Many people jump at the opportunity because of the 15% discount on the first purchase, but is that a wise decision? I love their store, but not necessarily their credit card. Here are 5 factors you need to consider.
Factor #1: Not the best rewards program
Despite the name, the Belk Rewards card doesn't exactly have the strongest rewards program:
- $1 spent = 1 reward point
- 400 reward points = $10 Belk Reward Dollars.
Take the American Express Blue Cash Preferred as an example. It gives you 3% cash back at select US department stores (which includes Belk). That means under normal circumstances, its rewards are actually better than what the credit card from Belk offers.
The Belk card does offer some events where it's possible to earn double points (or triple with the elite card) but aside from that, their normal 2.5% rewards are not very impressive.
Factor #2: Brutally high interest rates
The issuer of the card is GE Capital Retail Bank. As is the case with most of their credit cards, the APR is quite high if you are someone who carries a balance. As of the time of writing this review, the Belk card's application listed a 24.49% interest rate. Not very pretty, is it?
Of course you can avoid paying interest altogether if you pay your bill in full every month. So if you always do that, then you can cross this problem off the list because it won't affect you. However if you are someone who carries a balance on occasion, this is a complaint to consider.
Factor #3: The card's benefits
Although the first two items on the list are mostly negative, this 3rd factor is positive: the benefits that come with the credit card from Belk. The website says there are 35 savings day per year for cardholders. From my experience that's more days than what other department store cards offer. So Belk does a good job with that!
Belk Premier card: If you spend at least $600 per year (and maintain that level of spending) than your card will be the next level up, Premier. With that there are additional benefits; free basic alterations, free gift wrapping, and financing offers with the flex pay plan.
Belk Elite card: This is for accounts which spend at least $1,500 annually. This offers the above benefits plus a few others; pick your own sale days (quarterly), coupons for free shipping, and a 20% off coupon for your birthday.
Factor #4. Qualifying for the card
Adding to the card's positives is qualification. How hard is it to get approved for the Belk department store credit card? Well as is the case with most in this category, the credit score requirements are not excessively high. If you have an average credit history you probably have a good chance of your application being approved. For this reason, this is a good card for those who want to establish their credit history or strengthen a weak/bad history.
Factor #5: It's of limited use
Because the card is not associated with a major payment network like MasterCard or American Express, you can’t use it anywhere besides Belk department stores and their website. And I don’t know about you, but my purse is already cluttered with enough stuff, so the last thing I want to do is apply for a Belk credit card when I can only use it at one place!
Do the positives outweigh the negatives?
If you spend at least $1,500 per year at Belk stores than applying for their credit card could be useful in order to get the benefits. The Premier version for $600+ in annual spending also offers at least one noteworthy benefit; the complimentary alterations.
On the flip side, if you have good credit you will probably be better off with a different rewards card. Some of the new ones in 2013 have very enticing reward programs.
Company History: The first Belk department store was founded in North Carolina nearly 125 years ago (1888!) and obviously since then, they have grown quite a bit - over three hundred stores throughout the Southern states. Belk National Bank was the issuer of the Belk Rewards card until 2005, when they sold the business to GE Money Bank (which has since changed its name to GE Capital Retail Bank). Although the company's stock is now publicly traded, reportedly over 90% of the class A shares are still owned by the Belk family. During the years 2010 and 2011 the store changed to a new logo and a new slogan of "Modern. Southern. Style."