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When To Open a Store Credit Card — and When Not To

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

You’ve likely been offered the chance to apply for a store credit card while having your items rung up at a retailer’s counter, or while shopping online. Often, these offers come with the benefit of getting a good chunk — say, 10% or more — off your initial purchase.

So is it a no-brainer to take the discount and sign up?

Not necessarily. There are certainly advantages to getting a store credit card, including that initial promotional discount, ongoing rewards and the ability to use your new card as a credit-building tool. However, the downsides include low credit limits, high interest rates and deferred interest.

Here’s some info to help you decide whether getting a store credit card is the right choice for you.

What are store credit cards?

A store credit card allows consumers to receive benefits and rewards for shopping at a specific retailer.

For example, if you get a credit card from your favorite clothing store, you may get 10% or 20% off your first purchase, then continue to receive perks as a cardholder, including continuous discounts when you shop there or at related retailers, access to special promotions and events, and even birthday gifts.

There are two main types of store credit cards — those that can be used at a specific store (also known as closed-loop cards), and those that can be used at any number of retailers (open-loop cards). Open-loop cards are typically co-branded with major card networks, like Visa or Mastercard.

Gap, for one, offers a GapCard that can be used only at Gap and Gap Factory stores, while a Gap Visa card that allows you to earn rewards at any store that accepts Visa, which will ultimately can be redeemed for a Gap purchase.

Reasons to open a store card

  • Lower barrier to entry: If your credit score isn’t stellar, It can be easier to be approved for store cards than for other cards. “Retailers want to sign up as many people as possible for their credit cards, because they know if someone signs up for their card, they’re much more likely to shop regularly at that store,” said Matt Schulz, a credit card industry analyst for CompareCards, which along with MagnifyMoney, is owned by LendingTree. However, you may need a higher credit score to qualify for a co-branded card. “Often, if you apply for a co-branded store card and get denied, the store will automatically consider you for the store card, too,” Schulz said.
  • Good for credit-building: Obtaining a store card can be one way for people with low credit scores, or no credit at all, to improve or start building their credit. Once you’ve been approved for the card, using it responsibly can help you boost or build your credit, as your purchase and payoff activity will be reported to the credit bureaus.
  • Rewards: As previously noted, you can be rewarded for your use of store credit cards, getting perks that may go beyond the initial discount. If you shop a lot at a particular store, you may benefit from their card.

Reasons a store card can be risky

  • High interest: According to CompareCards, the average rate on new credit card offers is approximately 17%; however, CompareCards also noted that the average rate offered for new store card offers, in particular, is much higher — nearly 25%. If you don’t pay off every purchase when your bill is due, you can really rack up the interest-related debt. “Store card APRs are very high because issuers know that making the card available to folks with crummy or thin credit means greater risk for them,” noted Schulz. “Higher APRs are a way for the banks to protect themselves against that risk.”
  • Deferred interest: You may be familiar with the 0% promotional periods offered by traditional credit cards — that is, a time during which you can carry a balance without paying interest. Deferred interest offered by a retailer might seem like the same thing, but it’s not. Deferred interest periods do indeed allow you to carry a balance without paying interest, for a time. However, when that period ends, if you haven’t paid off the card in full, you’ll be on the hook for paying interest not only for the balance that remains, but for the entire original purchase.
  • Low credit limits: While store cards can help you build your credit, their often-low credit limits may be a negative for your utilization ratio if you do not have many — or any — other cards. Your utilization ratio is the amount you owe on your cards compared to your total credit limit, and is an important part of your credit score. It’s generally recommended that you keep a utilization ratio below 30%. — for example, if you have a store credit card with a $500 limit, and you charge $250. If the store card is your only card, this relatively small purchase will put your utilization ratio at a hefty 50%, which could ding your credit score. (If you do have other cards, however, getting more credit can be good for your utilization ratio, as your credit score considers individual card utilization as well as the utilization used across all your cards).
  • Limited use: If you get a closed-loop card, you are limited in the purchases you can make with it.
  • Could trigger your shopaholic tendencies: If you’re prone to making frivolous purchases, getting a store card may prompt you to spend more to try to get the rewards offered. It’s never a good idea to buy items you don’t really need simply to get rewards, as you’re still spending money you didn’t have to in the first place.

How to tell if the discount is worth it

Some people might sign up for a store card just to get that promotional discount, with no plan to use the card again after their initial purchase. This may be a good move — if you pay that card off right away. However, if you carry a balance, any discount you receive will be negated by interest charges you’ll incur.

“The APRs are just so high that the math can work against you in a big hurry, even if you get a good discount initially,” Schulz said. “It doesn’t take an accountant to understand that paying 25% to save 15% isn’t a good deal.”

Let’s look at an example. Say you make a $300 purchase and get 15% off. That’s $45 off, bringing your bill down to $255. Sounds good, right?

Now let’s say the APR on the card is 25%, and, instead of paying off that balance right away, you make monthly payments of $15. Over the time it will cost you to pay off your card (22 months), you’ll pay $63.09 in interest, wiping out your initial discount.

Bottom line: It’s best to pay your card off right away, or at least make larger monthly payments, to reap the benefits from that promotional discount.

What’s the best store credit card to get?

If you’re considering a store card, look for those with no annual fee, as low an APR as possible and good perks. If you can qualify for a co-branded card, their flexibility can often help you rack up rewards faster. Overall, more general rewards cards may be a better bet than individual store cards, if you can qualify.

Schulz recommends you don’t jump into applying, or feel pressured by a store employee to get a card.

“Take a flier, read about the card at home and then, if the card still sounds good to you, apply the next time you go to the store,” he said. “Chances are all the same perks will still be in effect and you’ll be making a much more informed, less pressure-filled choice.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Rebecca Stropoli
Rebecca Stropoli |

Rebecca Stropoli is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Rebecca here

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Build Your Credit Score: 6 Secured Cards With No Annual Fees – August 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.

You can avoid that expense with one of these six no annual fee secured cards, which have a variety of uses:

Cards to consider

Rewards

Discover it® Secured

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on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Discover it® Secured

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular APR
25.24% Variable

The Discover it® Secured is a standout secured card that provides cardholders the opportunity to earn cash back while building credit. A cashback program is hard to find with secured cards, and the Discover it® Secured offers 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases. In addition, there is a new cardmember offer where Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically. This is a great way to get a lot of rewards without needing to do any extra work.In addition to a cashback program, this card provides valuable credit resources such as free access to your FICO® Score and a Credit Resource Center — just note these services are available whether you’re a cardholder or not. Discover also takes the guesswork out of wondering when you’re ready for an unsecured card (aka a regular credit card) by performing automatic monthly account reviews, starting at eight months of card membership.

What to look out for: There is a high 25.24% Variable APR for this card, so you could end up paying a lot more than purchase prices if you carry a balance. Try not to overspend and make it a goal to pay each statement in full so you avoid interest charges.

Low deposit

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

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on Capital One's website

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$49, $99, or $200
Regular Purchase APR
26.99% (Variable)

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® offers qualifying cardholders a lower security deposit compared to other secured cards. You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness. Typical secured cards require you to deposit an amount equal to your credit limit, so this card has added perks for people who qualify for the lower deposits.You can also receive a credit limit increase without making an additional deposit after making your first five monthly payments on time. This is beneficial for people who need a higher credit limit and don’t want to (or can’t) tie up their money in a deposit. Also, you’ll have access to CreditWise® from Capital One® and Platinum Mastercard® benefits that include travel accident insurance and price protection.

What to look out for: The $49 and $99 security deposits are not guaranteed and depend on your creditworthiness — that means you may still have to deposit $200. Also, it’s not a good idea A carry a balance on this card because it has one of the highest APRs at 26.99% (Variable).

Average deposit

Citi® Secured MasterCard®

The information related to Citi® Secured MasterCard® has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Citi® Secured MasterCard®

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular Purchase APR
24.74%* (Variable)

The Citi® Secured Mastercard® requires a $200 security deposit, which is typical of secured cards and a good amount to establish your credit line. You can deposit more money if you want to receive a higher credit line, but if you don’t have a lot of money available to deposit, coming up with $200 is manageable. This card doesn’t have any additional card benefits like rewards or insurances, but you can access Citi’s Credit Knowledge Center for financial management tips.

Low APR

Visa® Secured Card from MidSouth Community FCU

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on MidSouth Community FCU’s secure website

Visa® Secured Card from MidSouth Community FCU

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular Purchase APR
11.15% Variable

Because MidSouth Community is a federal credit union, you need to be a member to qualify for this card. Membership is limited to people who work, live, worship, or attend school in the following Middle Georgia counties: Bibb, Baldwin, Crawford, Hancock, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Twiggs, Washington, and Wilkinson. If you qualify, you may be able to get a secured card with an APR as low as 11.15% Variable.

What to look out for: This card is very restricted, therefore few people will be able to qualify for this low APR secured card.

Unrestricted low APR

Affinity Secured Visa® Credit Card

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on Affinity Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Affinity Secured Visa® Credit Card

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$250
Regular Purchase APR
12.85% Variable

The Affinity Secured Visa® Credit Card requires cardholders to join the Affinity FCU. You may qualify through participating organizations, but if you don’t, anyone can join the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education by making a $5 donation when you fill out your online application. This card has an 12.85% Variable APR, which is one of the lowest rates available for a no annual fee secured card and is nearly half the amount major issuers charge. This is a good rate if you may carry a balance — but try to pay each statement in full.

What to look out for: There may be a membership fee associated with this card if you don’t qualify through participating organizations. The fee you may have to pay is low at $5, but it may be an issue for people who don’t want to pay anything to open a secured card.

Unrestricted federal credit union

Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal

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on State Department Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$250
Regular Purchase APR
14.24% Variable

The Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal is open to anyone, regardless of residence. If you aren’t eligible through select methods including employees of the U.S. Department of State or members of select organizations, you can join the American Consumer Council during the application process. There is no fee associated with joining since State Department FCU pays the $8 on your behalf. There is a rewards program with this card where you earn Flexpoints, which can be redeemed for a variety of options like gift cards and travel. The APR can be as low as 14.24% Variable, which is reasonable considering many secured cards from major issuers are above 23%.

What to look out for: If you decide to take out this card and become a member of the SDFCU by joining the American Consumer Council, make sure you do not go to the ACC’s website and submit a donation. That fee is waived by the SDFCU when you fill out your credit application. Simply select “I do not qualify to join through any of these other methods:” and select the ACC from the menu to avoid the fee.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

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The Best Options for Rebuilding Your Credit Score – August 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The Best Options for Rebuilding Your Credit Score

A strong credit score is a vital part of your overall financial health. But rebuilding a damaged (or non-existent) credit score can feel impossible. Don’t despair. There are plenty of avenues you can take in order to rehabilitate your credit score and it all begins with identifying your starting point.

How Bad is Your Bad Credit Score?

Before you start to panic about rehabilitating your bad credit score, let’s determine if it’s even bad. Where do you fall in the range of FICO® credit scores? Below you’ll find what your credit score is considered, with ranges from Experian.

  • Above 740: Excellent Credit
  • 670 – 739: Good Credit
  • 580 – 669: Fair Credit
  • Below 579: Bad Credit or No Credit Score/Thin File

Your credit score isn’t the only thing that will keep you from being approved for credit. These factors are common reasons for being declined.

  • Your debt-to-income ratio is above 50%
  • You have no credit score
  • You have been building up a lot of debt recently
  • You are unemployed

In order to focus on rehabilitating your credit score, you’ll need to start with getting a line of credit. This may sound impossible because you’re constantly getting declined. Fortunately, there are options tailored specifically for people looking to re-establish credit.

[Read more about bad credit scores here.]

Rehabilitating a Bad Credit Score (579 and under)

Get a Secured Card

You’ll use your own money as collateral by putting down a deposit, which is often about $150 – $250. Typically, the amount of your deposit will then be your credit limit. You should make one small purchase each month and then pay it off on time and in full. Once you prove you’re responsible, you can get back your deposit and upgrade to a regular credit card.

Check out two of our favorite secured cards below, and more options for a secured credit card here.

Discover it® Secured

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Discover it® Secured

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular APR
25.24% Variable

Perhaps our favorite secured card, Discover it® Secured, has numerous benefits for those looking to rebound from a bad credit score. There is a $200 minimum security deposit that will become your line of credit, which is typical of secured credit cards.  Additional perks include a rewards program (very rare for secured cards) that offers 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.This card has another great feature: Discover will automatically review your account, starting at month eight, to see if your account is eligible to transition to an unsecured card. Discover will decide if you’re eligible based on a variety of credit factors, and if you are, you will receive notification and get your security deposit back.

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One's website

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$49, $99, or $200
Regular Purchase APR
26.99% (Variable)
Credit required
bad-credit
Limited/Bad

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is another option for those who want to strengthen their credit score. This card offers a potentially lower minimum security deposit than other cards, starting as low as $49, based on creditworthiness. Be aware the lower deposit is not guaranteed and you may be required to deposit $99 or $200. You can deposit more before your account opens and get a maximum credit limit of $1,000. There is a feature that will assist your transition from a secured to an unsecured card. Capital One automatically reviews your account for on time payments and will inform you if you’re eligible for an upgrade. However, there is no set time period when they will review your account — it depends on several credit activities. If you receive notification that you’re eligible, you will be refunded your security deposit and will receive an unsecured card.

Rebuilding from a Fair Credit Score (580 – 669)

Apply for a Store Credit Card

You might be used to checking out at a store and being asked if you’d like to open a credit card. While these credit cards come with really high interest rates and are great tools to tempt you into buying items you don’t need, there is a big perk to store credit cards: they’re more likely to approve people with low credit scores. Just be sure to only use the card to make one small purchase a month and then pay it off on time and in full. Unsubscribe to emails about deals and don’t even carry it around everyday in your wallet if you can’t resist the desire to spend. Read more here. 

Those unable to get a store credit card should apply for a secured card to build credit. With proper credit behavior, you can see your score rise and then you may qualify for a store card.

Here are our picks for two store credit cards:

Walmart Credit Card®

APPLY NOW Secured

on Walmart’s secure website

Walmart Credit Card®

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Save 3% on Walmart.com purchases including Grocery Pickup, 2% on Murphy USA & Walmart gas, and 1% at Walmart & anywhere your card is accepted.
Regular Purchase APR
19.15% - 25.15% Variable
The Walmart Credit Card® offers a three-tiered cashback program to benefit avid Walmart shoppers. Save 3% on Walmart.com purchases including Grocery Pickup, 2% on Murphy USA & Walmart gas, and 1% at Walmart & anywhere your card is accepted. Your cash back will be issued monthly as a statement credit for all earnings during that period. Note: This card can only be used at Walmart Stores, Walmart Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, Walmart.com, Walmart and Murphy USA Gas Stations and Sam’s Clubs.

 

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Target’s secure website

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% at Target & Target.com
Regular Purchase APR
25.15% Variable

The Target REDcard™ Credit Card offers great perks that are sure to please frequent Target shoppers. You receive 5% off every eligible transaction made at Target and Target.com. The discount automatically comes off your purchase — no redemption needed. Other benefits include free shipping on most items, early access to sales and exclusive extras like special items, offers, and 10% off coupon as a gift on your REDcard anniversary each year.* Recently, cardholders received early access to Black Friday deals. Reminder: This card can only be used at Target and on Target.com.

Check If You Pre-Qualify

If you’re on the higher end of the spectrum, you may want to consider checking to see if you’re pre-qualified for any cards. This will help minimize your chance of rejection upon applying because pre-qualification performs a soft pull on your credit. This doesn’t harm your credit score.

Your goal in this credit range should be to use no more than 20% of your total available credit. Pay your bills on time and in full. And keep pumping that positive information onto your credit report until you reach the 700+ category. 

Who You Need to Avoid

Access to credit and loans may come easier than you expect, but that should also be a danger sign. There are several lenders who are willing to provide lines of credits or loans to people with poor credit. These options are often very predatory. If you’re simply trying to rebuild your credit history and improve your credit score, then there is no need to take these offers.

Here are the options you need to avoid when trying to rebuild credit:

1. Payday and Title Loan Lenders – There is never a need to take out a payday or title loan if you’re trying to merely rebuild or establish credit history. Most of these lenders don’t report to the bureaus and you’ll likely end up in a painful vicious cycle of borrowing and being unable to pay it down.

[How to get out of the payday loan trap.]

2. First Premier – The bank claims to want to offer people a second chance when it comes to their finances, but its fee structure and fine print prove the exact opposite. First Premier charges you a processing fee of up to $95 just to apply for a credit card. Then it levies a $75 annual fee on the credit cards and most cards only come with a $300 limit. You’re paying $170 for a $300 credit line! The APR is a painful 36%. In year two the annual fee reduces to $45, but then you’re charged a monthly servicing fee of $6.25. And to top it all off, you’ll be charged a 25% fee if your credit limit is increased. Stay away from this card! Use the $170 it would take to open the card and get a secured card instead.

3. Credit One – Credit One does an excellent job of confusing consumers into thinking they’re applying for a Capital One card. The logos are eerily similar and easily confused.

Creditone

Capital one

While Credit One is not as predatory as First Premier or payday loans, there is really no need to be using one of its cards to rebuild your credit score. For starters, all Credit One cards have annual fees that range from $0 to $75 for the first year, then $0-$99 in subsequent years. If you’re approved for a card with an annual fee, it will be deducted from your initial credit limit. For example, receiving a $300 credit limit and $75 annual fee means you’ll only have access to an initial $225 credit limit. In addition, there is a high 20.24% - 26.24% Variable APR. Given the high annual fees, we recommend saving your money and using a secured card with no annual fee to begin rebuilding your credit score.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]