Who hasn’t been shopping at Sears? Some of us older folk remember the smell of popcorn wafting over us as we walked in the store and the thick Sears Catalogue as we combed its thin pages for Christmas-wish ideas. We also remember the old Sears credit card which for many of us was our very first line of credit. Much has changed at Sears over the years as the store has strived to stay relevant in the burgeoning retail space, but in terms of its credit cards, little has changed in that it is still a high-interest retail credit card offering few benefits beyond access to Sears and affiliated-store products. The Sears Credit Card is now serviced by Citibank, which, if the chatter in the credit card forums is to believed, seems to really struggle with offering quality customer service.
The Sears Credit Card offers no rewards program, so, in an effort to add value to its credit card, Sears pitches additional features and benefits to cardholders, such as “exclusive monthly savings”, coupons, and special financing offers. But according to the feedback in the credit card forums, the savings are really nothing beyond what is promoted in all Sears ads.
The “special” financing program may not be all that special, especially if you don’t read the fine print. Sears periodically offers a promotional 0 percent financing on purchases; however, their 0 percent offer is different from those you might receive from regular credit card companies, and the difference can wind up costing you dearly if you’re not careful.
Essentially, the offer is for deferred interest payable on your purchase as long as it is paid in full within a specified period of time (i.e., 6, 12, 18 or 24 months). If, however, the balance is not paid in full, you are charged interest, retroactively, on the entire balance, not just the remaining balance. And, with a whopping 25.24 percent APR, that can make anyone feel pretty foolish.
With the ease that people with low credit scores can obtain a Sears Credit Card, it would probably fall into the category of subprime credit. So, it’s not surprising that its cardholders are kept on a very short leash in terms of their credit activities. It’s not unusual for people with moderate credit scores to be issued fairly sizable credit lines – in the range of $1000 to $2000. But, if they’re one minute late with their payment, or if they let their overall debt climb to high, Citibank will quickly slash their credit limit.
There are some reports that the credit limit reduction is so severe that it results in the cardholder automatically being “over limit” based on their existing balance which can trigger a fee. This treatment appears to also extend to people with high credit scores who have also experienced sudden credit limit decreases without explanation. Of course, these reports coming from the credit card forums are anecdotal; however, they seem to be a common theme among reviewers.
While the Sears Credit Card does offer its cardholders access to free credit scores, which is not a bad benefit except that anyone can access their scores through the same provider used by Sears – CreditKarma .com. It seems that Sears, which has been in business for over a century, is always doing what it can to stay relevant in a fast-changing world. So far, its efforts to offer a relevant credit card have fallen way short.