More Than 75% of Americans Have Opened a Store Credit Card, and Most Regret It
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Have you ever owned a store-branded credit card? If so, you've got company — a lot of it. More than 75% of Americans have succumbed to the checkout register pressure to sign up for at least one store credit card, and 47% say they regretted it later on, according to a survey conducted by LendingTree subsidiary CompareCards. Amongst households with an annual income of six figures or higher, 88% had signed up for a retail credit card at some point in time — and 58% of them told CompareCards that they wished they hadn't done so.
The study surveyed 1,500 US consumers, noting that Gen Xers, millennials and parents of children under 18 were also more prone to feel remorse over signing up for a store-branded credit card, which usually charge higher annual percentage rates (APR) than non-retail credit cards. According to CompareCards, the average store card APR is 24.97%, higher than the average maximum APR across all credit cards. Retail cards that were co-branded with a credit card company such as Visa tended to have slightly lower APRs that hovered around 23%, while cards issued directly by retailers typically had an average APR of nearly 27%.
Many stores offer high-APR credit cards because they don't perform the same credit checks testing creditworthiness that banks do. Some retailers also offer deferred-interest cards that look like zero-interest cards at first glance; however, readers of the fine print will note that consumers can be retroactively charged interest retroactively when carrying a balance beyond the introductory offer period. Finally, many store cards are only valid for use with that particular retailer, making them both less useful for daily function, and easily forgotten when it comes to making payment deadlines.
But not all retail cards are bad news, especially for consumers who are careful to pay off their balances each month. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card offers 5% back at Amazon and Whole Foods as well as a $70 gift card as a welcome bonus for new card holders, while stores like Target or Kohl's offer competitive, stackable discounts or cash back to incentivize their credit card holders to spend their money there.
Still, even if you do frequently shop at department stores and other retailers that offer their own cards, you're almost always better off focusing on rewards cards that offer a great return on everyday spending. Top options include the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express and the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Card from American Express. Plus, cards that offer rotating quarterly bonus categories often cycle in department stores. For example, the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) is currently featuring department stores (along with wholesale clubs and Chase Pay) in its Q4 bonus categories.