Financing trend: Big box stores jumping into the loan business

How big box stores are jumping into the finance business


ORLANDO, Fla. – Now on sale in Aisle 1: eggs, milk, bread and a mortgage!

With today's consumer feeling more comfortable shopping for financial products outside of a traditional bank, a growing number of retailers are stepping up their game.

First-time homeowner Lilly Neubauer is always looking for a way to save. She heard about historically low interest rates and thought refinancing would be a great option to lower her monthly payments.

After shopping around she was surprised to find the best rate at Costco.

"The difference that we've seen financially in our mortgage has been about $200 a month," she said. "So that's a big difference."

At Sam's Club, the company's small business loan program is devoted to customers who do not qualify for traditional bank loans. Since 2010 they've had over 1,000 members qualify. The average loan size is $11,000. 

A growing number of retailers including Costco, Walmart, Sam's Club and Home Depot are going beyond the basic store credit. They're offering exclusive deals on a slew of financial services and in some cases even home and auto insurance.

Tom Feltner with the Consumer Federation of America says with nearly 10 million U.S. households without bank accounts, and credit from conventional lenders tight, these retail services may offer a sense of comfort.

"Consumers are drawn to the simplicity of a transaction that in previous products, there was much more of a barrier to entry," he said.

Over at Home Depot, personal project loans are offered up to $40,000.

When Jayson Opalka of Orlando decided it was time for a kitchen remodel he turned to Home Depot for a loan not his bank.

Opalka says it was convenience, location and a great rate that spurred his decision.

"The whole process took maybe fifteen minutes," he said.   

No matter which store you choose, Feltner says remember the responsibility is on you to make sure you're getting the best deal. He says read all terms and conditions carefully and compare things like premiums, interest rates, closing costs and other fees.

He also says it's important to realize that retailers are partnering with financial institutions to offer these deals. That means you will still be putting your house up as collateral. 

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