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Store card debt. Advice if you're in arrears.

Store cards are a type of finance agreement that lets you buy goods in certain shops and pay for them later.

You get a plastic card which you can use to pay, and you’ll be billed later by the store card company. You can choose to pay the debt in one go or pay it off over time in instalments.

Features of store cards

Most store cards will give you an incentive to open an account. This could be a percentage off your first purchase on the card, vouchers, access to special events or other perks.

This can make a store card look like a good idea, but there’s a big catch – the rate of interest is usually 20-30% APR or more, which is higher than many credit cards.

This means if you get the discounts and pay off the card balance straight away, you should end up saving money. But if you don’t pay it off immediately, the interest rate means that you are likely to end up paying a lot more.

Some of the risks of store cards are:

  • It’s tempting to spend on a store card and run up a debt that you can’t pay off in full at the end of the month
  • You’re more likely to use your store card instead of shopping around for the best deal. This means you can end up missing better bargains elsewhere
  • Store cards usually have a small credit limit, but this may be increased as you keep using the card. A higher credit limit means you risk running up a larger debt which will be harder to repay
  • Store cards are often promoted in shops at the tills, but the shop staff may not be able to give full information about interest rates, minimum payments or charges. Store cards may be promoted to people who don’t need them or can’t afford them

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Store card minimum payments

All store cards have a minimum amount you must pay back each month.

The minimum payment is usually just a bit more than the monthly interest charged.

This means if you only pay the minimum payment on a card, it will take a very long time to repay. Always try to pay more than the minimum amount if you can afford it.

Store card arrears

If you don’t pay the minimum payment every month, your account will go into arrears. Charges will be added for each missed payment, usually £12 each time.

Your creditor will contact you to demand the missing payments are made, and if you don’t do this eventually the account will default and further action may be taken.

For more information on what action a store card provider can take to collect a debt, see our what your creditors can do section.

Store card debt help

If you’ve got a store card that you’re struggling to pay, we can help you. Our online Debt Remedy tool can give you personalised debt advice and recommend a tailored solution to help deal with the debts you have.

If you’d prefer to talk to us, call our Helpline (free from all landlines and mobiles).

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“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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© StepChange Debt Charity 2018