A Sears card was the ultimate department store card and was accepted by the public long before credit became as widely used as it is today.
From 1933 to 1993, the most popular catalog in the US was the Christmas edition of the Sears catalog known as the “wish book”.
Children spent hours poring over the hundreds of page of toys while adults ordered Christmas gifts confident of the quality, delivery and customer service that Sears was known for.
The Rise of The Sears Cards
It is likely that much of the success of the Sears chain of department stores in the years from 1960 to 1980 could be attributed directly to the credit card.
This department store card could be used only for purchases made through Sears but the trusted name of the Sears brand easily carried over to the credit card for consumers.
It is hard to imagine today but consumers found the customer service provided by Sears to be as good in the credit department as it was in the store.
A consumer who had a short term financial problem that kept them from making a payment could call the credit office and be allowed to skip a payment in an emergency.
If they mailed a payment late, they would be charged a small fee of $10 only if the payment was more than ten days late.
Problems in the Marketplace
The economic downturn in the 1980’s combined with the increased availability of discount stores such as WalMart and big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot led to a decline in sales at all Sears stores.
The credit card division at Sears had become problematic. With MasterCard and Visa more readily available even to consumers with credit problems, consumers were buying at the cheaper outlets.
Sears could not compete in price and those consumers who had used their card because they needed to use credit for holidays or tools were buying elsewhere.
Sears Card Goes Mainstream
Citibank purchased the Sears retail card division in 2003 and the remaining credit operations were purchased by JP Morgan Chase in 2005. Today, cards are operated in the same businesslike manner as any major credit account.
The card is still used by those loyal to the Sears brand. The high level of customer service is a thing of the past, but that is true today of all credit lenders. The massive number of credit account holders makes it impossible to provide individualized services.
The value of the Sears card is now in the dollars cardholders can save. With monthly savings and coupon offers and special financing offers, you can find great discounts on products you need and finance large purchases over six months with no interest fees.
The frequent special offers are mailed to cardholders and featured in their account online. Another highly featured benefit is instant access to your credit score. You can add additional users to your account and can make returns to the store without a receipt.
- What is the required FICO score in order to obtain a card from Sears?
- The Sears Gold card is different from the standard department store card.
Today Sears focuses on the items it is best known for. Household goods, clothing and a branded line of top quality tools still draw customers to this department store chain.
The easy terms of the original Sears cards are now terms that are similar to any major card with interest rates and late fees that must be carefully considered.
For those who shop Sears stores, it makes sense to gain the additional buying power and benefits offered by the name brand Sears.