This holiday season, retailers may nudge you a little harder to sign up for their store credit cards. Perks could include discounts of 10% or more on your first purchase and introductory offers that allow you to delay payments, interest or both.
But be careful. Applying for several cards to take advantage of sign-up discounts may ding your credit score. And interest rates often run 20% or more -- bad news if you roll over a balance. But if you pay off your balance monthly, these no-annual-fee cards offer significant savings.
Customers who sign up for the Target REDcard (annual percentage rate, 22.9%) get a 5% discount on purchases in stores and at Target.com, plus free shipping with no minimum purchase amount. Purchases you make with a Kohl’s card (21.9%) qualify for periodic discounts of 15% to 30%.
Store-branded cards that bear the American Express, MasterCard and Visa logos may be used everywhere those cards are accepted, and not just at the stores with which they’re affiliated. For example, the Amazon.com Rewards Visa (13.24% for the Signature card; 18.24% or 21.24% for the Platinum card) offers three points per dollar spent at Amazon.com; two points at drugstores, gas stations and restaurants; and one point on other purchases. The True Earnings Card from Costco and American Express (no annual fee with Costco membership; 0% for six months, then 15.24%) pays 3% back on gas purchases up to $4,000 per year (1% thereafter), 2% on dining and eligible travel, and 1% on other purchases.
This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more help with your personal finances and investments, please subscribe to the magazine. It might be the best investment you ever make.