How the Sears Credit Card Works: Benefits & Rewards (SHLD)

Sears is one of the nation’s leading merchandise retailers and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD). It has a long history of more than 100 years and has expanded its brand to names such as Kmart, Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard. Sears has also partnered with Citibank from Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) to offer its customers three different types of credit cards with various rewards and benefits programs.

How a Sears Credit Card Works

The most basic credit card available is the Sears Card, which customers can use at Sears, Kmart, Sears.com and Kmart.com. Sears also offers the Sears MasterCard, which customers can use to purchase items anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

The third option is the Sears Home Improvement Account, which is ideal for customers who purchase large installed home improvement items. This card can only be used to purchase items such as heating and air conditioning, windows, vinyl siding, kitchen remodels or cabinet refaces. Cardholders can use this card to finance purchases with the Sears Home Services division, which also assists with the installation and maintenance of these large purchases. For example, customers looking to improve their homes' flooring can get both the material and installation completed with the Sears Home Services group. To begin, there is a five- to 10-minute call and then an in-home consultation.

Customers can apply for one of these credit cards online or at a Sears or Kmart location. Applicants must provide personal information so Citibank can check and approve the applicant based on a credit background. For the Sears Home Improvement Account, applicants can get more information from the store or call Sears Home Services at 1-800-469-4663. Once a purchase is made in-store, Sears Home Services will work with the cardholder to develop the length and terms of repayment.

Sears Rewards & Benefits

All three cards give users access to online services, $0 liability on unauthorized purchases, advanced notice of any Sears’ sales events and identity theft resolution services. For the Sears Card and Sears MasterCard, new applicants have two options: get $10 off when approved and a purchase is made that day, or six months of special financing on purchases made that day. Both credit cards also have a variety of credit offers. For example, cardholders can get 5% off electronics items over $599 or no interest if the balance is paid in full within 12 months. There are similar offers for home appliances, fitness items, lawn and garden items, tools, sporting goods, furniture and mattresses.

The Sears Home Improvement Account has no credit offers other than to allow the cardholder to make monthly payments on larger high-priced items.

Who Benefits the Most?

Shoppers who make frequent large purchases at Sears benefit the most from getting a Sears card. The biggest benefit to having one of the cards is to get either 5% off a large purchase or no-interest financing. The majority of the benefits come from spending at least $299 a year on most of the categories. A person who does not make regular large purchases from Sears would not necessarily see benefit from a Sears card over the long term.

Customers looking to do a major remodel or improvement to their home should consider the Sears Home Improvement Account card. Instead of paying for the remodels immediately or with another credit card, the Sears Home Improvement Account gives the option for a repayment plan over a longer period.

Alternatives

There are many other credit cards available to consumers that provide rewards programs for usage. The Citi Double Cash Card gives its users 1% cash back when purchases are made, and then 1% cash back when the balance is paid off.

Sears has several competitors in the retail space, such as Walmart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) and Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M). Each of these retailers offers its customers credit cards. For example, a My Best Buy card allows up to 18 months of special financing for any major appliances as well as 5% back in rewards points. The Walmart credit card offers 3% savings on Walmart.com purchases, 2% savings on Murphy USA and Walmart gas, and 1% savings at Walmart and anywhere else the card is accepted. Consumers that make large purchases at Home Depot can use the Consumer Credit Card that allows up to 24 months of financing during special promotions and a one-year hassle-free return policy.

The Fine Print

Both the Sears Card and Sears MasterCard have APRs of 25.49% for purchases and 27.40% APR for cash advances. The transaction fee for cash advances is the greater of $5 or 5% of the amount of the cash advance. Applicants must be at least 18 years or older, or 21 if living in Puerto Rico.

Cardholders looking to take advantage of some of the benefits offered from the credit cards should carefully read the financing disclosures and exclusions. Each offer is subject to change without notice and is only valid for certain periods of time. For example, the home appliances benefit does not apply to air conditioners, fans, heaters, countertop microwaves, sewing machines and several other items.

The Sears Home Improvement Account has an APR of 14.65 or 18.65%, depending on the creditworthiness of the applicant.

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