Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7! Learn more about reviewing coverage, making changes.
Living on a Budget
by Gina Roberts-Grey, AARP Bulletin, December 22, 2009
It’s tempting to open a store-brand credit card when the cashier is promising you a hefty discount and a chance to delay payments on a pricey item. While those seem like sound financial moves, the new card could actually cost you money by putting a dent in your credit score.
Jim Randel, author of The Skinny on Credit Cards, cautions that every time you apply for a card your credit report is checked, taking a nick out of your credit score because the application “creates the appearance that you may be loading up on debt.”
Experts estimate that one inquiry about a store card can lower your score by two to five points. “Apply for several store brand cards in a couple of months, and you will shave as many as 20 points off your credit score,” Randel says. And if your application is accepted and you actually open a new charge account, it will cost you an additional five to 15 points.
A very expensive point
Mortgage broker Todd Huettner says losing even one point from your credit score can cost you thousands of dollars in the long run.
“Interest rates for mortgages, home equity loans, or even car loans go up with every 20-point drop in your credit score, starting with scores lower than 740,” Huettner explains. “Having a score of 679 versus 680 can cost you hundreds annually in interest.”
There’s another reason a store-brand credit card can cost you far more than what you’ll pocket in instant savings: They usually carry a higher interest rate than comparable non-branded cards such as Visa or American Express.
Suppose you save 10 percent on a $100 pair of shoes, Randel says. The $90 final price, plus sales tax, is charged to your new account, which has a 21 percent annual interest rate. “If you make the minimum monthly payment of $10, the shoes will end up costing you about $107—$7 more than if you just paid the full price,” says Randel.
“The discounts associated with opening or using these cards are only worthwhile if you pay the balance off completely before accruing any interest,” he adds.
Questions to ask yourself
So before accepting a cashier’s offer to open a store-brand credit account, ask yourself:
Gina Roberts-Grey is a writer in Baldwinsville, N.Y.
Featured AARP Member Benefits
See All >
WayForth Home Transition Management
Free consultation and follow-up plan
Personal Loans from Marcus by Goldman Sachs®
No-fee personal loans
Members can save monthly on qualified AT&T wireless plans
Members can save 50% on prescription lenses
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at