The offer can come innocently enough when you’re at the checkout counter at a department store: “Would you like to apply for our store credit card today? You get an automatic 20 percent discount off today’s purchase.”
Immediately, your answer should be “No.”
Without time to go over the written terms of the contract with a busy cashier, and not knowing how the store-branded card can affect your credit score, among other things, that discount of 20 percent or more doesn’t look so good.
Here are three things to consider before applying for a store credit card:
- High interest rates
This should be your first concern because if you don’t pay the credit card bill in full by the due date, you’ll be charged interest that can be a lot higher than with a regular credit card. Why? There’s a higher risk for lenders offering cards to a range of customers who have a range of credit scores.
Store-branded cards have interest rates of around 23 percent. Credit cards from banks and credit card companies can range from 10 percent to 21 percent.
And just like any other credit card, a store-branded card has a penalty APR, or annual percentage rate, if you don’t make the minimum payment on time.
- Effect on credit score
Department store credit cards have more lenient lending standards, making them easier for young adults with little or no credit history to be approved for.
Using store credit cards wisely can establish a good credit history. But opening too many accounts at one time can hurt a credit score through what are called hard inquiries. Having too many balances can also be a bad sign, showing the possibility of default.
The cards usually have low spending limits, creating high utilization ratios that show you’re using a high percentage of your available credit and are close to maxing out your credit cards.
Store credit cards are meant to bring customers back, and credit cards have been shown to get people to pay more for something than they would with cash. And because their credit cards are only accepted at their stores, retailers know you can only shop with it at one place.
Just like a sandwich shop gives you a free sandwich after you buy 10, a department store credit card may offer you exclusive discounts if you spend so much money a year with its credit card.
If you’re not already a loyal customer to the company offering you a 20 percent discount for signing up for its credit card, you may soon be if you accept the offer.