Thursday, September 9, 2010

Retailers Test Christmas Club Savings Cards

Remember Christmas Club savings accounts? You'd get a book with weekly tickets to have punched, stamped, or removed as you deposited into the club account at a local savings bank (saving 50 cents or $1 or even $10 per week). Then in late October or early November, the bank would mail you a check or allow you to bring the completed account book in to withdraw your savings to spend on holiday stuff.

Now this old idea is back in a new way, thanks to retailers like Sears and Toys 'R' Us, which are both inviting shoppers to load a debit card as a "holiday savings card" and receive a 3% bonus on their money. Although the 3% is considerably more than most banks are paying on savings accounts these days, customers have to spend the entire debit card amount at the one chain. In other words, any customer who loads a Sears debit card for the holidays gets a 3% bonus but can use this card to pay for purchases only at Sears.

Toys 'R' Us is trying this for the first time in 2010, following in the footsteps of Sears, which debuted its holiday savings card in 2009 in Sears and Kmart. Money cannot be added to a Toys 'R' Us club card online, although the card can be used for online purchases.

The Sears club card, available in stores and online, has no fees and no expiration date, nor can it be used to pay a Sears credit account or buy a debit card.

Will budget-conscious consumers embrace this old idea in its new form?

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