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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 is currently featuring department stores (along with wholesale clubs and Chase Pay) in its Q4 bonus categories.
Featured photo by Pete Saloutos/Getty Images
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It's a stellar cash back card on its own, but when paired with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom's 5x Category Bonuses let you rack up Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, transferrable to partners or redeemable via the portal.
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee