Sears is one of the nation’s leading merchandise retailers and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD). Its history dates to 1886, when a railroad station agent named Richard Sears began selling gold watches by mail and wound up building a business empire with a mail-order catalog that sold everything from hats to houses.
Formerly called Sears, Roebuck, and Co., the company continued to thrive into the late 20th century, opening stores coast to coast and acquiring brands including Kmart, Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard.
The company has hit rocky times in recent years, filing for bankruptcy protection in 2018. Once the nation's predominant retailer and its biggest employer, with more than 3,000 stores nationwide, Sears now operates only about 33 Sears stores and 18 Kmart stores across the U.S. in addition to its websites.
- Sears offers a store credit card and a MasterCard co-branded card with several levels of rewards and perks.
- Cardholders can earn cashback rewards points to be redeemed in-store or online, in addition to seasonal promotions like no-interest financing on certain purchases.
- The cards have no annual fee.
How the Sears Credit Card Works
Sears offers a standard in-store SearsCard and has also partnered with Citibank of Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) to offer its customers a variety of co-branded general-use "Shop Your Way" credit cards with rewards and benefits programs. These cards earn points from everyday purchases such as gasoline or food and can be redeemed at Sears locations.
The most basic level of the Shop Your Way credit card is the Sears Card, which customers can use in-store at Sears and Kmart or at their websites. The Sears "Shop Your Way" MasterCard from Citibank can be used to pay for purchases anywhere MasterCard is accepted.
Sears Home Services Financing
Another option for store credit is the Sears Home Services Account. The account offers 18-month zero-interest financing on home improvement items such as heating and air conditioning equipment, windows, vinyl siding, kitchen remodels, or cabinets.
Cardholders can use this card to finance purchases with the Sears Home Services division, which also assists with the installation and maintenance of these large purchases. For example, customers who want to upgrade their homes' flooring can get both the material and installation completed with the Sears Home Services group.
The process includes a five- to 10-minute call and then an in-home consultation.
The Shop Your Way Credit Card
Shop Your Way MasterCards allow cardholders to earn 5% back on eligible gasoline purchases and 3% back on grocery stores and restaurants (limited to the first $10,000 of qualifying payments, then 1% thereafter), plus 2% back when used at Sears or Kmart, and 1% on all other purchases.
Cardholders also are eligible for various seasonal promotions such as additional discounts on selected purchases or no-interest financing for a period of time.
Sears Home Services offers free in-home consultation and 18 months zero-interest financing on major home improvement and remodeling purchases.
All three cards carry no annual fee and give users access to online services, $0 liability on unauthorized purchases, advance notice of any Sears’ sales events, and identity theft resolution services.
For the Sears Card and Sears MasterCard, new applicants have two options: get $10 off when approved and a purchase is made that day, or six months of special financing on purchases made that day.
Both cards also include a number of exclusive offers. For example, cardholders can get 5% off electronics items over $599 or no interest if the balance is paid in full within 12 months. There are similar offers for home appliances, fitness items, lawn and garden items, tools, sporting goods, furniture, and mattresses.
The Sears Home Improvement Account is more straightforward, offering only zero-interest financing for 18 months for purchases of certain high-priced items.
Rewards and Benefits
Shoppers who make frequent large purchases at Sears benefit the most from getting a Sears card. The biggest benefit to having one of the cards is the offer of 5% off a big-ticket purchase or no-interest financing.
Most of the card benefits require spending at least $299 a year in each category. A person who does not make regular large purchases from Sears would not necessarily benefit from having a Sears card over the long term.
Customers planning a major home remodel or upgrade home might consider the Sears Home Improvement Account card. Instead of paying for the remodels immediately or with another credit card, the Sears Home Improvement Account gives the option for no-interest repayment over a longer period.
How to Get the Sears Credit Card
Customers can apply for the Sears credit card or the Sears MasterCard on the Sears website or at a Sears or Kmart store.
Applicants must provide personal financial information and submit a credit check.
Those interested in the Sears Home Services Account can call Sears Home Services at 1-800-469-4663 or get more details at the Sears Home Services website. Once a purchase is made, Sears Home Services will work with the cardholder to develop the length and terms of repayment.
Required Credit Score
Sears and MasterCard, like most credit issuers, do not post guidance on their credit rating requirements. However, credit cards of this type are generally easier to get than many others for a couple of reasons: the credit limit issued can be fairly low and the interest charged for carrying a balance forward is high. That makes them relatively non-risky and very lucrative for the issuer.
An applicant with a credit score of about 640, or within the "fair" range, is likely to get approved.
Applicants must be at least 18 years or older, or 21 if living in Puerto Rico.
Where Can the Card Be Used?
The Sears credit card can be used at the stores and websites of Sears, Kmart, and Land's End (a Sears spinoff).
The Sears MasterCard can be used anywhere that MasterCard is accepted.
There are many other credit cards available to consumers that provide rewards programs for usage.
Sears has several competitors in the retail space that offer such cards and promotions, such as Walmart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY), and Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M). Each of these retailers offers its customers credit cards. For example, a My Best Buy card allows up to 18 months of special financing for any major appliances as well as 5% back in rewards points.
The Walmart credit card offers 3% savings on Walmart.com purchases, 2% savings on Murphy USA and Walmart gas, and 1% savings at Walmart and anywhere else the card is accepted.
Consumers who make large purchases at Home Depot can use the Consumer Credit Card that allows up to 24 months of financing during special promotions and includes a one-year hassle-free return policy.
The Sears Credit Card Interest Rates, Terms and Conditions
The transaction fee for cash advances is the greater of $5 or 5% of the amount of the cash advance.
Cardholders looking to take advantage of some of the benefits offered with the credit cards should carefully read the financing disclosures and exclusions. For example, the home appliances benefit does not apply to air conditioners, fans, heaters, countertop microwaves, sewing machines, and several other items.
The Sears Home Improvement Account has a variable APR of up to 26.49% after the introductory period, depending on the creditworthiness of the applicant.
Who Should Consider the Sears Credit Card?
Sears may be a shadow of its former self, but it has a long-held reputation for quality appliances, tools, auto parts, and lawn and garden equipment. It may not be the first name on most peoples' minds these days when they're considering a major purchase for the home, but the Sears.com website is worth a price comparison with other retailers.
For appliances, it carries brands like Frigidaire, GE, and LG as well as its own Kenmore brand. Its tools department has Dewalt and Black&Decker as well as Craftsman, the brand it once built and owned. It no longer owns the DieHard battery brand but it still sells them, along with other name brands.
If you happen to live near one of the few remaining Sears stores, the basic store card could come in handy. The company maintains an online store locator.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Sears Credit Card?
A Sears credit card or a "Shop Your Way" Sears MasterCard may be most useful for a consumer who is considering purchasing one or more big-ticket items like home appliances or tires. The offer of 5% off or a zero-interest financing period is useful for major investments in the home.
Sears carries a wide range of appliances, hardware, and home and garden equipment. It carries shoes, toys, and jewelry, too, although it's hard to name a competitive advantage in those departments that Sears has over the likes of Amazon.com or Walmart, among many others.
The real benefits of the card kick in for purchases of big-ticket items, or at least those who spend $300 or above a year in a department.
Is It Hard to Get a Sears Credit Card?
Applicants for a Sears Credit Card or a Sears MasterCard should find it relatively easy to obtain credit from either as long as their credit ratings are within the "fair" range, or about 640.
If you're a young person just starting out, it might be a good way to help you acquire some basics for your first home. Just be sure to pay it off quickly. That way you'll avoid those high finance charges and also boost your credit rating over time.
Does Citibank Own the Sears Credit Card?
Sears and Citibank jointly issue a credit card, which can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted but has rewards for Sears purchases. Citibank is the card administrator, so your bill will come from a Citibank address.
This type of co-branded card is now commonly available from American retailers.
The Bottom Line
Business writers and financial analysts sometimes refer to Sears as a "zombie retailer," and for good reason. Once a behemoth of American retailing, Sears has shrunk to a handful of aging stores and has unloaded some of the brands it built from scratch, like DieHard batteries and Kenmore appliances.
Yet those brands are still available, as are many other major brand names, at the Sears website. Consumers considering investing in new appliances or other major home upgrades might at least price-check Sears and its financing options against those of its many competitors.