Offered store credit? Here’s what to consider before you accept

Like most Americans, you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck for a while now. When a major expense comes up, like a stove that suddenly goes on the fritz or your child shoots up two sizes a month after the start of school and needs all-new clothes, you can feel the financial pressures building.

Don’t worry: There’s definitely a store clerk somewhere who will be happy to help you apply for store credit. The offer will be attractive, too, because you usually get a sizable discount on whatever purchase you’re about to make after approval. Plus, store credit is easy to get: Even if you’re already over-extended on your existing credit cards and barely making the minimum payments, you’ll probably qualify. 

That’s exactly the problem. Store credit cards are routinely issued without a clear consideration of someone’s ability to repay the debt. Correspondingly, you can expect to pay significant interest on any purchase you happen to make — to the tune of better than 20% (and probably closer to 30% than not). Miss a payment’s due date, and you can expect the interest to go even higher — along with late penalties and fees. 

Unless you can pay off the entire balance on the store card within 30 days, that lovely discount you were offered will be completely eaten away — and you’ll be saddled with one more monthly payment on top of the others that are already pinching your wallet.

If you’ve reached the end of your financial rope and you just can’t make the bills and money meet each month, it may be time to consider filing for bankruptcy. An experienced attorney can help you better understand the next steps.