Many Americans Admit to Opening Store Credit Cards on a Whim

Of those Americans who opened a store credit card to save money at the register in the past two years, nearly half confess they never thought of the long-term financial impact.

Now that the bills from the holiday shopping season have rolled in, shoppers may be filled with regret. Not because of how much money they spent, but because they opened a new store credit card in the heat of the moment. Sure, it saved money at the time, but now what?

Knowing that store credit cards often cause more financial trouble than good, Credit Karma was curious to know how many Americans said “yes” when a sales associate asked, “Would you like to save 15% off your bill by opening a credit card? It only takes a few minutes.”

Credit Karma commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct an online survey of 2,051 adults during January 2014. The poll found that 21 percent – or one in five Americans– opted for the discount and opened a store credit card at least once over the past two years. Shockingly, 45 percent of these shoppers admit they didn’t consider the impact on their credit or finances when they filled out the application.

Credit Karma also analyzed data from its more than 20 million members to see how many people opened store credit cards during the recent 2013 holiday shopping season. Credit Karma’s data confirmed that many holiday season shoppers succumb to a “deal.” Compared to the previous January the percentage of new store credit cards more than doubled during the months of November (13 percent) and December (11 percent), signaling the most activity of the year.¹

“Opening a store credit card can be beneficial if you regularly shop at that store,” said Ken Lin, Credit Karma founder and chief consumer advocate. “However, it can also negatively impact your future credit worthiness and your finances, which many Americans don’t think about. That’s when people get into trouble.”

However, no need to panic if you opened a store credit card this past holiday shopping season. Here are some tips on how to maximize the benefits of your newly acquired card:

  • Keep track of your credit utilization.
    • The formula used to determine your credit score takes into account your current credit card balances relative to your credit limits. It’s called your “credit utilization.”
    • Store credit cards often have lower credit limits, so if you’re buying a big-ticket item, such as a TV for $1,000, you might not get the discount you’d hoped for if you’re only approved to spend $500.
    • Keep an eye on your credit utilization on Credit Karma, since a high credit utilization rate negatively impacts your credit.
  • Use it regularly.
    • If you open the card to get a one-time discount and then forget about it, your creditor could mark it as inactive, turning it into another useless card. So be sure to use it regularly.
    • On the other hand, if you rarely visit a store, resist the temptation to open a card there.
  • Pay off your balance.
    • Those double-digit discounts at the cash register are attractive, but if you have a habit of missing payments, be careful. After a couple months, your late fees and interest will add up and, in the end, you could pay more than what you originally saved.
    • Pay off your statement balance in order to avoid interest payments, and be aware that store cards are notorious for having higher interest rates.

“Our goal is to provide people with the tools they need to help them better understand how certain actions can affect their finances and how to maximize the benefits of their financial decisions,” said Lin. “That’s why you can connect your accounts to Credit Karma and keep an eye on your balances and transactions all in one place. You can also see how your everyday financial habits affect your credit score over time, and receive guidance on what credit cards are best for you.”

To learn more, please visit

1. CreditKarma month-by-month data, 2013

Month: Percentage of Store Credit Cards Opened
January: 5%
February: 6%
March: 7%
April: 7%
May: 8%
June: 8%
July: 9%
August: 8%
September: 8%
October: 8%
November: 13%
December: 11%

Survey Methodology

The Harris Interactive survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Credit Karma from January 6-8, 2014 among 2,051 U.S. adult adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Credit Karma Data Methodology

From a sample size of 133,238 Credit Karma members who checked their credit the first week of January 2014, 42,324 opened a store card in 2013. Among those who opened store cards, 64,821 cards were opened total, an average of 1.53 cards per person.

About Credit Karma provides more than 20 million consumers financial peace of mind by tracking their credit and finances all in one place for free. Credit Karma’s goal is to help its members make the most of their credit by offering insightful saving recommendations based on unique data comparisons. It also provides financial education and access to free tools, such as the free Credit Report Card and Card Statics, which empower consumers to take charge of their financial health. For more information, please visit

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for The Harris Poll®, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research across a wide range of industries. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing a client’s research investment. Serving clients worldwide through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help our clients stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit