Use store credit cards wisely, experts advise

Using credit card in a store
Using credit card in a store

It's an experience nearly all shoppers encounter: You pile your purchases up at the register and the cashier asks if you'll be paying with that store's credit card. If the answer is no, they'll ask in nearly the same breath if you'd like to open up an account. They might even offer you 15% off that day's purchases to get you to sign up.

While store cards have their place (as a newly-minted college grad with no work wardrobe to speak of, that 15% off was a big help when I signed up for a store card with the outlet branch of a big clothing chain), there are some important things to keep in mind. Store cards have some "critical differences" from non-retail cards, according to Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com. As this short video from CBS MoneyWatch points out, they do have some common pitfalls. First of all, they generally charge very high interest rates, often well over 20%.