Sears Credit Card: A new fast one from MasterCard

What should come in the mail today but a notice that, o lucky me, I soon will be receiving a shiny new gold-plated MasterCard to replace my ancient Sears credit card, which I thought I’d canceled years ago.

Huh. “Your new card gives you MORE!” 

Oh boyoboyoboy! 

“Earn Rewards Points!…
…with FREE membership in Sears Choice Rewards when you call 1-800-669-8488 and enroll by 10/31/09″

“Plus Earn Up To 1,500 Bonus Points!!!!!”

Be still, my heart. I can hardly contain my excitement.

At first I thought this thing is a straight-out replacement for the Sears card, which materialized some time back when I bought some appliances on one of those 12-month no-interest deals. If you have the cash to pay upfront, these offers can be played to your benefit: you just set the money aside a high-interest online bank account or into your credit union’s highest-paying account or 9-month CD. Then in the 11th month, you pay off the debt in full. Allows you to earn a few dollars on the float. Makes you feel smug.

However, a study of the fine print reveals that you don’t lose your regular Sears charge account unless you call an 800 number and have the MasterCard activated. If you do nothing, well then…nothing happens. The Sears card does not go away, and the MasterCard does not function. But if you don’t want them to send you an unsolicited credit card, the better to expose you to identity theft, then you have to waste some time navigating their punch-a-button maze to call and tell them to knock it off.

Well, I thought I’d closed that Sears account. Dug up the old, dusty file folder and found…nay. The last time they sent me a shiny new blue Sears charge card, I just dropped it in the folder and forgot it. The sticker with the phone number to activate it is still stuck to the front of the card.

I carry two cards in my wallet because some establishments refuse to pay American Express’s exorbitant merchant’s fees. That notwithstanding, I use AMEX because a) Costco won’t take any other card at its gas pumps and b) it gives me a $250 to $500 kickback once a year. Since I don’t carry cash, I need a back-up card if I’m to do business with retailers and service providers who won’t accept AMEX. That feels like one card too many for me: given my choice, I’d use only one card. So I absolutely positively do not need a MasterCard with a Sears logo on it.

This fine offer came in a first-class envelope labeled “credit-card replacement information—open immediately.” What it really is is issuance of an unsolicited credit card. I did not ask for this card, whose interest rate can go as high as 29.99%, and I don’t want it. Nor do I appreciate having to waste my time in their punch-a-button maze to get rid of the thing.

Didn’t they make that illegal?

If you’re a Sears customer, watch for this coming your way. And if you already have a perfectly fine general-purpose credit card, ask yourself why you need another one. If the answer is “I don’t,” note that you have to call them to “opt out” of this unsolicited gift.

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Angie February 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

I just received a Sears MasterCard which I signed up for over Christmas. I have paid it all off and I want to cancel my card completely. I haven’t activated it yet. What do I need to do to get rid of the credit card from my credit report?

funny February 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm

@ Angie: I would send a letter to Sears asking them to cancel the card, with a copy to all three of the credit bureaus. But if there’s no annual fee, it’s probably better to keep the card. Having the card without having any debt racked up against it actually improves your credit rating.

Sally June 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I just received the “new” Sears Citibank Master Card which will now be the “official” Sears credit card. I also received a coupon and privacy notice. Howerever I DID NOT RECEIVE INFO ON THE APR RATE. I thought it was illegal to dispense a new card without this info. I tried calling various numbers, but it was the weekend and had no luck. Today (6/6) I finally was able to talk to someone. I asked for the interest rates and payment information IN WRITING. It took about 10 minutes before the person I was talking to said she had arranged to send me the information. Most likely, I will not activate this card. Ironically I am not opposed to a Master Card, but I would bet that I could get one for less than 22%.

funny June 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

@ Sally: Wow! That’s a shocker!

What was their explanation for not sending you the interest rate information? I’d be calling the US attorney general on that one… But I’m ornery. ;-)

Mike Cardace June 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

@Sally, just wanted to make sure you got all of your questions answered re: Sears Card/Sears MasterCard. If not, please send me a note. You can also send a tweet to @AskCiti, our verified Twitter account for customer service. If you’d like to research other Citi credit card options, please visit http://www.citicards.com. Thank you for being a customer.

Kind regards,

Mike Cardace
Customer Service & Advocacy, Citi
michael.cardace@citi.com

funny June 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm

@ Mike: So what IS the explanation for the proprietors of this card not having sent a customer the APR information?

Mike Cardace June 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

@funny, @Sally, please give me a little time to get in touch with the right Citi team on that. I will get back in touch shortly, likely tomorrow.

Thx,
Mike

Mike Cardace June 9, 2011 at 8:08 am

sorry for delay, expecting call from Citi program managers on this today.

Mike

Mike Cardace June 9, 2011 at 11:27 am

@Sally & @funny, thx for your patience. I am told that customers were sent a letter in March covering the Sears MasterCard interest rate information and opt-out instructions. Cards were mailed beginning at the end of May.

@Sally, it sounds like you and the March mailing never crossed paths. I can look into trying to re-send that letter, but would need to have you speak with a representative. You may not be interested in this given the interest rate information is being mailed your way, currently.

Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.

Regards, and best wishes,

Mike Cardace, Citi
michael.cardace@citi.com

Sally June 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Time to end the conversation. I might have received the notice 3 months ago. Probably diudn’t keep it. Still think the APR info should have been in the mailing, but then people would have found out the crummy interest rate. Most likely, I will not activate the Sears card- still too annoyed.

Funny about Money June 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm

@ Mike & Sally: I’d agree with Sally on this one. It seems ever so slightly underhanded of Sears (my apology for the harsh language — we know it’s not your fault, & that you’re just an employee) to send this crucial information under separate cover. Given the sheer quantity of junk mail that emanates from retailers, whoever dreamed up this idea would surely realize that a large number of recipients would toss a mailing that did not appear to be a bill, probably without even opening the envelope and almost certainly without reading it carefully.

That, IMHO, comes under the heading of “a fast one.”

Mike Cardace June 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I appreciate the feedback. That’s one of the reasons I’m here. Trust that your feedback will be delivered directly to the folks at Citi who work on the Sears program.

Happy summer,
Mike

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