Getting a store card can be tempting. It’s likely that you’ve seen store credit cards advertised at the checkout, and when you’ve got an armful of shopping it’s tempting to apply straight away. Store cards usually promote benefits for loyal customers, like a discount voucher to use on your next shop or a way to save loyalty points.
The easiest way to reduce store card debt is to make more than the minimum payment each month, and avoid spending more in the store. The minimum requested payments will often only cover interest and a small amount of the total debt.
Store cards are like credit cards that you can only spend in one place, or that offer benefits for shopping at the stores that provide them. Managing store card debt is important for financial comfort.
Store cards are just credit cards, by another name, without the same flexibility. You’ll usually be given a credit limit that determines how much you can spend, and may be able to use your card to get flexible payment plans.
Read on to find out more about store card debt and how you can manage your money.
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You’ll apply for a store credit card through the store’s own website or in person. Store cards are linked to one retailer or brand, so you can use them to buy products in-store or online. They’re just like any other credit card but without complete flexibility.
Store cards are particularly tempting because they’re offered at the point of sale. At the online checkout, you might see an advert showing the store card benefits, including the option to pay for your shopping at a later date. Other advertised benefits might include rewards and vouchers you can use next time you shop.
In-store, these cards may be promoted at the checkout. The member of staff that’s serving you will be encouraged to get you to take one, so you might discover that it’s harder than you’d think to resist a store credit card.
Some store cards are owned and managed by the store that issues them. Other store cards are owned and managed by a larger credit card company. Before you take out a store credit card, it’s worth checking who you’ll be in debt to. Make sure you read the terms and conditions very carefully.
Store cards usually have a higher APR than generic credit card. You can use your normal credit card to shop almost anywhere, so store cards are only useful if you’re a loyal customer and can really take advantage of the benefits.
Often, people apply for store cards when they don’t really need them. They might be tempted by a Buy Now, Pay Later or 0% interest finance deal, though it’s important to make sure that you’ve cleared the debt before the end of the finance term.
If you shop in the same store a lot, then you might want to get a store card. Typical benefits include in-store discounts, loyalty schemes and perks like free delivery. Often these benefits are much better in the first year, but become less impressive once you’ve had the card for a while. Many store cards start with interest-free periods, but are more of a risk once these end.
If you’re using a store card, always compare the benefits against your other credit cards. With lower interest rates and cashback, another credit card may be cheaper.
When you spend on your store card, you’ll need to clear the debt as soon as you can to avoid high-interest charges.
Store cards are only really beneficial if you’re a regular shopper, and if you know you can pay the money back almost instantly. If that’s the case, it may be good to use your store card to take advantage of all the rewards.
Many of the stores that offer their own credit cards are popular with younger shoppers. For many people, a store card is their first experience of debt. Younger customers, loyal to their favourite brands, might get store cards without a lot of research. They may not realize the long-term impact of adding credit cards to their purse.
It’s easy to feel a false sense of security when you use a store credit card. You might treat them like any other brand loyalty card. But, it’s vital to remember that you’re dealing with debt.
Store cards are just like any other credit card. You’ll need to stay on top of your spending. Those high interest rates can quickly mount up if you’re not careful.
You should also be aware that the more you use the card, the more likely it is that the provider will increase your credit limit. You may find that credit limit increases happen at regular intervals, or that the provider increases the limit whenever you clear your debt.
This will encourage you to spend more money, and you have a right to reject a credit limit increase. If you’re concerned that your credit limit is higher than you can manage, you can contact the store card provider and ask them to drop it back down.
Store card debt is a common issue. Among people who seek help with StepChange, the largest debt charity in the UK, the average customer has £1,275 of store card debt, which may be the lowest average (compared to personal loans at £8,809 and credit cards at £7,542) but it is still a significant sum, and 13% of StepChange clients have reported having some form of store card debt.
It’s simple to end up spending lots at popular stores, but clearly it’s not as easy to then repay that debt for many people who struggle financially.
Once you’ve started using a store card, it’s essential that you stay in control. You’ll get the benefits and rewards even if you clear the debt straight away, so ideally you should only use the store card if you can make an instant repayment.
Keep a close eye on the deadline dates of any Buy Now, Pay Later agreements. Make sure you keep up with any monthly payments, and always pay more than the minimum if you’ve got debt mounting up.
If you’re paying interest on your store card spending, this will quickly outweigh any of the benefits you received for using it originally.
Store cards can be quite easy to obtain. They also encourage loyalty. If you have a store card, you’re more likely to shop at that store again. It’s easy to start to spiral into debt, under the illusion that you’re just being loyal to your favorite brand.
If you’re in too much debt, do your best to clear your debt as quickly as possible. Always pay more than the minimum payment each month.
Consider cutting up your card and asking the provider to stop you from spending more money. This is particularly helpful if you’ve fallen into the habit of spending on your store card. The store card provider should maintain your balance whilst stopping you from adding to it further.
If you’re really struggling, create a clear household budget. If you contact the store card provider with evidence of income and expenditure, they may be willing to waive their interest fees or help you with a customized payment plan.
If your store card is just one of many debts, you might like to speak to a debt charity to see if there’s a better course of action. Debt management solutions can help you take control if your costs are creeping higher than your income.
Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s debt release brokers. They have already helped thousands of people reduce and remove a high percentage of debt, and if you are struggling with debt, they can do the same for you.
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