Store Credit Card, yes or no? Spoiler alert: They often are too good to be true
“Save 5% on all
purchases!” “Get cash back!” “Cut your costs at the pump!” At checkout at many
big box stores, supermarkets and mall shops, it’s nearly impossible to avoid
hearing a pitch for the store’s credit card from the cashier.
From Target and Costco to Gap and Macy’s to Home Depot and Lowe’s, most mainstream retail businesses offer a store credit card—and “deals” to go with it. And many Americans have at least one in their wallet. According to a recent report from Experian, the credit reporting agency, 40 percent of American consumers have a retail store credit card.
These cards are offered
through a collaboration between a credit card company and the store, where it
can only be used. But they aren’t always as great as the cashier makes them
sound. Store credit cards can come with some big drawbacks and encourage some
unhealthy spending if you’re not careful.
Here are the four things you need to know about store credit cards
The average interest
rate for a typical Visa or Mastercard in your wallet that’s not tied to a
specific store runs between about 12% and 15%, according to the Federal Reserve. But, for retail credit cards, that same number can be
double or nearly triple the average amount.
CreditCards.com’s annual report on retail credit cards pegged the average at around 25.6% but found some
as high as 30%. In some cases, according to the report, consumers sign up for a
deferred interest deal, where they pay no interest for a period of time, before
it shoots up to 25% or more.
“Deferred interest may sound like a good deal,
but the fine print can be extremely costly,” said CreditCards.com industry
analyst Ted Rossman in the report. “Just $1 remaining would result in
retroactive interest being charged on the total balance.”
deals aren’t always as great as they sound
A 10% or 20% discount on your first purchase
as soon as you sign up for the credit card may sound fantastic. But, in many
cases, those big price cuts won’t continue for every other purchase you make
with the card. And you may get those very same deals, according to Experian, when you use
a store coupon or a regular credit card that’s already in your wallet with a
cashback or discount deal.
more likely to spend money at the store
Stores don’t offer credit cards out of the
goodness of their heart. They do it because it earns them money. Stores save
money on credit card processing fees when you use their cards and even earn
money from the credit programs themselves. In 2012, for example, Macy’s made a
whopping $865 million from its partner Citi thanks to consumers who used their
Macy’s card at the store, according to an article about store credit cards on IBM.
What’s more, customers with a retail credit
card are more likely to visit the store. The IBM story highlights another study
that found that people with retail credit cards visit the store 29% more often.
Those extra visits can add up to plenty of opportunities to spend money that’s
not in your budget.
could hurt your credit score
Credit scores help lenders decide if you’re
trustworthy enough to get a loan for a new car or home, for example. And credit
reporting agencies are mostly interested in how you spend and pay back the
credit that you have.
But applying for multiple credit cards can
impact your credit score. While the impact may not be huge, applications for
credit, especially multiple ones, could signal to lenders that you may not be a
“Because lenders may view multiple
applications for credit cards within a short period of time as a sign of
financial distress, your credit scores will reflect that risk,” according to Experian.
In other words, it’s important to be deliberate about any applications for credit that you might fill out. And it’s unlikely those deep thoughts about your financial future can happen in the checkout lane. So, next time you’re checking out, it might be best to decline those store credit card offers.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.