What You Need to Know to Benefit From Your Retail Credit Cards

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Every year we spend two nights in another city somewhere in the country with two of our favorite couples. It’s our annual Valentine’s weekend getaway. The husbands in our group love Shula’s Steakhouse, and one weekend we came up with the idea that we should go every year on our annual getaway to a different Shula’s somewhere in the country until we’ve had dinner in all of them. We really enjoy it, and we always have a good time. This year we went to Chicago for the weekend to try one of the two in the city.

During our flight home on Spirit Airlines (best flight crews in the history of flights, and trust me since we fly often and have never had better experiences than we do on this particular airline) the flight crew announced that you can apply for their new credit card and end up with three free airline tickets anywhere they fly whether you are approved or not. Our friends decided to apply after they realized that they could use the three tickets for their family of four to attend a family wedding later in the year.

It’s just too good of an offer to resist applying for that card and getting those amazing rewards. My mother will actually apply for any and every single credit card she’s offered when she realizes she can save 10 or 15% on her purchase. It’s the retail credit card trap. You are conned into applying for a card to a store you might not even frequent just to save a few dollars. I don’t do it – I don’t have that kind of time, for one. But many do, and it’s a bad idea.

However, if you are going to apply for retail credit cards, there is a way you can use them to make the most of the cards and all that they have to offer without harming yourself in any way. We’ve got the secrets here to using retail credit cards to the best of your ability. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s going to make you feel as if you are really doing something well.

Get to know the perks

You might think that you’re just signing up for a bonus savings when you apply for your retail credit card, but you’re doing far more than that. You’re actually going to earn some real perks if you know what to look for. For example, let’s say you apply for a retail credit card from a high-end department store. Many of those cards offer perks such as access to sales a few days before anyone else is able to shop the sales.

If you choose to apply for a card from a store such as Old Navy, which also owns Gap, Banana Republic and Athletica, you can get free shipping, a certain percent off your purchases on certain days and much more if you use your card during checkout. These are perks that are only available to those who carry the card and no one else. These usually equate to more savings and more opportunities for card holders. It’s a good idea to get to know these perks.

Sign up at the right time

This is a good one, so listen up. When you go to Lowes to pick up a can of paint for your master bedroom and they offer you a 15% discount on your entire purchase if you sign up for their credit card, don’t do it. You’re spending around $40, so it’s a savings of $6. It’s nice, but you can do better. Are you planning on buying new appliances or flooring or anything more expensive for your home? Let’s say you’re outfitting your kitchen with all new stainless steel, high-end appliances and you’re spending $7,500. If you wait to sign up and get that discount then, you’ll save more like $450. Now that sounds like savings.

Don’t sign up for everything

The simple truth of the matter is that applying for one or two retail cards every so often is not a big deal. However, you lose points when your credit report shows numerous inquiries in a short amount of time. When you go about doing this, you’re going to find out that there are so many different ways you can ruin your credit score. You don’t have to use the cards for them to become a problem on your credit. You can apply, cancel them right away and never use them for anything other than to get that initial savings, but you’re going to find that your credit suffers.

Be sure to use retail cards with care, and be careful of those from very small stores since they tend to come backed by banks that offer subpar credit cards with higher rates and more downfalls than benefits.

Photo by Getty Images

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