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 ways to save dough.
“At the beginning of this year we were seeing historically low interest rates and we had heard that refinance was a great option,” says Neubauer.
So she headed to Costco, where she picked up groceries, home insurance, and a mortgage!
Think of it as the next generation of one-stop shopping.
A growing number of retailers, including Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Home Depot are going beyond the basic store credit card - offering exclusive deals on a slew of financial service including mortgages, home equity loans, home improvement loans & life insurance.
You might even find home and auto insurance, depending on the store.
Tom Feltner with the Consumer Federation of America says with nearly 10 million US 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,” says Feltner.
At Sam’s Club, the company’s small business loan program is devoted to customers who do not qualify for traditional bank loans.
“We’ve had over 1,000 members qualify. The average loan size is around $11,000, so that’s putting over $11 million into the hands of small businesses that otherwise would not have had,” says Catherine Corley of Sam’s Club.
Over at Home Depot, personal project loans are offered up to $40,000.
“We have a lot of people that come in and want to do kitchen remodels, need a new roof, need a new bathroom. The project loan allows them the opportunity to finance that project,” say Brandon Hayes of Home Depot.
And Walmart is testing out pre-paid, Metlife insurance cards.
"They’re targeting customers who are looking to complete transactions very quickly and at the point of sale, and I think in many ways that puts the onus on consumers to make sure that they’re getting the best deal,” says Feltner.
So shop around. Read all terms and conditions carefully. And don’t forget to compare things like premiums, interest rates, closing costs, and general fees.
“It’s important for consumers to look at their own household balance sheet to determine whether or not these products are going to make sense for them,” says Feltner.
For Neubauer, it was a numbers game. Not only is she saving 10% a year on home insurance!
“The difference that we’ve seen financially in our mortgage has been about $200 a month, so that’s a big difference,” says Neubauer.
Feltner says it’s important to realize that retailers are partnering with financial institutions and insurance brokers to offer these deals. That means when it comes to things like mortgages and home equity loans, you’ll still be putting your house up as collateral.
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