ShopSmart Reviews Discount Financial Services
Out-of-the-ordinary offerings from BJ’s, Costco and Walmart to buy, consider, or skip
YONKERS, NY — These days, shoppers can find more than big bags of Doritos and giant jars of peanut butter, at discount retailers such as BJ’s, Costco, and Walmart. The July 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, features an up-close look at seven financial services including credit cards and mortgages offered by these discount giants and reveals if they are worth the expense.
“Discount retailers are a good place to shop for financial products and services like mortgages and credit cards,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “But they’re not always as good a deal as the other products in these stores.”
Services to Buy, Consider, or Skip
ShopSmart’s experts looked at seven unlikely goods and services available in BJs, Costco or Walmart. Here’s their take on some of those services and whether or not they are a good deal for consumers:
BUY Checks. For the half of consumers who still use paper checks, Costco offers a great deal on them – about 4 cents per check compared to roughly 19 cents per check at Chase. Walmart had the next best deal at 7 cents per check.
CONSIDER Mortgages. When searching for a mortgage, compare lots of deals – even a difference of a fraction of a percentage point can help save a load of money over time. Check offers from national and local banks, credit unions, and mortgage brokers and consider Costco’s mortgages and refinancing services offered through First Choice Loan Services, a mortgage broker. Ten lenders vie for a customer’s business, and lender fees are limited to $750 for Gold Star members and $600 for Executive members (other fees still apply).
CONSIDER Auto and Home Insurance. With deals between BJ’s and Liberty Mutual and Costco with Ameriprise, both BJ’s and Costco offer auto and home insurance coverage. In ShopSmart’s latest surveys, Liberty Mutual rated very well in its handling of both auto and home insurance claims (there was insufficient data to rate Ameriprise). Auto and home insurance markets are competitive, so it pays to shop around.
SKIP Credit Cards. The rewards programs of the no-annual-fee credit cards from BJ’s, Costco, and Walmart offer are okay, but their annual interest rates are higher than expected. According to Bankrate.com, the national average credit-card rate is about 16 percent. The BJ’s Visa, issued by Barclays Bank, has variable interest rates from 14 to 25 percent depending on the cardholder’s credit rating, and Costco’s True Earnings card from American Express has a 15.24 percent variable rate. Walmart has the worst deal – a Discover-branded card issued by GE Capital Retail Bank with a variable rate of 23 percent.
About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.
About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Publix and Target. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.