Impulse at the check-out line: Holiday shopping and credit card offers

Watch out for credit card offers that will save you money at checkout

It is a well-known practice, impulse items placed at the checkout line. These items are strategically placed to catch your eye as you unload your shopping cart. Gum, candy, assorted snacks and a growing assortment of miscellaneous items like pipe cleaners and nail clippers are placed at just the right level along with the array of magazines with “gotcha” headlines. Within the past few years a growing number of gift cards have shown up as well. Many of these items could be considered convenience items, last minute gifts, something to eat on the commute home.

More recently you are even offered a chance to save money instantly. This is great! You are not adding to your total, you are actually saving money! What’s the catch? “Excuse me sir,” says the sales associate. “Would you like to save ten percent on your purchase today?” You think of your budget. Money is tight right now. “I sure would,” you reply. “Great!” replies the associate. “I just need to get some information from you. You will not only save ten percent today. You will save five percent on all additional purchases!” This is beginning to sound better and better. Sure, you have to sign up for a “box store” credit card, but you will really save on the big screen television in your cart. What could be the down side?

Did you know that every time a merchant signs you up for a credit card, they check your credit? Did you know that every time your credit is checked for such an application, it may have an effect on your credit score? According to statistics reported by the Federal Reserve, American consumers hold more than 880 billion dollars in revolving debt. Have you ever heard the saying, “the house always wins?”

The box store credit card offers to save you 10 percent on your purchase will save you money if you pay off the balance each month.  What box stores want is for you to buy more box store stuff. If you are not disciplined enough, the credit card offers are not being made to save you money. If box store wanted you to save money with no strings attached, they could hand out ten percent-off coupons at the checkout. Store credit cards are meant for you to spend more money at the store and to charge interest if you do not pay the balance. Be prepared and look for ways to save money. Make a list of the items that you want to buy and sleep on it. Compare prices for the items on the list at a number of stores. Be efficient and plan your trips ahead of time. Resist the check-out line offers.

Credit is not the problem. Too much credit is the problem. Maybe you can resist the extra plastic in your wallet. Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of money management programs throughout the state of Michigan. For more information, check out this website .

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