A store credit card at your favorite retail center can be an excellent addition to your credit portfolio. You’ll be able to centralize your spending, allocate funds into a single line of credit, and with certain cards even have access to special sales and discounts. But what makes a store card a good one, and how you should go about choosing one? Here we’ve put together a short guide on choosing store brand cards so you know what to expect. 

Determine Your Needs

Before you choose a store credit card, it’s important to consider why you want to open one in the first place. Are you simply trying to build credit, or are you just borrowing money for the sake of having more funds to spend? 

The motivation behind your choice will have a major impact on which card you choose. Most store credit cards have a higher interest rate than regular credit cards, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when you’re signing up for one. 

If you’re simply getting a card to have extra shopping money, it’s best to choose a card with a low-interest rate and spending limit, especially at your favorite store. Everyone can get carried away sometimes, but if you rack up thousands of dollars in purchases, your interest fees can end up costing you a lot more in the end. 

Check Your Credit Score

You should look at your personal credit score before you attempt to borrow money, even if it’s just on a store credit card. This will show you exactly where your credit stands, who you already owe money to, and any negative marks such as collections you may have. 

If you already owe back payments to several different creditors, a store card might not be the best choice until you can pay down some of that debt. The last thing you want to do is push yourself further into the debt bubble with a new credit card. 

You’re entitled to a free credit report every twelve months, and you can acquire one at the federally backed website annualcreditereport.com.

Compare Rewards Offers

Anytime a store offers a credit card, they likely include rewards and bonus offers, such as reward points for spending a certain amount, member-specific sales or discounts, and more. This is the store’s way of making their card more advantageous to have by offering exclusive incentives for cardholders. 

Store cards like Target’s RedCard offer a percentage off of any in-store purchase, which can be very useful since Target stores carry everything from groceries to electronics to clothing. The 5% discount on any in-store items helps make the RedCard one of the best store card offers you can get. 

Other cards like Kohl’s charge card and Macy’s credit card offer specific member discounts and points systems, where at Kohl’s you get one point for every dollar you spend, and then a voucher after you spend a certain amount. 

Nordstrom fashion retailers also offer a competitive card, with something a little extra for its cardholders in the form of invites to Nordstrom events and early access to their anniversary sale. You can find the pros and cons of the Nordstrom credit card here.

Pay Attention To The APR Rate

As we mentioned before, store cards normally have a higher interest rate than traditional credit cards. This means when you go to sign up for a store card, you’ll want to keep an eye on that APR, or annual percentage rate

When you carry a balance on your credit card, you’re charged an interest rate on the things you’ve purchased. If you’ve got a few thousand dollars racked up on one card, that 25% interest can add a significant amount to your bill. 

Before you choose a store card, compare its interest rates with other store cards. You may find that it’s preferable to have another store’s card, if only for the sake of avoiding unusually high-interest rates on your purchases. 

Read The Fine Print 

This is arguably the most important thing to do when you choose your store card. The fine print will tell you everything you need to know about the card, including late fees, APR rates, adjustments, and more. 

Not reading the fine print is like not test driving a car before you buy it. Surprises are never welcome on financial statements, and that’s exactly what you’ll get if you don’t read the terms and conditions carefully. 

Remember that all cards have late fees, though some may be much higher than others. Before you choose a card, read all of its information carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you’re not feeling confident on. 

Look Up the Card’s Reviews

Often store cards will be reviewed on either the store’s website or on sites like Google by users who have had them or still use them. It’s important to read these reviews to give yourself an idea of what you’re signing up for. 

Reviews, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt. If you find that a card has overwhelmingly poor reviews, there might be something to it. If you find a pattern of issues repeating itself within the reviews, there’s probably some truth to it. 

Always do your research and consider all of the information before signing up for a card. Track your spending and pay your bill on time, and you’ll find that having a store credit card is a great asset.