When you’re out shopping, it’s almost inevitable: a store clerk is going to ask if you’d like to open a store credit card. And as an added incentive, you’ll get a percentage off today’s purchase if you do.

Before you take them up on their offer, though, you should understand more about store credit cards. How are they different from cards that aren’t tied to one retailer? What effect can they have on your credit score? Should you listen to that store clerk, or is what they’re pitching not such a good deal after all?

The Upsides

By using your store credit card responsibly — paying your bills in full and on time, and not maxing out the card — you can help build your credit score over time.

Another benefit to store credit cards is the frequent discounts you could receive on purchases. You’ll often receive notifications of sales and deep discounts available only to cardholders, and if you do most of your shopping in a certain store, it can pay to get a credit card there.

The Downsides

Store credit cards can come with high interest rates (20% or more). If you know you’ll carry a balance, a high-interest credit card is going to cost you. You might be better off choosing a card with a lower interest rate, or even seeking out offers for 0% introductory APR credit cards.

And all those emails and mailings you’ll get telling you of upcoming sales for cardholders? They might show you a great deal, but you might not want to be convinced to shop for items just because they’re on sale.

Is a Store Credit Card Right for You?

It depends. If you’re a loyal customer of a certain store and know that you’ll spend a lot of money there, a store credit card grants you access to frequent sales and special discounts. This could help you save money over time, provided you aren’t making impulse purchases you’d later regret.

However, if you’re not loyal to any particular store, you might be better off applying for a more general rewards card. You’ll earn rewards on your everyday spending, and you can redeem your rewards in a wider variety of ways.

If you know you’re at risk for taking on credit card debt, a store card’s higher interest rate could make it more difficult for you to repay your debt (especially with all of those enticing sales). Look for a card with a lower interest rate, and try not to impulse buy.

A store credit card can be a great option for you. Just be sure to know yourself and your purchasing habits before the next friendly clerk invites you to open a store credit card.

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. 

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