Next time you’re at this department store and the clerk asks “Would you like to apply for a Sears MasterCard?” make sure think long and hard before saying yes.
Getting a card from a store you frequently shop at seems like a logical choice, right? Not necessarily.
The ironic truth is that you’re worse off with Sears Solutions MasterCard versus an unaffiliated Visa/MasterCard that has no relationship with their store. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the good, bad, and ugly and decide for yourself…
The Good for 2013
Relatively easy to qualify for – Sears actually offers two MasterCards; one is managed by Citi and the other thru HSBC. The application is the same for both, but the latter is given if your credit is in the dumps. In other words, Solutions MasterCard is specifically for customers who are trying to rebuild their credit.
The exact credit score needed for Sears Solutions isn’t publicly disclosed, but one can safely assume that the minimum FICO they want is somewhere in the 600’s, if not lower, because it’s not hard to qualify for. For those with a scandalous credit history, it’s a good option.
But be warned: you still need at least marginally fair credit to qualify for their MasterCard. If you have bad credit, the best you might be able to get will be the regular Sears credit card (which is not a MasterCard).
Free credit score (sort of) – Not many benefits come with this credit card, but there is one that is worth mentioning; you get free access to your TransUnion TransRisk score once per month. This is not to be confused with FICO, because it’s totally different.
TransRisk is only an “educational” score for consumers that is generated using a completely different formula. That means your TransRisk score may or may not be substantially different than your FICO.
Here’s a review/complaint I saw on MyFICO about this type of score:
In other words, it’s not always a good correlation with your FICO (which lenders use).
The Bad for 2013
Possible annual fee – The application isn’t clear about who will and won’t be charged the annual fee. All I see in the cardmember agreement is this:
So it’s possible you might not have a fee – or – you may get whacked with up to a $59 fee. I’m guessing that where you land will depend upon your creditworthiness and those with better credit won’t get charged.
Either way, at least Sears is being fair and will refund the fee if you cancel with the first 90 days and don’t use the card:
Horrendous Customer Service – Sears doesn’t publish much about their cards online. In order to see stuff, you have to login with your account. So in order to find out about it, I had to hit up the customer service phone number (which is 800.819.5298 if you’re curious).
After pressing a million buttons, I was connected to a foreign rep. I kept explaining I wasn’t calling to apply and only had questions, but he didn’t seem to grasp that concept! Finally he gave me another phone number to call, which ended up being the phone number for the GM credit card instead!
I called back the first number again and was finally able to get thru to someone who was still a foreigner, but at least she understood what I was saying. All that hassle just to ask basic questions like what the interest rate is? That’s outrageous.
Many reviews I’ve seen express similar complaints about the customer service. There’s also a lot of nasty things said about how the online bill pay and statements are handled.
Laughable Rewards Program – The only reason I’m not putting this in the “ugly” category is that – in Sear’s defense – at least they’re offering something for rewards. Unfortunately that something is quite dismal.
You only earn 1 point per dollar spent. This includes purchases at Sears – surprisingly they don’t give you any bonus points for shopping at their stores. Here’s what you can redeem them for:
If you do the math, it means the most that Sears Solutions MasterCard rewards are worth is about 1%. This is a total joke considering that many store cards offer up to 3-5% for when you shop at their store. Unfortunately, this card does neither!
The Ugly For 2013
Ridiculous Interest Rate – This one is in the ugly category but admittedly, it’s not a big surprise since most store cards offer outrageous APRs. What Sears gives you on this MasterCard is the following:
- Standard APR: The phone rep I spoke with said the standard APR is up to 29.99%. She didn’t specify whether or not it’s possible to get a lower rate with good credit. If you get 29.99% as your standard APR, that is almost 50% higher than what you will get on major credit cards from banks (which usually have a max purchase APR of around 20-23%).
- Promotional APR: She said those with good credit may be able to get a promotional rate that is 0% for the first year on purchases. Others will get a less lucrative offer. What’s really unappealing about this is that it uses deferred interest – that means if you don’t pay off the full balance before the promotional time period, afterward you will get hit with interest charges retroactively going back to the date of purchase!
Is it a ripoff or not?
I’ll let you be the judge and answer that question yourself. But whatever you decide, you can’t apply for it online. Sears only accepts applications in-store for their Solutions MasterCard.
Here are some alternatives you may wish to consider, depending upon your creditworthiness:
- Recent bankruptcy? Read my article about getting a card after bankruptcy.
- Bad credit? Then there are secured cards which you can use to rebuild credit.
- Fair credit? Check out these cards.
- Excellent credit? If you need 0% financing, then check out this long 0% offer. If you want good rewards then consider the card from American Express which gives you 3% cash back at select US department stores.
Review written or last updated for 2013