The unpleasant truth about retail credit cards

The old phrase "buyer beware" apparently also applies to taking out a credit card from your favorite retailer.

That's because retail credit cards charge sky-high interest rates, with the average annual percentage rate of credit cards issued by the biggest U.S. retailers hitting 23.23 percent, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com. That's more than eight percentage points higher than the national average for all cards,

For some shoppers, an offer of a retail credit card may seem too good to pass up. After all, store clerks are primed to ask customers if they would like to save 10 percent or 15 percent on a purchase if they sign up then and there. But consumers shouldn't be hasty, notes CreditCards.com senior analyst Matt Schulz. Instead, take a brochure and study the fine print before committing to a card, he said.

"Everybody is busy, and we have all had times when we haven't read the details before we jump in," Schulz told CBS MoneyWatch. "The most important thing to know when it comes to retail credit cards is that it's a high-pressure situation. You could end up doing something you might not have if you had time to think."

Retailers are also charging more on average than four years ago, with the average rate jumping two percentage points since 2010.

The average rate for a retail credit card has jumped about two percentage points since 2010, the survey found. One reason might be some retailers' desire to eke out more revenue from the cards, given a challenging post-recession environment, Schulz said.

While some retailers offer perks and benefits for their card holders, the best bet for consumers is to pay off their balances each month. Otherwise, the high interest rates might quickly erase any benefit a consumer could accrue.

With the average rate on retail credit cards, by making only the minimum payments a consumer would require 73 months to pay off a $1,000 balance, amassing a whopping $840 in interest fees.

Still, some store cards are better than others, the survey found. The card offered by jewelry retailer Zales (ZLC) had the highest rate, at 28.99 percent. Office Depot's (ODP) personal credit account was 27.99 percent, tied in second place with Staples' (SPLS) personal account.

Listed below are the retail credit cards with the highest interest rates, according to CreditCards.com:

Zales - 28.99%
Office Depot Personal Credit Account -- 27.99%
Staples Personal Account -- 27.99%
My Best Buy credit card -- 25.24-27.99%
My Best Buy preferred credit card -- 25.24-27.99%
Home Depot credit card -- 17.99-26.99%
"R" Us Credit Card -- 26.99%
"R" Us MasterCard -- 26.99%
DICK's Sporting Goods Credit Card -- 26.99%
DICKS's Sporting Goods MasterCard -- 26.99%
JCPenney Credit Card -- 26.99%
Meijer Credit Card -- 26.99%
TJX Rewards Credit Card -- 26.99%
TJX Rewards Platinum MasterCard -- 26.99%

Popular

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Market Data

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

Market News

Stock Watchlist

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download