If you're looking to apply for a Sears credit card, you may be wondering what credit score is needed to obtain it. While the store doesn't publish the required FICO score, you can review your credit score and see if it's likely to qualify for a department store card or regular credit card.
Sears Credit Card Options
Sears currently offers two different credit cards, both of which are managed by Citibank. They are the Sears Card and the Sears Mastercard.
The regular Sears credit card is a private-label retail card. This means the card can only be used at Sears and Sears-affiliated locations, including Kmart, Sears Hardware, and other Sears-branded locations.
The benefit of this kind of card is that you generally don't need as high of a FICO score to obtain one as a card that is more widely accepted. This account can be helpful if you need to build your credit history or if you shop frequently at Sears and Kmart.
The Sears Mastercard can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted. Because it is a co-branded card, you will need a higher FICO score to qualify. Co-branded cards are the financial responsibility of the bank, not Sears, so the bank's normal underwriting guidelines apply.
A Sears Mastercard can be useful for you if you would like rewards from shopping at Sears or Kmart but also need the flexibility to use the card elsewhere.
How Credit Card Decisions Are Made
When you apply for a credit card, you fill out an application that includes information about not just your credit history, but also your employment, residence, and income. These factors can all affect your approval.
How Retail Store Cards Are Approved
The good news about private-label retail store cards is that their qualification standards are more relaxed than most co-branded or bank credit cards.
- Retail store cards without a MasterCard or Visa logo are underwritten by the store, which means the retailer takes the financial risk. Different retailers have different standards - for instance, a Walmart credit card requires a score of at least 620.
- Private-label retail cards are also more willing to consider factors beyond your credit score. Information about your income, employment history, and more are used to determine your ability and willingness to pay.
Once you are approved, your credit score and income are used to determine your credit limit. As you establish yourself as a dependable payer over time, you could see the credit limit increased.
How Co-Branded Credit Cards are Approved
As noted above, the issuing bank underwrites co-branded credit cards, and the bank assumes all the financial risk. As a result, banks use their ordinary approval criteria. Their standards are typically quite a bit higher than for most store-specific cards.
Banks are reluctant to specify exactly what criteria they use to approve credit, but it's possible to get a general sense of what they're looking for.
- Stability. If you have a long credit history, have held your job for a few years, and have a history of on-time payments, you're showing stability.
- Diversity of credit. Having a variety of credit, such as other credit cards, car loans, and installment loans, helps you appear as a better risk to credit card companies.
- Utilization rate. If you are using less than 33% of your available credit, the bank will see you as a less risky applicant than someone with a higher utilization rate.
FICO Scores for Sears Credit Cards
Generally, for a private-label retail card, you can get approved as long as your FICO score is in the range of "fair to good" you can be approved. Sears, in particular, is believed to be one of the easier department store cards to get.
While Sears doesn't release its credit scoring methods to the public, it's rumored that you are likely to be approved if you have a 680 FICO score or better.
For a co-branded card, you will have to deal with the FICO requirements of Citibank. Citibank, like many credit card issuers, is known to have relatively stringent approval criteria and generally requires good or excellent credit. This means a FICO score of at least 700, preferably closer to 750.
Know Your FICO Score
When you apply for a credit card, the bank or retailer will make an inquiry into your credit. Having too many credit inquiries in a short time can damage your ability to be approved. Knowing your FICO score in advance helps you understand if you have a score that is likely to be approved for a Sears Credit Card.