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Don't get bullied by store cashiers into a credit card this holiday season

I'm Sarah - wife to my amazing husband, John, and mom to two little girls, Cami and Maisie.  I used to work in the finance industry before having my daughters, and now I'm a freelance personal finance writer and blogger.  I love being wi...

Survey shows shoppers are wary of credit card pressure tactics at the register

I’ll admit, I actually feel nervous to check out at certain stores. With a toddler and a baby in tow, I really (really) just want to pay for my items and leave. If waiting in line while keeping my kids entertained isn’t enough, I now have to endure pressure from the sales clerk to open a store credit card. “No thank-you,” I politely say. “But you don’t want to save 10 percent?” he or she says. “No, I’m in a hurry. Maybe next time,” I say (while fuming inside). “But it doesn’t take long, one minute tops.” The pressure builds, my kids are screaming and I said “No!”

Well, the good news is that I’m not alone. According to a new survey by Credit.com, an astonishing 31 percent of Americans feel bullied by store clerks into opening a store credit card during the holiday shopping season. Of those that do succumb to the pressure and open a store credit card, almost half (49 percent) regret it and more than half (57 percent) avoid returning to the store where they felt bullied.

Is it really worth it for stores to force their sales clerks to get customers to open credit cards? Based on this survey, it seems they wind up losing customers by pressuring them into doing something they do not want or plan on doing. With the average American credit card debt sitting at more than $15,000 per household and growing, are credit cards really the answer to better personal finances and an improved economy?

While increased spending does lead to more jobs and, therefore, a better economy, you should still only be spending equal to or less than you earn. Living above your means is stressful, it’s expensive (hello 27 percent interest rates) and it traps you into your current lifestyle. While sales clerks can put an immense amount of pressure you on, unless you planned on opening the card before walking into the store, it’s best to continue politely saying no and walking away. Remember, store clerks have to ask you all those questions. They’re forced to try to convince you why you need a credit card.

Before opening a store credit card, Credit.com’s Gerri Detweiler shares five questions you should ask yourself.

  1. How much will I really save? Let’s be honest. You’re usually suckered into opening one because of the discount you will save on your purchase. But is it worth it? Ask yourself if opening the card will make you spend more money at that store down the line. If so, probably not worth it. Instead, look for a coupon.
  2. How often do I shop here? Again, if the store credit card is going to make you shop at that store when you normally wouldn’t, don’t do it. Detweiler advises to set the threshold in advance. For example, only getting the credit card if you already shop there once a week.
  3. Will it help or hurt my credit? If you’re already knee-deep in credit card debt, do not open the credit card no matter how much you’ll “save.”
  4. Is this the right time? If you’re planning on using a loan to purchase a house or a car within the next six months, it’s best to decline the offer.
  5. Is this store credit card good? Check reviews of the best store credit cards on Credit.com. Some cards aren’t actually all that bad and offer rewards to savvy shoppers. Again, the key is knowing in advance whether or not you want the card and not opening one because of pressure from the sales clerk.

The National Retail Federation recently released its Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, stating that Americans will spend an average of $804.42 this year on gifts, up 5 percent from last year. Sales clerks know shoppers may be more convinced this time of year to open up a credit card.

Before heading out for your holiday shopping extravaganza, create a budget and stick to it. Know in advance if you’re going to open a store credit card and know which stores you plan on opening one at.

Happy shopping!

We want to know! Do you feel pressured from sales clerks? Have you ever opened a store credit card only to regret it later? Let us know in the comments below.

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