Retail Credit Cards

I hate bullies, even when they offer discounts. You probably get this pitch from your retailers all the time: Sign up for our credit/debit cards and we’ll give you an instant discount!

Nobody I know likes to be coerced at the point of purchase, yet that discount adds some sweetener to the sour feeling. We have one store credit card in our household — mostly because we do most of our shopping at that retailer and pay our bills promptly.

According to a survey conducted by Credit.com, “31 percent – or three in ten Americans – feel bullied when the store clerk asks if they’d like to open a store credit card to receive a discount.

And, customers aren’t a fan of the pressure tactic: Almost half (49 percent) regret their decision to open a store card during the holiday season and more than half (57 percent) of shoppers say they avoid returning to the store where they felt bullied.”

Many of us can’t resist this instant chance to save money. Yet are we getting a good deal?

The bottom line is that most retail credit card issuers hope that you will carry over your balance. Then you pay higher-than-average finance rates.

So whatever money you would’ve saved on a purchase is consumed in interest on your monthly balance.

Of course, you can avoid paying finance charges by paying your bill within the grace period, which is what I do.

Vetting the Offer

You can also work these deals to your advantage by working with a credit strategy before you consider their offer.

Credit.com’s Director of Consumer Education, Gerri Detweiler, has five questions every shopper should ask before opening a store credit card:

1) How much will I really save? You can usually save 10% – 20%. While it’s nice to pay less, it’s not always necessary to open a credit card to accomplish that. You may be able to find coupons or coupon codes that allow you to get the same deal.

2) How often do I shop here? Sign up only if you shop at this store on a regular basis. Set the threshold in advance. Is it once a month, or once a week?

3) Will it help or hurt my credit? Check your credit reports and credit scores now so you know where you stand (you can do that for free at Credit.com). If you have good credit, you shouldn’t have trouble qualifying for most retail cards.

4) Is this the right time? If you plan to apply for a mortgage, car loan or any other major loan within the next six months, politely decline. It’s probably not worth the risk to your credit to save a few dollars at the register.

5) Is this store credit card good? Retail cards aren’t all bad. In fact, there are some very good ones that can save savvy shoppers money. You can find reviews of the best store credit cards at Credit.com. However, you need to know which store card(s) you want before you are in the checkout line.

You can also plan to reap rewards from the best credit cards as well.

According to GOBankingRates, here are some good offers to consider:

  • Best sign-up rewards: Kohl’s
  • Best rewards year-round: Target
  • Best extra perk: Costco
  • Best interest rate: Nordstrom

Please note that I don’t endorse any credit cards or retailers. I’m merely offering suggestions based on research from outside firms. You’ll have to find the best deals yourself.

My only advice is to cover all of your bills with cash you know you’ll have coming in every month. Don’t roll over any balances.  That way, “black” Friday and Monday will be much brighter days.