dates first.
  • Watch for exclusions: See if any product categories like gift cards are restricted.
  • Compare pricing: Verify online versus in-store price differences if any.
  • Understand returns: Know refund policies before purchasing high-ticket items.
  • Look for discounts: See if additional promo codes can be stacked with the store credit.
  • Avoid splits: Remember the full purchase amount must typically be covered by the credit.

Using these tips can help shoppers avoid issues and get optimal value from store credits used online.

The Bottom Line

At most major retailers, store credit and gift cards can be conveniently redeemed online. Customers can shop from home and take advantage of wider product selection online versus going to a crowded mall or shopping center. Just be sure to check for any retailer-specific expiration policies, exclusions, or fees associated with online usage before assuming store credit will automatically work on ecommerce purchases. With hundreds of billions of dollars on gift cards alone going unredeemed each year, using them online is an easy way to make sure you maximize the value of any store credits already in your wallet or account.

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