These days, many consumers who shop at large retail chains may be offered a store-branded credit card when they go to check out, and some might even find that the value of these offers are increasing significantly.
In the past, many consumers might have been offered retail-branded credit cards upon checkout that offered no perks other than a small discount of about 20 percent on their purchase that day, but this is no longer the case for many popular chains, according to Consumer Reports Money Adviser. Now, many large national retailers are partnering with major card issuers to offer perks on their branded accounts including cash back, low introductory rates and other ongoing discounts that can be extremely beneficial to shoppers in some cases.
For instance, Costco is now granting borrowers 3 percent cash back on gasoline purchases made with its branded American Express card, as well as a 0 percent interest rate on purchases for the first six months the account is open, the report said. Further, Walmart's branded card grants borrowers as much as 1 percent cash back, as well as a 5 cents per gallon discount on gasoline from its own filling stations through the end of the year.
However, it's important to read the fine print
But as with past retailer-issued credit cards, it is still important for consumers to carefully consider the costs these accounts might carry for them in the long run, the report said. Many will have interest rates far higher than what they're used to paying on cards from financial institutions, and some will also have restrictions on the ways in which rewards, such as cash back or points, can be racked up. For instance, while the Walmart card is advertised as being 1 percent cash back, it only grants borrowers 0.25 percent cash back for the first $1,500 spent on the account, and 0.5 percent cash back once they've surpassed $3,000 in spending in a year.
For these reasons, it's a good idea for consumers to carefully review any credit card offer they receive from a retailer to see if it makes financial sense for them and their spending habits. For instance, if they tend to carry a balance from one month to the next on their existing accounts, a card with a high interest rate might not be the best way to go. Similarly, many cards that offer consumers the ability to earn cash back or rewards points also come with annual fees, which can end up costing consumers money every year if their current spending habits will not allow them to earn enough to counterbalance that charge.
Any time consumers want to apply for credit cards, they should first take the time to review their credit reports to make sure no unfair markings are taking a toll on their scores. Working with a credit repair company can help them to clear up these issues quickly.