Beware of instant credit offers — here are smarter and less costly solutions

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Beware of instant credit offers — here are smarter and less costly solutions
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It’s still 5 months until Christmas, but one big financial player is already planning a new lure to get you to sign up for instant credit at checkout both in store and online this coming holiday season.

Fortunately, we’ve got better options for you!

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Meet Marcus — just don’t take his money!

Wall Street player Goldman Sachs has a new direct loan product in the marketplace called Marcus.

According to The Wall Street Journal, one of the initiatives at Marcus will be offering point-of-sale credit with select retail partners when you’re shopping throughout this year and leading up into the lucrative holiday season.

Consulting firm First Annapolis reports that consumers borrowed $226 billion last year — a third of it for big-ticket items like flat-screen TVs and vacations. The bulk of the $226 billion went on their credit cards so they could take their time paying it off with interest.

And Marcus wants a piece of the action through its emerging instant credit offerings. Goldman Sachs is already engaged in ongoing talks with Apple to finance costly iPhones like the iPhone X for consumers, the Journal reported recently.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs also wants to bring Amazon into the Marcus fold by offering credit to the e-commerce giant’s customers. Other areas of potential growth include lending for vacations, home furnishings and elective medical procedures, the newspaper says.

Check out these alternatives to point-of-sale credit

The loan rates currently being offered by Marcus are more competitive than your typical credit card. The Journal reports they tend to be 5% lower than the average interest rate on a credit card.

But there are still better options out there that won’t charge you any interest on big-ticket purchases if you can jump through some hoops!

Christmas club accounts

If you’re really an advanced planner, you can start a Christmas club account today and have your entire Christmas shopping list budgeted for by the time the holiday sale season rolls around.

Christmas clubs were popular at credit unions in the 1970s, but are lesser so today. Still, approximately 72% of credit unions still offer them, according to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

The basic idea here is that you make little deposits of $10 or $20 a week all year-long into a Christmas club account that typically pays a higher-than-average interest rate. There’s a set date when the short-term savings account matures. Often it’s December 1, but it can vary by credit union.

When that date hits, you can withdraw the money and use it for your holiday shopping needs. If you withdraw the money before that date, you forfeit all interest and may have to pay a penalty.

Find a credit union near you that offers a Christmas club account at ASmarterChoice.org.

Layaway plans

If you don’t want to save all year-long for Christmas, layaway might be the right fit for your life because of its shorter duration.

Walmart has been a leader in the layaway space for several years running now. In fact, it’s already teasing ahead to its layaway plan for Christmas 2018!

In case you’re not familiar with the idea, layaway gives you the chance to put down just $10 or 10% on holiday purchases.

There are no fees to get started and you get to pay off your purchases without interest during the holiday season!

If you don’t pay off your items in full by sometime in mid-December, they’ll be returned to the shelves and you’ll get your down-payment and payments back — minus a $10 cancellation fee.

Sears, Kmart, and Toy R Us have all done layaway for the past few years and are likely to again do it this coming season, too — provided they don’t go bust before then!

Sezzle

Maybe you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to do any pre-planning before big holiday purchases. That’s OK: There’s still a way for you to avoid credit card interest!

Think of Sezzle as the millennial on-demand version of a layaway plan. It’s available all year-round, instead of just at the holidays.

Sezzle pays the entire bill for your purchase at participating merchants and allows you to pay only 25% at the time of the transaction. The remaining 75% is broken out across three additional payments scheduled every two weeks.

If you pay your Sezzle balance in full over four equal installments, there are no fees at all — Sezzle makes its money when you don’t pay on time as agreed.

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller "Living Large in Lean Times."
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