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Weiner wants retailers to explain interest rates for cards

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Consumers relying on store credit cards should leave home without them this holiday season, a New York congressman said Sunday as part of a new survey on interest rates.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens) said his office tracked interest rates for 35 major retailers in the city and found the average rate at nearly 24 percent.

Of the stores surveyed, Radio Shack has the highest rate at 28.99 percent. That was followed by Best Buy and Staples, at 27.99 each; Home Depot at 25.99; and Sears at 25.24.

Costco has the lowest rate at about 15 percent. That happens to be the approximate average annual percentage rate for a regular credit card, according to CreditCards.com.

Weiner said stores entice shoppers with teaser deals, such as 15 percent off the purchase price, but will apply their interest rates retroactively if the customer fails to pay the entire balance within a set time.

Weiner wants stores to make clear their requirements at the point of sale.

Charles Bell, programs director with the nonprofit Consumers Union, said the increase in interest rates for store cards is surprising since bank credit card rates have been falling recently. His tips for shoppers:

•Before agreeing to open a store card, ask about interest rate, penalty and late fees and other fine print.

•Pay off balances immediately.

•Cancel cards you don’t use.

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