Shop in any major department store and you can’t get through a checkout line without the sales representative or cashier asking you if you’d like to file an application for store credit. Do it, they say, and you can get all kinds of perks — including a discount on your current purchase.
It sounds like a good idea, especially if you’re money-conscious. Plus, you may think, store credit is notoriously easier to obtain than regular credit cards. If you’re trying to build a bigger credit history, you may have even heard that getting a few store credit cards is a good idea.
But store credit comes with a very big price: They almost all have an exorbitant interest rate. The vast majority charge consumers 25% interest on their purchases, and some charge as much as 30%. That makes whatever discount you’re getting virtually worthless unless you can pay the balance off within 30 days.
But what if you really, really want that card because you need a big-ticket item and you’re willing to sacrifice the extra money it costs you in the long-run? Well, another problem with store credit is that you can easily get overwhelmed with the debts. Over time, you may not be able to keep up with the payments, especially if your fortunes change and your income is reduced (or your expenses increase).
The best thing to do is to eschew store credit entirely unless you are 100% certain that both the discount you’re being offered is substantial (and you’re using it on a major purchase) and you have the ability to pay off the bill as soon as it’s due.
Is it already too late? If you’re in over your head financially and the debts just keep piling up, it may be time to talk about bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can offer you the fresh start you need.