Living with credit, Protecting yourself

Sears testing credit cards as a security deposit

John Egan

When I was (much) younger, Sears was one of my family’s go-to department stores for appliances, housewares, clothing and so much more. At one time, I even had a Sears credit card.

I must admit, though, that I rarely, if ever, shop at Sears anymore. Amid the much-hyped “retail apocalypse,” shopping options like Amazon, Target and Walmart have outpaced Sears, which has been closing dozens of stores.

Some observers of the retail industry are now predicting the death of Sears as soon as this year.

But if Sears is trying to attract or retain customers in a bid to stay alive, it’s doing itself no favors with a test that affects credit card holders.

Credit card as a security deposit

In November, Sears began asking customers to provide a credit card number when appliance repair, maintenance work or home improvement labor is scheduled. The card isn’t charged until the service is completed.

“This is intended to provide an easy, safe transaction and a streamlined in-home process so the [customer] doesn’t need to provide credit card information to the technician following the repair,” Sears spokesman Larry Costello says.

“If the [customer] isn’t comfortable providing credit card information at the time of scheduling the appointment, they can pay by check when service is completed,” he adds.

In other words, you can set up a service appointment without giving your credit card number.

Yet another place your card is on file

Given the number of data breaches involving credit cards – including a recent breach affecting the card numbers of less than 100,000 Sears customers – it’s easy to understand why some Sears customers would hesitate to give up a credit card number when scheduling an in-home appointment.

Cleveland.com offers several reasons for this reluctance, including:

  • You risk your card number being compromised.
  • You risk being charged and then not getting the service call.
  • You risk being overcharged and having trouble disputing it, since you wouldn’t be able to review the charge before signing off.

Payment upon completion of service

Previously, a Sears technician accepted payment – either by credit card or check – at the customer’s home when the service was finished. If a customer used a credit card, the technician would swipe the credit card on a handheld device.

Today, if a customer prefers to pay for the service electronically, he or she can use a Sears store credit card, a Sears Mastercard, a Sears gift card, or a Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover credit card.

Payment is still upon completion of service. It’s just that now your card is your security deposit for the service call, such as to fix your washer, dryer, refrigerator or dishwasher.

Credit card unlocks services these days

Sears isn’t alone in requiring a credit card as a security deposit. Hotels do this when you book a room. Rental car companies get your credit card information upfront, too. Even Uber and Lyft have your credit card stored in their apps.

What if you don’t want to pay by check and also don’t want to provide a credit card number upfront?

Well, you basically have one choice: Find another company to fix your washing machine.

Sears isn’t the only appliance repair game in town.

As consumers, we vote with our money. Don’t agree with a company’s practices? Don’t do business with that company.

Sears isn’t set on this policy

If you happen to be a Sears customer and are put off by the idea of supplying a credit card number ahead of an in-home service appointment, there is a bit of good news: The credit card as a security deposit is just a test.

The test either will end at some point or the policy will become permanent.

As Costello says, the satisfaction of Sears’ customers “is always our top priority.”

Maybe enough customers will express dissatisfaction with the credit card test that Sears will drop it.

See related: Suspect card fraud? Here’s how to file a claim

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