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"Deals" That Can Cost You Big Bucks

Sure, every now and then an offer comes along that actually saves you some cash. Others can result in overspending, debt and even a lower credit score. Think twice before you agree to these five “bargains” that are anything but.
 

Store Credit Cards
The Catch: “Rewards and points encourage buying, which can lead to trouble,” says Laura Scharr-Bykowsky, a certified financial planner and principal at Ascend Financial Planning. If you can’t pay off the balance, you’ll face an average annual interest rate of 23.23%—8% higher than the average for general credit cards. Plus, applying for several cards at once can actually lower your credit score.

When it’s worth it: If you are a true-blue devotee of a particular store and always pay your bills on time, you might consider signing up for a card. Still, you may receive the same promotions and deals simply by joining the store’s mailing or email list.

Cell Phone Insurance
The Catch: Only one in five people experience situations that would warrant having a policy, like theft or damage, says a survey by Consumer Reports. And at $132 per year for some plans, phone insurance can cost almost as much as some forms of renters’ insurance. Yet the latter offers at least $20,000 worth of coverage, according to ValuePenguin.com. By contrast, the average iPhone is worth $687.

When it’s worth it: If you’re particularly accident-prone. “It also makes sense for teens who are not responsible with their gadgets, but you should have them pay for the plan themselves,” says Scharr-Bykowsky. An option for more expensive phones is to insure them until the replacement price is something you’d be okay with handling out of pocket.

Long-Term Car Financing
The Catch: A longer lease entices you with a smaller dollar amount per month, but you’ll have many additional payments. If you require $28,711 in financing, the average for a new car, at the average interest rate of 4.71%, you’ll pay an extra $1,500 in interest if you finance over six years instead of four.

When it’s worth it: If you truly cannot afford the car without long-term financing­. In the example above, the monthly bill would be $459 over six years, compared to $657 a month over four years. It would be better to choose a less expensive model in that case, or wait until you can make a bigger down payment.

Black Friday Specials
The Catch: “Doorbusters are designed to get your attention,” says Louis Ramirez, who analyzes sale trends for DealNews. “But not all of them are as good as they seem.” The same item can be less expensive at a different time of year than during the holiday weekend. “For instance, exercise equipment will be discounted on Black Friday, but prices will be lower in December and January,” Ramirez notes.

Is it ever worth it? “No Black Friday offer is worth the time spent standing in line,” says Ramirez. Most discounts will also be available online, so there’s little reason to get up at dawn and camp out at the mall. Still, Ramirez advises, online deals can sell out as well, so be sure to check your favorite stores’ sites throughout the Thanksgiving weekend—starting on the Wednesday before.

Email SALE Newsletters
The Catch: That email offering 20% off might not be the best deal out there. “Before making a purchase, whether online or in-store, compare prices as much as possible,” says Ramirez. “For example, if Rue La La has a sale on Cole Haan, check the Cole Haan store to see whether they have a better promotion.” And be sure to compare shipping costs.

Is it ever worth it? Sometimes. Many shop-it-to-you services and promos from specific stores offer significant sales, says Ramirez, as long as you know an item isn’t available for less elsewhere. Look for coupons online when buying directly from a retailer.