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Stay Away From Department Store Credit Cards

Published 10/29/07 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

You know the routine. You walk up to the retail or department store checkout counter to pay for the stuff you're going to buy and the sales lady asks you if you'd like to receive 10-15% off your purchase today by applying for a department store credit card. Especially if you are buying a lot of things, it's always a big temptation at the checkout line, but signing for any store credit card like Macy's, Bloomingdales, or Home Depot just to get a one time discount may hurt you in the long run. You may save a few dollars now but it is likely to weaken your FICO credit score and be counter productive to any debt reduction plans you may have. They may be very easy to apply and qualify for, but they are nothing but debt traps, especially for college students looking to build credit.

It Will Ding Your Credit Score

Even if you intend to promptly pay off all balances, the mere act of applying for credit will hurt your FICO score because it is considered a hard pull credit inquiry. Although the hit is not significant, if you make it a bad habit of frequently applying for department or retail store credit cards to take advantage of one time discount offers, this could spell trouble. Every credit inquiry hurts your score so it is best to stay away from this temptation.

Department Store Credit Cards Have High Interest Rates

If You are trying to get out of debt or have been relatively debt free, you need to stay away from department store cards because they frequently have the highest interest rates. If you forget to make timely payment, your purchase discount savings could quickly be negated by high interest charges. Don't fall into the discount trap. Remember, the discount is usually only a one time deal and you'll be stuck with a worthless card afterwards. If you don't heed this warning and still apply for them, remember to pay them off in full each month. This should be a debt reduction priority.

They Can Only Be Used For That Store

Unlike regular credit cards like Visa or Mastercard, department store cards can only be used for that particular store. If you have a Macy's card, you can only use it at Macy's, thereby severely limiting its usefulness.

When I was in college I remember naively applying for a Structures credit card to get a one time clothing discount. I rarely shopped there and the company is not even around anymore. It's now a useless card with no purpose. Why clutter your life?

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3 Responses to “Stay Away From Department Store Credit Cards” 

  1. Mrs. Micah says:

    The one store card I've considered getting is at Joann Fabrics. But I don't think I even shop there enough to justify it. Maybe if I were doing more quilting, but since I curb my spending on quilt stuff it probably wouldn't be worth it.

    Great post--there really is no reason to have a credit card for every store!

  2. E.C. says:

    I can think of one time that it probably made sense to get a store credit card. My parents were buying a new refrigerator, and the store that offered the best deal also offered an additional discount (I think 5 or 10%) if you paid with their store credit card. My mother applied for the card, and promptly paid the bill in full. Saving 10% on a sweater isn't worth the clutter, but saving 10% on a major appliance might be.

  3. Ted Cohen says:

    Those are weak arguments to single out department store cards.
    They are very good arguments when applied to all credit but department
    store cards are not that different than any other form of credit.
    There are good and bad master cards, good and bad visa cards and
    there are good and bad department store cards. I carry one that
    gets me a minimum of 20% off everytime I use it. Sometimes 30%.
    Those discounts are not available to me if I pay cash or use MC or Visa.
    Most of the time, I turn right around and pay the bill with a check right
    after I make the charge unless I know I will be back that week to spend
    more. It's a national chain with stores in every city that I visit. I like being
    able to run in and pick up what I need at a discount when I am away from
    home. Examine each card carefully, know who the company is behind the
    card (it is almost never the company that you are doing business with). In
    my case, Chase adminsiters the card for the department store. Often it was companies like Conseco, which was a bad company to do business with.
    I think they went out of business and it is no wonder given the horror stories
    that I heard from friends that had to deal with them.

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