Sears Credit Card Review

Is a Sears credit card right for you? With all the problems Sears has had recently, can you still get savings and rewards from the chain retailer? Find out the answers to these and more!

The Verdict

Sears cards are good if you shop there often and spend a lot

Just when you thought Sears department stores were going kaput, the chain has risen from the ashes to turn a profit.

This means now could be a good time to apply for a Sears credit card!

Recently, US Today reported a profit of $182 million for Sears Holdings in Q1 of 2018.

That is a huge turnaround from the $607 million loss Sears showed at the same period last year.

Sears stores offer a wide variety of products at affordable prices, from appliances to mattresses and apparel; and with the Sears store-branded credit card, shoppers can enjoy savings at both Sears and Kmart department stores.

Sears Holding Company Downsized its Locations in 2017

Sears also offers a Mastercard aimed for consumers who require special financing on big-ticket household items.

Citibank, who's highly regarded in the card industry, issues both of these cards so you know your credit is solid if you happen to own one.

The question really is whether or not you should apply for a Sears credit card.

The simple answer is that if you are nota frequent Sears shopper who purchases big ticket items, you'd probably be better off applying for a credit card with a lower APR and better rewards.

The best Sears rewards program, Shop Your Way, is actually free and doesn't even require a credit card.

So a card with better rates with its own rewards program, combined with a Shop Your Way membership at Sears, could give you better overall savings in the end.

What Makes the Sears Cards So Special?

Customers loyal to Sears brands save on their favorites

Neither the Sears Card or the Sears Mastercard charge an annual fee, which is a must these days, and applicants are automatically enrolled in the Shop Your Way Rewards program upon approval.

Get rewards on more than just Sears items. Customers can use either card at Sears, Sears.com, Kmart, gofer.com, and Lands' End products inside Sears stores.

Customers like the Shop Your Way Rewards. The Sears Card or the Sears Mastercard, along with Sears' targeted promotions, can save you 5–15% on big ticket items.

However, you will need an above average credit score to have one. A credit score of at least 700 is required for approval.

Why People Love Them

The targeted promotions can mean big savings

Sears Shop Your Way members regularly receive cost-saving email coupons and exclusive offers.

Members can log into their accounts just before checkout to view deals and coupons, and apply them to their purchases.

What Are the Downfalls?

Deferred interest and poor customer service

There are plenty of customer complaints about Sears credit cards.

Feeling tricked by the introductory interest deferment offer. It is vital to know the difference between a 0% introductory offer and a deferred interest offer.

Otherwise, you could be in for a nasty surprise if you don't pay off your purchases.

Poor customer service. Sears cardholders report negative experiences when dealing withCiti representatives.

Accounts closed without notice. Long-time cardholders have had their accounts closed due to inactivity without receiving any communication, leading to inconvenient experiences for some.

Confusing rewards programs. Many Sears Choice Rewards members are very confused about the new Shop Your Way program and unsure how to get the most out of it.

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The Competition

Does Walmart offer better credit cards?

Both Sears and Walmart offer similar cards, but which is most useful and offers the best benefits?

Walmart's card offers more flexibility of use. Although it's great you can shop in two department stores with the Sears Card, the Walmart Card can be used in four different places.

That flexibility allows you to use your card at Walmart, Sam's Club, Neighborhood Markets, and Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations.

Sears Can't Compete With Walmart's Business

Walmart cards have lower APRs. Both Sears cards have a high purchase APR of 26.74% and cash advance APR of 28.65%.

Walmart's are considerably less, with a purchase APR of 23.15% and cash advance APR of 25.90%.

Plus, the Walmart Mastercard has a variable APR of 17.15%, 20.15%, or 23.15%.

With good credit, you could be paying much less interest with a Walmart Mastercard than with the Sears counterpart.

Walmart cards are easier to get. To be approved for either Sears card, you must have a minimum credit score of 700, but Walmart approves even those in the mid-600's … even some in the 500's, with low credit limits.

By the way, in case you want to improve that low credit score of yours, did you know that taking out a small personal loan just might help?

Because it's a different type of loan, having it included in your credit report can add a boost to your score.

Sears offers 5% gas savings, but only for a limited time period. Walmart cards offer continuing 3-2-1 savings: 3% cash back for Walmart and Sam's Club purchases, 2% at eligible gas stations, and 1% cash back everywhere else.

Walmart cards and Mastercards are both eligible for 3-2-1 savings. Only the Sears Mastercard is eligible for the bonus points in the first year.

Plus, save 5 cents per gallon on gas purchased at Walmart or Murphy USA stations with either card.

Walmart's points don't expire. Sears points expire after one year.

There are more Walmart stores in the US. Walmart has 5,000 stores across the US and Puerto Rico, while Sears has only about 875 stores left open with plans to close another 103 in 2018 despite the turnaround seen earlier.

Walmart's cards provide better value. With the above comparisons in mind, Walmart does offer more savings than the Sears card.

However, the choice is really about where you prefer to shop and the brand names that you like.

How Sears Mastercard compares to Walmart Mastercard

Sears Walmart
How high of a credit score do you need? 700> 550>
Average APR? 26.74% Variable APR of 17.15%, 20.15%, or 23.15%
Annual fee? 0 0
How big of a sign-up bonus do you get? $150 statement credit $25 off when you open your account and spend $25 the same day
How much do you need to spend to get the bonus? $1,500 in first 90 days $25
How many points do you get for every dollar? 1 point For the first 12 months, 5% points on gas, 3% on groceries and restaurants, up to $10,000 2% points on Sears and Kmart purchases for first 12 months 3% cash back for Walmart and Sam's Club purchases, 2% at eligible gas stations, and 1% cash back everywhere else
Any restrictions? No points on balance transfers, cash advances, annual credit card membership fees, money orders, wire transfers, bets, lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, credit insurance premiums, AccountCare fees, interest charges, and credit card fees No points on cash advances, interest charges, purchases made using the sign-up offer, special financing, and fees
If you spent $100 on the card, then how much would the points be worth in dollars? $5 on gas, $3 on groceries up to $10,000 for the first 12 months, $2 on Sears and Kmart purchases for first 12 months, and $1 on all purchases after that $3 on purchases from Walmart.com, $2 on gas from Walmart or Murphy USA stations, and 1$ on everything else
How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)? No fees No fees

Since there is a sizeable 20% overlap between Sears customers and those that use Citi financial products, here are some other Citi cards which offer better interest rates than the Sears cards:

Earn double cashback with the Citi Double Cash Card

If you are looking for a real cash back card, you can't really do better than the Citi Double Cash card.

$100 cash back sign-up bonus. Spend $500 in the first three months and get a hundred bucks back!

Earn unlimited double cash back. You get 1% off when you make your purchase and another 1% when you pay for your purchase.

Low APR with a good credit score. The variable APR is only 14.99–24.99%.

Citi Simplicity Card for big ticket items

This is a great card to combine with Shop Your Way for savings on those large household purchases at Sears.

0% introductory APR for 18 months. This means that you actually don't start paying interest for 18 months instead of just having it deferred.

Low APR. After your APR kicks in, you will only pay a variable rate between 15.49% and 25.49%.

The Question Everyone's Asking

Why are the rewards so confusing?

Sears currently offers two separate rewards programs—Shop Your Way and Sears Choice Rewards—and Citi offers the ThankYou Rewards program.

The difference between the programs are a bit confusing.

The reason for the confusion is that Sears sold its Financial Products business and credit card operations to Citi in late 2003.

Changes to rewards programs also came with the switch.

All Sears Card or Sears Mastercard holders were to be automatically enrolled in the Shop Your Way Rewards program in 2016.

If you are a Sears Mastercard holder and have not been enrolled in ThankYou Rewards, contact Citibank to get your free membership.

How It All Works

Sears Card is accepted at Sears, Sears.com, and Kmart

The Sears store-branded card benefits include savings when shopping for items at Sears, Sears.com, and Kmart stores.

It also provides helpful financing, special offers, exclusive events, and coupons.

Special financing on select items at Sears or Sears.com. These include home appliances, electronics, fitness equipment, home improvement, and automotive products.

Monthly deals and special offers for cardholders. Sears provides exclusive offers including events, coupons, and opportunities to earn bonus Shop Your Way rewards points.

Easy 24/7 account management. Pay bills and check balances and available credit online or by phone.

Sears Mastercard saves you money on gas and food

The Sears Mastercard has all the same perks as the Sears Card, but with all the benefits of a Mastercard, and two extra rewards programs.

Universal card acceptance. Your Sears Mastercard is accepted anywhere that takes Mastercard payments.

Account protection and $0 fraud liability. Protection includes Citi Identity Theft Resolution Services.

Special financing on select items. These include home appliances, electronics, fitness equipment, tools, and automotive items.

Earn a $150 statement credit in first 90 days. Spend $1,500 on your card in the first two months and you'll receive this bonus.

Earn bonus points on gas and food up to $10,000 in the first year. Purchase gas from eligible stations for 5% more points, and buy groceries or eat out for 3% more points in the first 12 months.

Earn 2% more on purchases for the first year.Use your card at Sears and Kmart for 2% more points for the first 12 months.

Three different Sears rewards programs

American consumers love rewards, and it remains the leading reason we apply for credit cards and although the Sears rewards programs are not the best out there, you get to earn and redeem rewards points in a variety of ways.

Shop Your Way is free for anyone

Both the Sears Card and the Sears Shop Your Way Mastercard include automatic enrollment in the Shop Your Way program, but it is open to all Sears shoppers, regardless if you carry plastic.

Because points are also earned on cash purchases.

Base Points are 1 point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases. Earn and redeem points at all Sears stores, Kmart, mygofer, and for Lands' End merchandise within Sears stores or Shop Your Way partners.

Points expire after one year. Beware the fact that Shop Your Way points expire after your first year as a member.

CASHBACK is not really cash, but points. When Sears says you get "CASHBACK," what it means is that you can use your points to save cash when purchasing their products.

It is not actually cash that you can spend however and wherever you want.

The points also have special requirements like a minimum purchase amount, early expiration, and products within certain categories.

The Shop Your Way mobile app is great for in-store savings. Customers can check store deals, use coupons, and be notified of secret sales.

You can also compare prices and enter contests via the app.

Survey: How Does the Shop Your Way App Rate

VIP program offer perks in three spending tiers

VIP status is based on how much you spend in a calendar year.

Reach Silver membership when you spend $2,500 annually, Gold when you spend $5,000, and Platinum at $10,000.

All VIP levels receive extra points and offers. Members get 20% in points on computer accessories and Alphaline Electronics, $4.99 oil change and tire rotations twice a year, early sales alerts, and a shipping discount.

Special bonus days earn more points per quarter. Silver members get 5% more points, Gold members get 10%, and Platinum gets 14%.

Birthday bonus points for a whole month. Silver members get 5% bonus points on eligible purchases made during their birthday month, Gold members get 10% bonus points, and Platinum members get 15%.

Sears Choice Rewards are for Mastercard holders only

Sears Choice Rewards is a different program for Mastercard holders that allows you to collect points every time you use your card, wherever MasterCard is accepted.

You can earn both Shop Your Way and Sears Choice Rewards points by using your Shop Your Way membership along with your Mastercard on eligible purchases.

However, you cannot combine Shop Your Way and Sears Choice Rewards points.

Citi ThankYou Rewards can earn more points faster

Sears Mastercard holders can also apply for the Citi ThankYou Rewards program through Citibank.

The benefits of this program are that it offers more ways to earn points, one account to pool all earned points, and the ability to transfer points to other loyalty programs, including Shop My Way.

Redeem points for products, travel, gift cards, and cash, or share them with other ThankYou Rewards members.

Redeem cash rewards in $50 and $100 increments.

Points can also be purchased.

Easy, accessible online application

Applying for either Sears-branded card can be done online or by visiting any Sears location in person.

You must provide an email address to apply online.

Age of majority. To qualify for either card, you must be 18 years of age or above.

Creditworthiness determines your credit limit. The amount of credit extended to you will depend on financial information including employment, debt-to-income ratio, and payment history.

Citi offers instant approval

If you do not get an instant approval for your Sears Card or Sears Mastercard, it could take a few weeks for Citi to process your approval.

To check the status of your approval, contact Citi's customer service at 1-800-669-8488.

After approval, your card will arrive by mail in 7 to 10 business days.

The Negative Side of Applying for Credit

A variety of bill payment options

The easiest way to make a Sears credit card payment is online through your Sears Credit Account, but there are also other ways to pay.

To pay by phone, call the Sears Credit Card Customer Services at 1-800-815-7701.

To pay online, log into your account and make your payment by credit card, debit card, or net banking ID.

You can also set up automatic monthly bank payments.

Pay in person at any Sears or Kmart location using debit or credit cards, cash, or check.

Pay by mail by sending a check or money order to: Sears Card and Sears MasterCard, P.O. Box 9001055, Louisville, KY 40290-1055.

Send overnight payments to Sears Payment Center/Overnight, 6716 Grade Lane, Building 9, STE 910, Louisville, KY 40213.

Penalty fees for late payments are up to $37. If you haven't had another late payment in the past six months, the late fee is $27.

Your balance determines the minimum payment due. If you do not intend to pay off the entire balance of your Sears credit card at once, you must pay a minimum balance within 25 days of your purchase to avoid penalty fees.

Citi calculates your minimum payment by the amount of daily interest charges on your balance.

Beware the downsides to both Sears credit cards

High APR and deferred interest programs

The devil is always in the details, and it's no different with the Sears credit cards' small print.

Here are some of the less attractive aspects of the cards.

High APR means you should not carry a balance. With a purchase APR of 26.74% and a 28.65% rate for cash advances, you will definitely need to pay the card monthly to not incur big bills.

The Sears cards also have a balance transfer APR of 26.74% with a $10 or 5% fee, whichever is greater.

Deferred interest is not the same as 0% introductory interest. Deferred interest still builds, you just don't see it on your bill until the introductory time period expires (6–60 months).

This means you must pay off your balance before the end of the deferred time period, otherwise, not only does the purchase APR kick in going forward, but it is also retroactively applied starting from the day of your first transaction.

Requires an average or above credit score. You will need a credit score of at least 700 for approval.

Bonus points program does not persist. The introductory 5% points on gas, 3% points on groceries and restaurants, and 2% points on Sears and Kmart products only lasts for 12 months.

Points expire.Shop Your Way points expire after one year.

FAQ

  • How long does it take Sears to refund your card?

    Usually a few days after they have received a mailed payment. It is faster online, by phone, or in person.

  • How can I check my Sears Mastercard balance?

    Easily manage your credit card account online through your Sears Credit Account.

  • How do I withdraw money from Sears Mastercard?

    Make cash advances at any ATM that accepts Mastercard.

    For every cash advance, you'll be charged a 5% or $5 fee, whichever is higher.

  • Can I use my Sears Mastercard without the card?

    No, you must present your card to pay with it.

  • How to add an authorized user to Sears Mastercard?

    You can add an authorized user to your card by logging into your online account or contacting credit services by phone.

  • Which credit bureaus does Sears report to?

    Sears reports to all three credit bureaus.

  • What FICO score do I need to be eligible?

    700 or above.

  • Can I upgrade my Sears Card to a Sears Mastercard?

    Yes, and often Sears will do this automatically for loyal customers.

  • How soon can I use my Sears Mastercard once I receive it?

    Activate your card by calling 1-800-887-1403 as soon as you receive it and you are good to go.

  • How to contact Sears Mastercard services?

    By mail: Sears Mastercard, P.O. Box 6275, Sioux Falls, SD 57117. By phone: general 1-800-669-8488 or collections 1-800-733-1116.

  • How to register my Sears Mastercard online?

    After you receive your card, register online at Citibank Online.

  • How can I change my information on my Sears Mastercard?

    Change your information by logging into your online account or contacting credit card services by phone.

  • How can I increase the credit limit on Sears Mastercard?

    You can request an increase to your credit limit by logging into your account online.

  • How to report a lost or stolen Sears Mastercard?

    Contact Citibank 24/7 at 1-800-819-9000.

  • How can I cancel my Sears Mastercard?

    You can cancel your card online or by phone.

  • Can someone cosign for a Sears Mastercard?

    Yes, you can have a co-applicant and a joint account.

  • Can I pay my Sears Mastercard with PayPal?

    No, although you can make online purchases at Sears.com using PayPal.

  • Can I use my card overseas/abroad? If yes, what are the related fees?

    You can use your Sears Mastercard outside the US, but expect a 3% foreign transaction fee each time you do.

  • Why is my card not qualified for the Shop Your Way Rewards?

    Shop Your Way Rewards are not credit card-specific—anyone can become a member for free, you simply need to register at a store near you.

  • If my late payment gets waived, will it still reflect in my payment history?

    Late payments are usually only reported to the credit bureaus if they are more than 30 days late.

  • Will the card reflect on my credit report if I am an authorized user?

    Yes, Citi can and will report you to the credit bureaus even if you are not the primary cardholder.

Save more with a low APR card and Shop Your Way rewards

A Sears credit card has a high APR and there is not any real savings in deferred payments unless you are absolutely sure you can pay off your balance before the deferment period expires.

If Sears has your favorite brands, you can take advantage of their loyalty program even without applying for a Sears credit card.

Use a low APR card together with your Shop Your Way membership to get all the perks without the high costs.

Do you use the Sears Card or Sears Mastercard?

How has the card worked out for you so far?

Any helpful tips or customer experience stories you wish to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below!

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