Is your store-branded credit card worth the hassle?
I have made no secret of the fact that we use credit cards here at the Stew household. “We” as in, my wife and I – our children do not currently carry plastic, although my seven-year old told me to “just put it on the card” the other day.
She and I might need to have a talk.
Years ago, before I really knew what a credit score was worth, my wife and I would often sign up for store-branded credit cards in order to get the various incentives that come with getting a card: $50 bonus or 20% of a purchase or any number of things.
I have since come to understand that the credit score hit or “hard pull” that comes with such applications really is not worth the benefit. I still have most my store-branded credit cards and try to keep the lines of credit open because it is good for one’s credit score, but I never use my Best Buy, Kwik Trip, Kohl’s, Sears, Menards or Old Navy store branded cards. I try to find the best rewards card possible and use that for every credit card purchase. It makes paying off the balance every month a simple task and so far this year, we have earned two free flights. One of which my wife used about a month ago.
The incentives do not stop with sign-up premiums. Store-branded credit lines always push all kinds of ongoing incentives to use the card. I seem to get flyers or marketing letters every week from businesses trying to get me to use their card – even though it has been five years or more since I used that particular card. Some of the deals sound decent, but I never participate for several reasons:
- I never carry the cards. I really like to keep my billfold as thin as possible – some might call me “obsessive compulsive about the thickness of my wallet.
- I do not want to pay another bill every month, we have enough.
- I usually do not have an absolute need to make a purchase in that particular store. It is great that I can get jeans for %25 off at The Gap next week if I use my Gap credit card, but chances are, I do not need the jeans. If I never got the marketing information, I would never be aware of my lack of those particular pants and the flyers never seem to arrive when I really need jeans.
On the other hand, Mrs. Stew uses store-branded credit cards. She oversees a portion of our budget that includes most clothing purchases and will use her Kohl’s charge or Old Navy card from time to time in order to take advantage of whatever deal is being offered that week. We will never apply for another store-branded card, but she still uses a few of the ones that we opened several years ago.
I have to admit that sometimes she does get really good deals and as long as she pays off the balance on time every month and does not go over budget, I guess it is okay. I just do not have the patience to keep track of all that stuff.
Do you use store-branded plastic?
Article by Stew
Photo by stevendepolo