“Would you like to save an additional 10 percent on today’s purchase by applying for a credit card?” That option is always so tempting and can often take every bit of willpower to resist. When you consider what you’re potentially paying in the long run, however, you might have an easier time saying no to store credit cards.
According to the results of a recent CreditCards.com survey, store-branded credit cards are charging record-high interest rates, such as 29.99 percent at Big Lots, 29.24 percent at Zales and 28.24 percent at Staples. The survey was conducted using the terms and conditions agreements of 68 cards from 44 retailers. Each of the 100 largest retailers (as defined by the National Retail Federation based upon 2015 sales) that offers a retail credit card program was selected for the study.
Over the past year, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percent, and the average store credit card interest rate rose by 0.41 percent. The Fed is expected to take a similar action this month, which will likely push store card rates even higher.
The average store card charges 23.84 percent, according to the report, much higher than the national average for all credit cards, which is 15.22 percent. Retailers get customers to sign up for these cards by offering incentives, but the deals aren’t very generous. For example, while half of the credit cards offered by the nation’s 100 largest retailers give new cardholders a sign-up bonus, only 13 exceed $25 for a $200 purchase.
For example, Best Buy’s 10 percent sign-up bonus would be worth $100 to someone who buys a $1,000 television. But the benefit would be lost – and then some – unless the cardholder pays the entire bill before interest starts to accrue.
But what about the ongoing rewards offered by store credit cards? According to the report, unless you’re a frequent shopper at the store in question, such rewards tend to pale in comparison to those offered by general-purpose cards. For example, someone who spends a lot at Target would benefit from its 5 percent cash-back program since the best general-purpose cash-back cards yield about 2 percent.
The bottom line? As with any credit card – but even more so with store-branded credit cards – unless you can pay off the balance in full each month, you’ll be spending much more in the long run than any offer or reward could make up for.
Cooke Realty Team/Keller Williams Plymouth