Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has done something different for its customers who have either a Walmart Credit Card or a Walmart Mastercard Credit Card. The world’s largest retailer is offering no-interest financing for periods of six or 12 months on card purchases.
While this may sound like similar offers from lots of card issuers, what makes this different is that not only do Wal-Mart customers pay no interest during the promotional period, interest does not even accrue during the period.
Most similar-sounding offers allow consumers to make interest-free payments for a specified period. Provided that the total bill is paid off within the period, the customer pays no interest charges.
However, interest still accrues on the debt and is only deferred through the promotional period. If the full amount of the debt is not paid off in that period, the accrued interest is added to the bill. This can be a nasty surprise for many card holders.
Richard Cordray, director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, offered this comment on the Wal-Mart program:
Deferred-interest products carry risks for consumers. The back-end pricing makes their costs to consumers less predictable and transparent, which often fosters questionable or illegal marketing. We are encouraged by this announcement and we will continue to monitor this development carefully. We hope to see others in the industry reconsider their reliance on deferred-interest products which can impose significant costs on consumers.
There are some limits to Wal-Mart’s offer:
The new promotional financing offer on the Walmart Credit Card and the Walmart Mastercard Credit Card includes six months zero interest for purchases made in store of $150 to $298.99 and 12 months zero interest for purchases made in store of $299 or more.
If you shop at Wal-Mart, this is a deal worth checking out.