We’ve explored the pros, cons and considerations, to help you decide if store cards are a sensible option.
You enter a shop. You pick up the items you’re after. You wait your turn in the queue. You get called up to the checkout. Then, once everything in your basket’s been scanned, you’re asked: “would you like to take out a store card with us today?”
What do you answer: yes or no?
As with many things, there isn’t really a right or wrong answer. If used properly, store cards can come with a string of benefits, but, when used carelessly, they can soon be very costly.
If you’ve already got a store card or are considering taking one out, this blog will equip you with everything you need to know about the pros, cons, charges and fees.
How do store cards work?
A store card is essentially a credit card. The main difference between the two is with a credit card you can spend on your plastic wherever you like, whereas with a store card you’re limited to the retailer you took it out with.
For example, if you took out a New Look store card, you wouldn’t be able to buy clothes from River Island on it; it’d only be valid in New Look stores.
When you take out a store card, you pay for the items you want on it, and then repay what you owe at the end of the month. If you repay what you owe in full each month, as with a credit card, you don’t have to pay any interest.
However, if you’re unable to clear your debt in full each month, you’ll be charged interest, and the interest attached to store cards is often higher than that on a standard credit card.
Because you’ll be borrowing money off the store, you’d be required to pass a credit check before you’re granted one. This is so the store can feel confident in the knowledge you’re able to pay for the goods you’ve purchased.
Store card pros
Discounts and freebies
Once upon a time, you used to get discounts from day one of taking out a store card to lure you in, but retailers agreed to stop using this tactic so consumers have the chance to change their mind.
However, once the initial seven-day window has passed, the doors are open. Different retailers will have different offers, but having a store card could open you up to more lucrative discounts and freebies.
Improve your credit history
Your store card spending habits show up on your credit history. So, if you use it wisely - and by that we mean spending sensibly and clearing your debt in full each month - you could improve your credit history.
If you regularly shop at a certain store and spend a fair amount, opening a store card with them could prove a convenient way to shop, while cashing in on money-saving discounts. But remember, don’t be lured in by the offers and start spending for the sake of it.
Store card cons
As we touched on earlier, the interest rate attached to store cards is typically higher than a standard credit card. While this won’t impact you if you clear your debt in full each month, if you don’t, the fees can soon add up and spiral out of control.
For this reason alone, it’s really important you only spend on a store card what you know you can afford to repay at the end of the month.
Store cards are incredibly limiting. You can only use the card you take out with that single retailer, which is why they’re only really worthwhile if you’re a frequent shopper at a certain store and regularly spend quite a lot with them.
It’s not recommended to take out lots of store cards with lots of different retailers. Doing this can make your money difficult to manage and, if you’re not super careful, make your finances take a turn for the worse.
Lack of guidance
The shop assistants offering store cards at the till aren’t financial experts, and they don’t know your financial circumstances inside out. While they might think they’re doing you a favour by offering you a store card, only you know if it’s a financially savvy move to make.
Don’t be afraid to say no or ask questions, and if you have any concerns you’ve made the wrong decision, remember, you can cancel the card within 14 days of taking it out.
Before diving right in and taking out a store card, do your research. See how the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) compares with that of a standard credit card, and if it comes out worse, perhaps a credit card is the better option for you.
As with any type of borrowing, only spend what you can afford to repay. Don’t get carried away or sucked in by the discounts and offers, and make sure you can afford to clear your balance at the end of every month.
Meet the minimum amount
If you’re unable to clear your store card debt at the end of each month, make sure you stick to at least the minimum payments. If you don’t, it’ll leave a mark on your credit history which could make lending more difficult down the line, and you might also be subject to a late or missed payment charge.
So, hopefully, our list of pros, cons and considerations has given you some food for thought when it comes to the world of store cards. For more related advice, hints and tips, head over to our dedicated credit card and online shopping blog sections.
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Intelligent Lending Ltd (Credit Broker). Capital One is the exclusive lender.