Prostock Studio | Stock | Getty Images
At the checkout-rush store this holiday season, you might be tempted to say yes when asked if you want to apply for a store credit card—especially if you’re getting extra savings when you shop that day.
But there’s good reason to think twice before signing up for the season—soaring interest rates could mean you end up paying more than you save from any perks offered by store brands.
Related investment news
According to a recent analysis by CreditCards.com, the average retail credit card charges a 26.72% APR, which measures how much you’ll spend each year if you have a balance.
More from Personal Finance:
Why Protections for Crypto Investors Are About Orange Groves
Charitable IRA transfers could cut some retirees’ 2022 taxes
4 Tips for Maximizing the Impact of Your Charitable Giving
Some brands charge as much as 30.74 percent, which is “ridiculously high,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com.
Overall, variable credit card rates have recently climbed to 19.14%, according to Bankrate.com.
Borrowing of all kinds has become more expensive and interest rates have risen as the Fed grapples with record-high inflation.
“If you’re going to keep the balance, that’s definitely a big risk,” Rothman said.
Which brands tend to charge the most
Retail credit cards generally come in two types: store branded credit cards or cards that are co-branded with another name (usually Visa or Mastercard).
CreditCards.com found that store-only credit cards now charge an average of 28.22 percent, while retail co-branded cards charge an average of 25.01 percent.
Some brands tend to charge more.
Those that may charge up to 30.74% APR include the Speedy Rewards Mastercard, the Kroger Rewards World Elite Mastercard and nine Kroger-related brands, according to CreditCards.com.
But borrowers may get better deals on these cards based on their credit history.
Other store-only cards that may charge 29.99 percent include Big Lots, Discount Tire, Jared, Kay Jewelers, Piercing Pagoda, Sterling Family of Jewelers and Zales, CreditCards.com reported.
tips to remember
As inflation continues to drive up consumer prices, more than a third (35%) of shoppers say they are likely to apply for a retail credit card this year, up from 29% last year, according to a recent LendingTree survey.
“It’s really important to understand the field you’re going into before you apply,” said Matt Schultz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree.
If you resist accepting an offer on a whim at checkout and instead dig deeper into the terms and conditions before signing up later, it may help in the long run, he says.
Borrowers should also be wary of deferred interest offers, which allow consumers to take advantage of 0% introductory rates. But once these are due, they may be charged retroactive interest on the balance.
“Be especially careful if a store card offers a deferred interest promotion,” Rothman said. “That retroactive interest really hits you.”
You may also want to consider other options for borrowing.
While you can save a lot on store credit cards for big ticket purchases, the potential rewards on a general-purpose credit card may be more lucrative or more in line with your spending style, Rothman says.