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A guide to store cards

Store cards can be useful if you’re able to always pay back what you owe each month, but if not, they can be expensive – so check whether other credit options are better.

 

How they work

A store card is a credit card you can only use with one high street chain or group.

Like a credit card, you can use a store card to buy things on credit and pay them off at the end of the month or in stages to spread the cost.

And just as with a credit card, you’ll be charged interest if you don’t repay in full.

The interest rate is usually even higher than for a credit card.

You might be asked if you have a store card or if you would like to have one at the till when you pay for your shopping.

They used to come with a discount on your initial purchase, but firms have agreed not to offer deals within seven days of you making a purchase, so you’ve got a chance to change your mind (you can cancel the card within 14 days).

If you take out a card, you might be offered vouchers or discounts – such as 10% off purchases for three months or cardholder-only reductions, or free delivery when you buy online – as incentives to encourage you to use your credit limit.

You must be at least 18 to get a store card. As with any credit card, you’ll also need to undergo a credit check.

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Store branded credit cards

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer all offer a store-branded credit card which can be used anywhere (just like a bank credit card) and not just in the named shop. Be careful not to confuse store cards with credit cards linked to shops.

Reward cards – like Nectar or Tesco Clubcard – allow you to collect points on your shopping which you can use later to get money off your bill or swap for goods and services. Store cards are not the same as reward cards or loyalty cards. These are all marketing initiatives to encourage you to use their store, or card, and spend money shopping either with cash or on credit. 

Pros
    • Discounts and freebies — you might get discounts or money-off. But remember, if you don’t pay off your entire bill the interest might cost you much more than the discounts are worth. Read more on this below in the section on charges and fees.
    • Can be a good deal with your favourite store — the only time you might consider getting a store card is if you regularly spend a lot with a particular store – and even then, you need to be absolutely in control of your money. Don’t be tempted to over-spend just because of the discounts or vouchers.
Cons
    • Higher interest if you don’t repay the outstanding balance in full each month — store cards often charge much higher interest than your average credit card.
    • You can only use store cards to pay for things within a particular high street chain.
    • They’re often sold by sales assistants, not financial experts. You should be given detailed information and an explanation of how the card works before signing up. But some sales assistants might not have enough training on the credit aspects. If you’re not sure of anything, ask questions, and make sure you don’t sign up until you understand what is involved
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Charges and fees

Store cards usually charge far higher interest rates than the average credit card.

Take a look at the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) before you sign up.

It will help you compare the cost with other ways you could borrow - the APR shows the cost of purchases after any introductory period, so checking the APR is a good way of comparing a credit card and a store card, particularly if you’re not eligible for a 0% credit card.

To avoid paying interest, always try and pay off your bill in full each month.

Your statement will show you the minimum amount you have to pay, but it’s important to always aim to repay as much as you can otherwise it might take you a long time and cost you a lot to pay off any outstanding balance. Also paying the minimum can have a negative effect on your credit rating.

Consider setting up a Direct Debit to make sure you never forget a payment. If you’re living on a variable income, or you’re worried there might not always be enough money in the account to cover it, making manual payments will help you avoid fees for failed Direct Debits.

Before you commit

Even if you’re confident you’ll pay the bill in full every month, compare the store card discounts with cash-back credit cards too, which offer cash-back at all stores before you decide to take out a store card .

Or consider taking out a 0% credit card if you can, but check the 0% rate covers purchases as well as balance transfers.

What should I do if I miss a payment?

If you’ve already missed payments and are not able to come to an agreement with your lender, it’s best to get advice as soon you can, especially if you’ve got other debts as well.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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