Are Store Credit Cards Worth The Risk?

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We have all experienced the offer, “Would you be interested in saving 15% on your purchase today by applying for our store credit card?” How should you determine if a store credit card is worth the risk?

Store credit cards will often offer a one-time discount on purchases made during the transaction where you open the credit card. These are usually something like 15% off or a $15 store credit. They may also offer free shipping for your purchases or other incentives in order to entice you to sign up.

If you have been following my credit card series, you know that I am regularly getting general rewards of 5%, 4%, or 3% cash back because of my choice credit cards with no annual fee.

In order for a store credit card to be worth consideration, it should offer cash back of somewhere near 5% and have no annual fee. Also, without changing your spending behavior at all, you should already be making sufficient purchases to get a significant benefit from the card.

Consider if you spend $1,200 a year at a particular store. Assuming that you could have received 2% cashback by using one of your other credit cards, the benefit of using a store credit card where you receive 5% cash back might only be 3% extra or $36. You would have to decide if $36 is significant enough to justify the time and use of your limited credit to get the store card.

Some credit card companies have a limit of something such as 5 credit cards in the last 24 months. For those of you who have very few credit cards, this seems like an enormous number of credit cards. For those of you who play the credit card rewards game, you realize this only offers one play every 5 months. At one play every 5 months, you may not want to waste getting a store credit card for your opportunity to take advantage of the credit card rewards game.

Here is a list of store credit cards which you could consider if you frequent these stores regularly.

For some, you may do most of your shopping at the local store. In this case you would need to carry the card in your wallet. That could be sufficient reason not to get the card. For others, online shopping might mean that you can easily produce more savings by having the credit card saved in that store’s website.

I would not bother with a card that does not give at least 5% back from the first dollar spent. If the card only offers such a benefit after you have spent $500 or $1,000 dollars, it is trying to entice you to spend money rather than giving you rewards.

I also would not get a credit card for a store where I have not made multiple purchases over the past year. Using up some of your credit in order to save a few dollars on one purchase is not worth it.

If you don’t fully pay off your credit card each month, you should not be using credit cards at all. Store credit cards have a higher annual percentage rate (APR) and thus punish revolvers (people who don’t pay off their credit card every month) even more. And as always, you should make a habit of turning off all the marketing, setting up email alerts for charges, and making automatic payments from your bank.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash. Image has been cropped and rotated.

Follow David John Marotta:

President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.