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Verdict: On the surface, the Sears MasterCard looks like a good value for a store-branded MasterCard. It offers superior rewards, including 15% off your purchase (rather than the standard 10%) when you apply in the store for a card. It is also one of the few cards that still lets you view one of your credit scores (your TransUnion TransRisk score) free.
However, a high APR and many customer complaints tied to the card makes us leery. Additionally, the card only offers 1% cash back on purchases with no obvious options for bonus points– much lower than our top-ranked rewards credit cards for 2013.
For 2013 – 2014 the equivalent of 2,500 points with Discover or American Express will get you a $25 gift card or $25 cash, while the redemption value is lower on the Sears MasterCard, with 2,500 rewards buying a $20 gift card, on average.
The Sears MasterCard Program – No Shortage of Complaints
Sears originally introduced the Discover credit card, and for many years, Discover Bank issued Sears store credit cards and Sears Discover major credit cards. However, within the past decade, Sears has switched to the CitiBank MasterCard as its credit card issuer, and has revamped the rewards program, as well. Unfortunately, better rewards and the Citi affiliation also brought customer service complaints.
A quick Google search brings up HUNDREDS of people complaining on various forums that Citi closed their accounts for no reason — some were Sears customers for 40 years or more!
Other customers complained that Citi lowered their credit limit without warning (of course, this was before the Credit Card Act of 2010), or raised their interest rate to a ridiculous default of 29.99% — for a late payment of just two days.
These actions reflect poorly on both Sears and Citi and make this card not worth the risk, regardless of the rewards or Sears discounts. If you want to earn rewards for shopping at Sears, just get a Sears Shop Your Way Rewards card and earn money off your purchase every time you shop — without paying any interest charges or worrying about your credit rating.
You can only apply in-store for the Sears MasterCard, and you’ll earn 15% off your first purchase if you apply and are accepted on the spot. This is a regular MasterCard, accepted all over the world where MasterCard is accepted, and there is no annual fee for the card.
The Rewards program affiliated with the Sears MasterCard is the Sears Choice Rewards program, accessed through the Sears Choice Rewards portal. You can earn 1% in rewards points for every dollar you spend. You have a choice of a variety of rewards.
The offerings are mostly products carried at Sears, and the program does not have the depth or choices of major rewards credit cards.
Additionally, if you redeem for travel rewards, you may be subject to a service charge of $15. There is no limit to the amount of points you can accumulate, but rewards expire after 3 years.
Outrageous APR Hidden in The Fine Print
The annual APR is not published on the website and is tough to track down — we’ve read reports of everything from 17.99% plus prime, all the way up to a default rate of 29.99%. Regardless of the exact numbers, this is not a card you want to carry a balance on.
After some due diligence, we managed to track down the current APR which is 25.24%! Avoid carrying a balance at all costs!
Yes, There Are Some Benefits…
Some of the benefits on the Sears MasterCard are actually quite good, especially for a card with no annual fee. One of the benefits is free access to Sears’ CreditScore.com program, which tracks your TransUnion TransRisk credit score monthly. In our research, this score is very close to your FICO score from TransUnion, but may differ vastly from your Equifax FICO credit score.
Other benefits include:
- Bonus point events
- MasterCard benefits like Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranty Coverage
- $0 liability on unauthorized purchases
- Returns without a receipt at Sears and affiliates
- Citi Identity Theft Solutions program
Probably Best To Just Avoid The Sears MasterCard
Even though there are some solid benefits with the Sears MasterCard, at the end of the day there are just too many other negative factors weighing it down. Instead of carrying the Sears Mastercard, we recommend getting a cash back rewards card.