Store-branded credit cards carry record interest rates

Some rates nearing 30 percent

SAN ANTONIO – As people charge into the holidays, there is reason to think twice about sweet signup discounts and offers.

"They often entice you with good upfront things, but sometimes that's not the best option," financial adviser Kent Copeland said.

A CreditCards.com survey of dozens of credit card offers from retailers found interest rates at record highs. The average rate was 23.84 percent, with some at near 30 percent.

"I've gotten hit with monstrous interest in the past," shopper Dan DalCais said. "I try to avoid it."

When DalCais purchased a recliner from Big Lots, he passed on using the Big Lots-branded credit card with its sky-high annual percentage rate.

Big Lots topped the survey, with the highest rate of 29.99 percent. Zales followed with 29.24 percent, and Staples has a 28.24 percent APR.

The lowest rates found were for the Military Star Card at 10.49 percent and Dillard's, with 10.24 percent. The Dillard's rate can rise to more than 25 percent, depending on a person's credit worthiness.

The interest rate doesn't matter so much if people pay off the balance every month, but only about half of consumers do, according to banking industry studies.

Not paying on time can cost people more than they think, according to Copeland, who said people have to read the fine print.

"Maybe they've got a regular rate of 15 (percent), but if you miss a payment or are late on a payment, all of a sudden it jumps to 27 percent," Copeland said.

Retail card rates tend to be higher because they take on higher risk and are easier to get. And while they can help build credit, Copeland said applying for a lot of them can hurt people's credit score.

"Don't go out and apply for 12 different store cards at the holiday shopping time," he said.

Some store credit cards can be money savers, as long as they are paid off every month. Using a card at a store frequently and accruing points or cash back can work in the shopper's favor.

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