7 reasons not to sign up for a store card

Store cards might sound like a good idea, but they're a lot more dangerous than they seem. Here's why the words 'no, thanks!' could save you £100s.
Credit: Elliot Stokes -
So you're standing in line, arms piled up with stuff that, if we're being totally honest, really doesn't fit the student budget you've been working so hard to stick to!

However, when you finally make it to the till, the sales assistant surprises you by revealing not only will you get a 20% discount if you sign up for a store card there and then, but you won't even have to pay for your purchases in full today if you don't want to.

Store cards are basically credit cards that can only be used in one particular store. They allow shoppers to make purchases on credit (so often with money they don't currently have) and pay it off in monthly installments - just like credit cards. The most common place you'll be offered one is in larger department stores, but a lot of high streets stores offer them too.

If you're confident you can play the store card system without getting caught out, our hats off to you! But for those of you who aren't 100% convinced, here's why we recommend avoiding these cards at all costs.

Struggling to stay out the red? Check out our student's guide to budgeting plus help on how to clear your debts.

7 reasons not to sign up for a store card

  1. You'll actually pay more for your purchases

    empty purseAgreeing to take on a store card will mean you can pay for what you buy in monthly installments, which is much easier on the purse strings, right? Wrong.

    We would never advise anyone to take on a store card with the intention of borrowing with it. This will only result in you paying way more for your purchases, as interest piles up on your card balance if you don't pay it off immediately.

    What's important to remember is that at the end of the day, store cards are simply a form of marketing, and a ploy to convince you to shop with this particular store over any other.

    And who enjoys that sort of forced loyalty? If you want to be rewarded for being loyal, pick up a loyalty card instead.

  2. It's the same as a credit card, but sh*tter

    creditcardStore cards offer exactly the same perks as a credit card (i.e allowing you to borrow and spend money you don’t have and spread costs over a longer period of time). The only difference is that while you can use a credit card to shop wherever you want, a store card restricts your spending to that store.

    This is why stores that offer them push them so hard on their customers - if you have a store card, you’re likely to feel obliged to shop with them over others that don’t offer a store card.

    Another pull is that you can literally walk into the shop and walk out with a card. Technically, stores do run credit checks after you've made your first purchase, but we're still yet to hear of anyone being turned down for one, and personally know people who have been accepted despite having a very low credit score.

    These cards are extremely easy to get your hands on, which is what makes them so dangerous!

    Our guide on the best credit cards for students will point you in the right direction

  3. You're a prime target

    dartboardCredit: Richard Matthews
    It's worth being aware that as a young person, you're actually a perfect target for these cards, and for all the wrong reasons.

    Staff are told to specifically go for students and young people, as they know they’re the demographic most likely to take the risk of signing up without asking too many questions.

    Whilst the process of applying for a credit card would come with a full credit check, and information on interest rates would be provided prior to signing, this isn't the case with store cards.

    These cards are essentially sold to young people as free money, with many not realising what they’re signing up to.

  4. Sold by sales assistants, not financial experts

    shopaholicStore cards have interest rates higher than most credit cards, and can get you in serious hot water if you can't keep up with repayments. Therefore, it's just crazy that sales assistants are given the responsibility of dishing these cards out.

    Many won't be adequately trained, meaning they have no idea of the dangers they could be imposing on you by pushing the card (although admittedly they are just doing their job, of course!).

    What's worse is that staff are often given targets to meet with some sort of incentive at the end of it to work towards (e.g. sign up 10 new customers to a store card and win an extra day's paid holiday).

    This is why they’re pushing so hard to get you to sign up; not because they genuinely think it’s a good deal (no matter how convincing they may seem!).

  5. Interest rates are HUGE

    Credit card debtAlthough you might be tempted when you hear you'll get a 20% discount on your shopping on the day if you sign up there and then, consider the maths for a second and you'll see this is most definitely not a good deal in the long run.

    Interest rates on these cards are normally charged at a rate of between 25-30%!

    Therefore, any discount you receive on the day will be majorly overshadowed by the amount of interest you need to pay on top of the balance if you don't pay it off instantly (and the discount normally only applies on your first purchase with the card).

    Although it might make sense at the time for a quick bit of relief on your wallet, you'll certainly pay for it (and then some!) in the long run.

  6. They can damage your credit rating

    Credit scoreCredit ratings are one of these things that students know exist and are aware that they're important, but often assume they don't have to worry about it until they have major obligations to worry about like buying a house.

    But in fact, your credit rating can affect everything from your mobile phone contract to how high your student overdraft limit will be.

    If you fail to keep up with repayments on a store card, this can have a very negative affect on your credit rating. Also, each time you sign up to a new financial product like this, it's marked on your credit report.

    If you're unsure of what your credit score is, you can check it for free and learn how to improve it by reading this guide.

  7. You’ll be bombarded with constant junk mail

    junk mailAnd if all the above hasn't convinced you that getting a store card is a bad idea, maybe the colossal amount of junk you'll get through your door and to your inbox will be the crincher.

    And believe it or not - even if you end up with a court summons for not paying up, your credit score is in the pits and you've cut your card into pieces after cancelling your account, it's likely they'll STILL send you mail to your house with offers to try and get you to sign up again. But this time you will RESIST!!

If you're really keen - own the game

Dice being rolled above a grimy stairwellIf you're a savvy shopper who's confident they can play the store card game - don't just play it, own it!

That initial discount incentive to sign up can be useful if you're making a larger purchase that could mean a matter of a tenner saving or more.

If the discount is really selling it to you, you could always sign up to the card to get the discount, pay it off immediately so you don't accrue any interest and close the account. However, we would never advise going for this option unless you've 100% got the cash available to pay up ASAP.

Store card discounts are also often only available for the first purchase you make, so read the T&Cs and if that's the case - close the account as soon as you've paid off your initial transaction and ask to be removed from the mailing list.

If this cautionary guide has come too late, and you've already found yourself lumped with store card debt - don't worry! Our ultimate guide to debt has some great tips on how to pull yourself out of card debt, completely unscathed.

Have you got any store card horror stories to tell? We want to hear them!

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