Don’t Make this Mistake on Friday
Philip Tirone is a Credit Counselor we have worked with several times and he sent along the following which I thought might be good information as folks head out for the biggest shopping weekend of the year:
Every year on Black Friday, a ton of consumers make a huge mistake that ends up hurting their credit scores and their bank accounts...
They sign up for retail store credit cards.
Excited to get that one-time discount that is usually offered with a brand new retail store credit card, shoppers ignore all of the ramifications. My advice? Don’t ever agree to a retail store credit card. You won’t save money in the long run, and you might hurt your credit score.
Let me explain...
Imagine that you are doing some Christmas shopping, and you approach the cashier with a few sweaters for your sisters, clothes for your kids, and a belt for your husband. The total is about $157. The cashier immediately makes you an offer:
“Do you want to apply for a retail store credit card? You’ll save 15 percent on today’s purchases.”
No matter how tempting it is to save that $24, don’t say yes.
Think about it: The banks and the retail stores that promote these store-specific credit cards offer these promotional savings because they know they are going to recoup the discount... and then some.
Consider all the ways the banks and the retail stores can make money off you:
- First, you will pay interest on whatever you buy on the day you open the card. Most retail store credit cards have a high interest rate—usually in the range of 20 to 30 percent. So unless you pay your balance in full right away, you are going to pay more than you saved.
- Have you ever bought something just to take advantage of a coupon? A lot of people have. By signing up for that retail store credit card, you will be put on the store’s mailing list, and you will receive coupons that are just for cardholders. They are intended to entice you to the store.
- In the future, you will be more likely to engage in a little “retail therapy” if you have store-specific credit cards in your wallet. Using credit cards is always easier than using cash; it’s also an easy way to get into debt.
- If you are given a one-time offer to save on today’s purchase, you just might pile a few more items into your shopping cart.
Suddenly, that $24 savings doesn’t seem worth it, does it?
Keep in mind, your credit score could also suffer if you use retail store credit cards. Here are three reasons...
- Keeping these cards active can be tough. Credit-scoring bureaus want to know that you can responsibly manage your credit cards. If you let your credit cards go inactive, the bureaus have no idea whether you are able to manage balances and debt. In other words, inactive credit cards do nothing for your credit score. But keeping a retail store credit card active can be tough. Are you going to buy a dishwasher from Sears each and every month just to keep your Sears card active? Are you sure you need a new pair of jeans from the Gap twelve times a year? Most likely, you will either keep the card active by making unnecessary purchases (which costs you money), or the card will go inactive. Either way, it’s bad news.
- Let’s talk about the second reason I’m opposed to retail store credit cards: You might end up with too many credit cards. The credit-scoring bureaus are the happiest if you have the right number of credit cards (between three and five). If you do not have at least three credit cards, they don’t have the information they need to make a judgment about whether you are responsible. If you have more than five credit cards, they know that you are in danger of getting in over your head. Three to five is the sweet spot. So if you are limited to just three to five credit cards, why waste one on a card that will only be accepted by one merchant? You cannot reserve a car using your Banana Republic card, but you can purchase a suit from Banana Republic using a Visa. Too often, people apply for retail cards each time they are offered a discount. These people must also carry American Express, MasterCard, and Visas for everyday expenses, traveling, and business needs. And they quickly find themselves carrying a lot more than five cards.
- Finally, let’s talk about the third reason a retail card could hurt your credit score: You will definitely add a credit inquiry to your score. Ten percent of your credit score is based on the number of credit inquiries you have on your credit report in the past year. If you apply for a retail store credit card, your score could drop a few points, and this could cost you a lot of money in interest on future loans and credit cards.
So come Black Friday when the holiday-shopping-season officially starts, be a savvy shopper and just say no to retail store credit cards.