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Experts: Store credit cards enticing, but often a bad deal

Store-branded cards are charging record-high interest rates, on

Store-branded cards are charging record-high interest rates, on average 23.84 percent, versus the typical national credit card's 15.22 percent, according to a report by CreditCards.com. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto / RuslanDashinsky

During the holiday season, one thing as annoying as the long lines is the cashier trying to entice you to sign up for a store-branded credit card.

Much as you may be on a mission to save money, don’t fall for the 20 percent off your purchase you’ll receive for getting the card. According to a new report from CreditCards.com, store-branded cards are charging record-high interest rates, on average 23.84 percent, versus the typical national credit card’s 15.22 percent.

  • Is this really a good deal? “One big drawback of store cards is their limited spending and rewards capabilities. Aside from a percentage discount at that particular store, shoppers lose out on potential rewards like cash back, travel points, and other perks that come with a more flexible credit card,” points out Roman Shteyn, CEO and co-founder of RewardExpert in Manhattan.
  • When zero isn’t really zero. Beware of special financing of 0 percent interest. This may seem like a good way to defer paying, but read the fine print. “You pay interest all the way back to the beginning of the special finance period if you don’t pay off the entire balance by the end,” says John Ganotis, founder of CreditCardInsider.com.
  • What’s in your wallet? Understand the credit cards you already have. Make the most of them. “Many credit card holders can get a lot of value back by shopping through their card issuers’ rewards mall where they earn anywhere from 2X to 15X points per dollar spent,” says Shetyn.

Says Rakesh Gupta, an associate business school professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, “Store cards should be avoided by most people, no matter how tempting the rewards.”

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