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Ulta Credit Cards – The Ugly Side of Beauty.

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I am not a consumer of cosmetics. As such, maybe everything I say about the Ulta Ultamate Rewards Mastercard is wrong.  Nevertheless, after reviewing what the Ulta Mastercard offers, I will say this is a card that is largely useless unless you are totally into Ulta as your go-to-shop for cosmetics and other beauty-related purchases.

What You Need to Know About Ulta Credit Cards: Benefits and Features

Ulta offers two credit cards: the Ultamate Rewards Mastercard and the Ultamate Rewards credit card.

Let’s dispense quickly with the Ultamate Rewards credit card. It is a store-only card, meaning that it works only for purchases made at Ulta Beauty stores or online at Ulta.com. With this card you get:

  • 20% of your first purchase;
  • 2 points for every $1 spent at Ulta Beauty stores or Ulta.com.

That’s the sum total of benefits.

You can redeem your accumulated points for Ulta purchases, starting with 100 points, which is equivalent to $3. You cannot use the points anywhere else. We’ll come back to redemption value in a moment…

But let’s move on to the Ultamate Rewards Mastercard first, since the benefits are different.

Unlike the Ultamate Rewards credit card, the Ultamate Rewards Mastercard is a traditional credit card, meaning you can it for purchases anywhere in the world that accepts Mastercard. With this Mastercard you get:

  • 20% off your first purchase;
  • 2 points for $1 spent at Ulta Beauty stores of Ulta.com;
  • 1 point for every $3 spent anywhere else’
  • 500 Welcome Bonus points (equal to $17.50 in purchases at Ulta) after you spend $500 in the first three months anywhere that is not Ulta.

So, Are Ulta Credit Cards Good for Me?

This entirely depends on your spending pattern when it comes to cosmetics.

If Ulta, for you, is the ultimate destination for all your cosmetics and beauty needs, then the Ultamate Rewards Mastercard is probably a good choice. 

And if you are the ultimate Ulta shopper, then the Ultamate Rewards Mastercard is far superior to the plane Ultamate Rewards credit card as with the Mastercards you get 3 points for every $1 spent, vs 2 points with the Ultamate Rewards card. Plus, it allows you to accumulate points on all your other daily purchases in life.

The upshot is that you will earn rewards much faster with the Mastercard. So, to me, the Ultamate Rewards credit card is a non-starter for the Ulta shopper.

But here is the giant caveat: Ultamate Rewards Mastercard is good only for spending at Ulta. It is not a card that makes a whole lot of sense for spending on daily, non-beauty-related purchases. One point for every $3 spent is inferior to other credit cards that offer far better cashback options, such as Citi Double Cash or Capital One Savor.

Again, however, I will say you really need to be the ultimate Ulta shopper, and I’m not saying that to be cute with my words.

Ulta’s Ultamate rewards are only redeemable for Ulta purchases at checkout. You cannot turn your points into cashback that you can then use for, say, groceries or travel or whatever. 

You can only use them for Ulta Beauty purchases.

This is not necessarily a bad thing for heavy users of Ulta, because the money you spend at Ulta will convert into Ultamate Rewards dollar value that is more than you would get from spending the same amount at Ulta on a typical credit card offering cashback options.

If you spend $100 at Ulta on an Ultamate Rewards Mastercard, you will earn 200 points worth $6. If you spend the same $100 on a credit card that offers 2% cashback, you’d earn $2.

The more you spend at Ulta, the more the gap increases between Ultamate Rewards dollar value and the value you’d earn with a 2% cashback credit card.

What’s the Dollar Value Comparison for Non-Ulta Purchases?

However, when you spend on an Ultamate Rewards Mastercard away from Ulta, you’re doing yourself a financial disserve. Consider this chart comparing the Ulta Mastercard to credit cards offering 2% cash back or 1.5% cashback:

Spend $Ulta Value ( Ulta Spending) Ulta Value (non-Ulta Spedning)2% Cashback1.5% Cashback
$100$6 $1$2$1.5
$250$15$2.5$5$3.75
$500$30$5$10$7.5
$750$45$7.5$15$11.25
$1000$60$10$20$15
$2000$120$20$40$30

Because Ulta offers 1 point for every $3 spent away from Ulta, you would need to spend $300 to earn 100 Ultamate Rewards points worth $3. But if you spend that same $300 on a credit card offering 2% cash back, you’d pick up $6. With a card offering 1.5% cash back, you’re also ahead.

In fact, at just about every Ultamate Rewards level, you’d be much better off having used a 2% or 1.5% cash back card. It’s only at the 2000-point levels that Ulta wins out at 2%, and at the 1000-point level where it beats a 1.5% cash back card.

And again, the Ulta Mastercard only makes sense if you are adamant about buying your cosmetics and beauty gear at Ulta.

What Credit Score You Need to be Considered

For the vast majority of American consumers, either card should be relatively easy to obtain since you will only need a “good” credit, meaning a credit score of roughly 670 or higher.

Ulta Credit Card Alternatives for Poor or No Credit

Ulta is not a card for consumers with a poor credit history or no credit history.

If you’re one of those consumers and you’re looking for a credit card, then you should be looking at the Capital One Platinum credit card.

As I routinely note, the Capital One Platinum card is one of the absolute best for subpar credit. It imposes no annual fee and it offers and automatic credit-limit increase at five, consecutive on-time payments. 

The on-time payments and the credit-limit increase will bump up your credit score because of the way scores are calculated. You won’t get any miles or cash-back or signup bonuses with Capital One Platinum, but in a situation where you’re trying build or repair your credit, perks are not what you need.

Which Credit Cards Do Better Job?

For spending away from Ulta, there are several credit cards that offer far better value than the Ulta Mastercard.

With Citi Double Cash Card you can Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. There’s no annual fee … though there’s also no signup bonus at the moment.

 HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard offers an introductory 3% cashback on the first $10,000 in spending in the first year, and then 1.5% cashback on everything. Plus, on your card anniversary each year, HSBC will give you a 10% bonus on all the cash you’ve earned during the year. There’s no annual fee.

Bank of America Cash Rewards is potentially equally as good at Ulta purchases as is the Ulta Mastercard. This BofA card offers 3% cash back in your chose of bonus category, one of which is online shopping. 

So, if you plan your Ulta purchases so that they occur at Ulta.com, you’ll earn the same 3% as you would with the Ulta Mastercard – the major benefit being that you can then use that cash back value however you wish, at Ulta or anywhere else. 

Plus this card has a $200 signup bonus after you spend just $1,000 in the first three months. And there’s no annual fee.

The Wrap Up: Should I Apply for the Ulta Credit Card?

I’ve reviewed a lot of store-branded credit cards for which it was easy to say “No – don’t get it.”

I can’t immediately say “No” to Ulta’s Ultimate Rewards Mastercard because I know that Ulta is a hugely popular destination for cosmetics and other beauty products for lots of consumers of those goods. 

As such, the card can make sense for heavy users of Ulta – so long as you use the card only for your Ulta purchases. Doing so means you will accumulate Ultamate Rewards points that will generate benefits in dollar terms that beat what you would otherwise earn with a 2% cash back card.

That said, if you’re just a casual user of Ulta, the card is a pass. And if you want cashback that you can use however you wish, then the Ulta Ultamate Rewards Mastercard is a no-go.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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