Retail is becoming a game of cat and mouse. Tight-pursed shoppers must keep up with the rising costs of everyday goods on a small budget, and stores need to manage their bottom line while also making a profit. Consumers don’t want to spend their money, but stores require their business to stay alive. Enter store credit cards.
“Retailers are upping their rewards game in an effort to entice customers to sign up for their high interest credit offerings,” Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com senior industry analyst, warns readers. “The average retail card rate is so absurdly high that folks who will carry a balance should look elsewhere. Even if you get a 10% or 15% discount on what you’re buying with that card, the math can work against you in a hurry if you don’t pay your bill in full at the end of the month.”
The average overall credit card APR currently sits at 16.15% according to CreditCards.com‘s retail card survey. For store credit cards, that number is much higher — a whopping 24.99%. High APRs are often the sturdiest nail in the coffin that cause every day Americans to get behind on payments while playing a never-ending cycle of catch-up.
Worst store credit cards
Over three-quarters of the store credit cards surveyed in 2016 raised rates beyond 0.75% since December 2016. Belk, however, jacked its rewards card up even higher to 25.49%, increasing a full percentage point in total.
As you begin to embark on your serious yearly spender bender, you’ll want to look out for the most dangerous — or most beneficial — retail cards. We’ll start off with a warning. Ranked by interest rate, these are the nine worst store credit cards for your money.
Next: First up, a popular electronics retailers
9. Best Buy
- APR: 26.24%
Those in the market for a new refrigerator or large flat screen TV could save a few hundred smackaroos by opening a My Best Buy Visa Card and saving 10% right off the bat. But the dark underbelly of such actions chain customers to a 26.24% APR and late fees should you not make a payment on time. Best Buy sugarcoats the deal, offering shoppers 5% back in rewards when shopping at Best Buy, 3% back on gas, air travel and ground transportation, 2% back on dining out and grocery purchases, and 1% back in rewards on everyday purchases with the card.
Note: Those who open a My Best Buy Credit Card only earn 5% back in rewards when shopping at Best Buy.
Next: Bargain fashion retailer
8. TJ Maxx
- APR: 27.99%
The TJ Maxx credit card raised its APR to 27.99% in 2017. You’ll earn 10% off your first online or in store purchase when you sign up and an additional five points for each $1 purchased on your TJX Rewards credit card at T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post. The store is known for its bargains, but should you encounter trouble paying your card balance on time, you could get hit with a $35 late fee which may void those earlier rewards.
Next: For the gamers
- APR: 27.99%
The GameStop PowerUP Rewards Credit Card has a weighty 27.99% APR. Depending on your status, you could earn 15,000 bonus points with your first purchase as a PowerUP Pro member or 5,000 points as a Basic cardholder. The Pro membership is a paid one requiring $14.99 annually. Five thousand points can be exchanged for a meager $5 in merchandise credit, regardless of your membership type.
Next: For the bargain professionals
- APR: 27.99%
Shopping for every day wear can add up. Retailers like Dressbarn are hoping to ease apprehension and entice spending with a store credit card. However, shoppers are chained to a 27.99% APR when they sign-up. Not one to buck a trend, Dressbarn will also penalize all late payments with a $37 fee. But cardholders are privy to small rewards like 10% off your initial in-store purchase and a 20% off coupon in your first billing statement for any single, regular-priced item.
Next: Office supply giant.
- APR: 28.99%
Office supply chain Staples slaps a hearty 28.99% APR on its store credit card. As a sign up bonus, shoppers can earn $50 on their first $150 purchase, in addition to 5% back in purchase rewards, free shipping on orders over $49.99, and $2 back per every recycled ink cartridge brought in store. But considering how costly some of their items are, frugal shoppers could find a better deal elsewhere.
Next: A warning for those in the market for a diamond
- APR: 29.99%
Charging expensive jewelry at Zales could cost you big (even more than in 2016) if you’re not careful. The Zales credit card increased its APR from 29.24% to 29.99% in 2017. Late fees will also cost you $1 more this year at $38. That’s a sizable rate for a store privy to large purchase receipts. However, Signet Jewelers owns Zales, Jared, and Kay Jewelers — both of which have lower interest rates than Zales. So if this year is your year for a diamond, opening a store credit card with those other retailers may be a wiser option.
Next: A lesser known jewelry store with similar rates
3. Piercing Pagoda
- APR: 29.99%
Don’t go looking for sign-up bonuses or shopping rewards if you want to charge your next body piercing — because they don’t have one. The trendy jewelry shop Piercing Pagoda does, however, attach a 29.99% APR onto its store credit cards as well as a $38 fee for late payments.
Next: Big Lots, big rates
2. Big Lots
- APR: 29.99%
An inconveniently high APR coupled with zero sign-up bonuses for shoppers make the Big Lots store credit card one of the worst on 2017’s list. Much like Piercing Pagoda policies, a late payment with Big Lots will also cost you $38 in penalty fees. Still, the retailer managed to stay below 30%, which is more than we can say for our next store.
Next: The worst retail credit card comes with serious strings
- APR: 30.49%
Those in the market for furniture, large appliances, electronics, and other home furnishes from Brandsource may want to wait to pull the trigger until you can fund these purchases without a retail credit card. There’s a $27 late fee and no sign-up offers or rewards enticing shoppers. Even worse, the store has the highest APR of any other card on this list, making it the only retailer brave enough to surpass the 30.00% mark. Fair warning: survey experts think this unfortunate act of bravery will make it easier for other cards to do the same moving forward.
Next: The best store credit cards
Best store credit cards
In comparison to the 10 cards with hefty APRs, these next five store credit cards offer shoppers the lowest interest rates around — and a few enticing rewards to boot.
- APR: 24% to 29.99%
The standard APR for Costco’s Anywhere Visa by Citi is 16.24%. But it can be as high as 29.99% if your credit situation if less than stellar, or you make a late payment. On the other hand, the card’s store rewards are just as bountiful as the aisle-per-aisle savings loyal warehouse shoppers love. The card works similar to a general-purpose cash back card, offering 4% cash back on gas, 3% cash back at restaurants and travel purchases, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Val Greer, head of co-brand partnerships for Citi, tells Creditcards.com that Costco members love the card, “signing up for 1.8 million new accounts following conversion and generating over 70% of sales outside of Costco warehouses.”
Next: Tech giant
- APR: 14.99% to 27.99%
At first glance, the Apple Rewards Card from Barclay Card seems to have APRs on the lower end of the spectrum, — but that varies with individual credit. Those with bad credit may be burdened with an APR as high as 27.99%. Nevertheless, you’ll earn 3 points for every $1 spent at Apple, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, and 1 point for every $1 spent anywhere else. Bank 2,500 points, and you’ll receive a $25 Apple or iTunes gift card.
Next: Popular grocery chain with killer rewards
- APR: 14.99% to 24.99%
Popular grocer Kroger offers shoppers additional savings through its Kroger 1-2-3 Rewards Visa. In addition to a low 14.99% APR, Kroger cardholders will love the fuel discounts that go above and beyond what all loyalty members receive. One hundred fuel points saves you 25 cents per gallon. Shoppers also get 3 points for every $1 spent on Kroger brands, 2 points for $1 spent in Kroger stores, and 1 point per $1 spent anywhere Visa is accepted.
Next: A hardware store is the place to earn rewards
2. Ace Hardware
- APR: 14.99% to 23.99%
The Ace Rewards Visa Signature boasts a reasonable 14.99% APR for shoppers. Again, creditworthiness determines where you fall within the 14.99% to 23.99% range.
For every $1 spent, you’ll earn 3% in Ace rewards points in store, 2% at gas stations and grocery stores, and 1% anywhere else Visa is accepted. Expect a $25 Ace reward for every 12,500 points you earn, though Ace’s points threshold is higher than most.
Next: The best retail credit card for your money is…
1. Academy Sports + Outdoors
- APR: 12.24% to 24.24%
The Academy Sports + Outdoors Visa signature offers the lowest APR of all cards surveyed (however, bad credit can hike this rate to 24.24%). Still, shoppers will enjoy a large sign-up offer including $15 off the first in-store purchase and 1,000 new bonus points. Reach 2,5000 points, and you can redeem them for a $25 store gift card.
Other rewards include 5 rewards points at Academy Sports + Outdoors and Academy.com; 2 points at gas stations, 1 point everywhere else Visa is accepted — which is a lot of places by the way.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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