You finally make it to the front of the line at your favorite department store and are eager to check out and leave. Just as you think all your decision-making is over and you have enjoyed all the sales you can handle, the cheerful clerk working the register flashes a big smile and is generous enough to inform you of the big sales and discounts that are available for those with retail store credit cards. All you have to do is fill out an application, and you’ll start enjoying an array of rewards and discounts!
Too good to be true? It just might be. While retail store credit cards do offer certain deals and benefits, they are never as good as they seem in the store and are also accompanied by some rather unfavorable factors that the companies conveniently fail to leave out of their advertisements.
Here is a simple breakdown of the pros and cons involved with store credit cards.
Pros of Store Credit Cards
The discounts are the biggest pull factor, and they do indeed exist. Consumers are typically guaranteed a standard 10-20 percent discount at the time of sign up, while other sales and markdowns present themselves down the line as well. Card holders tend to receive priority on exclusive and limited-time offers that may not be available to everyone.
A big perk is that many retail store credit cards are backed by one of the major credit card companies. Not every store is affiliated with a major network, but those that are can be used elsewhere, which provides nice flexibility for users.
Financing options are also frequently made available for card holders. This provides a zero-interest payment plan for customers interested in paying off an excessive purchase over a period of time. These sort of financing options can make purchasing decisions a lot easier when customers have the flexibility to pay as they go.
Cons of Store Credit Cards
The biggest catch with retail store credit cards are the excessively high interest rates that come attached to them. While the average annual percentage rate (APR) for all credit cards is 15 percent, a recent CreditCards.com survey claimed the average APR on America’s biggest retail store credit cards had increased to 23.43 percent. Other claims suggest APRs climbing to almost 30 percent.
This can be extremely costly for those who don’t pay off their financing options in time, as they will be stuck with retroactive interest for the entire length of the deal.
Arbitrarily low spending limits and restricted usage make the retail store credit cards a questionable endeavor. While some stores offer retail store credit cards that can be used elsewhere, there are plenty that can only be used at the issuing store.
Perhaps even more daunting than the high interest rates is the impact that applying for one of these credit cards has on your credit score. Your score takes a hit each and every time your application gets submitted for approval.
While it may not be as simple as outright declining every offer to sign up for a store credit card, it’s in your best interest to proceed with extreme caution before filling out an application. And if you do end up acquiring a card, make sure you always pay it off on time—no matter what.