Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card: Good for More Than Williams-Sonoma?

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Williams-Sonoma, founded way back in 1956, has become a household name in gourmet cookware and other goodies for the home. It’s no surprise then that they now have their very own credit card, the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card, compliments of Barclays. The question is: if you aren’t a crazy frequent shopper of Williams-Sonoma, is this card really worth it?

What does the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature Card from Barclays have to offer?

I’m going to admit, the majority of the oh-cool perks associated with the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card are very Williams Sonoma-centric, but then what do you expect from a store specific card?

The Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature Card works on a points system. For every dollar spent at Williams-Sonoma you gain 3 points and for all other purchases you gain 1 point. The positive here is you can’t possibly miss your bonus thanks to an incorrect merchant code, because the only category specific bonus is to Williams-Sonoma, not something tricky like “gas purchases.”

If you make a purchase within the first three months of opening your card (as of Jan. 2014) you’ll also automatically get 2,500 bonus points, which is sufficient for either a $25 gift card or a $25 statement credit, which if you hadn’t guessed are your two options for redeeming points.  It is important to note that statement credits may ONLY be applied to Williams-Sonoma purchases and gift cards are limited to Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, PBTeen or Westelm.  Your purchase must also be at least $25 to apply the credit. This means that if you made say, a $10 purchase even at Williams-Sonoma, you couldn’t use just $10 of your statement credit.

Honestly, this Williams-Sonoma-only clause was foolish for Williams-Sonoma to enact, nobody likes being told how they can spend their rewards, especially to the point that statement credits can’t even be used on any part of your balance, it has to be a Williams-Sonoma purchase. Points expire after five years. As a sort of trivial add-on, if you are soon to marry, you can also build a register and link it to your card. Any gift bought from that registry for you will also credit your card 3 points per dollar spent.

In addition to either gift cards or statement credits, every 25,000 points earned gains you a 10 percent off coupon with your next statement, up to four per year, to help those earnings stretch just bit further. These coupons do expire after 90 days and you don’t get to decide when they are issued.

The Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card also offers a few additional perks, the best of which being free shipping via the Williams-Sonoma website. This is “standard” shipping, but free is free, and depending on your location this could save you a bundle.

Other than that, you’re looking at standard Visa signature benefits such as free 24-7 travel assistance, exclusive offers and discounts. You can access these through the Visa signature website, no matter what Visa signature card you have.

What does the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card from Barclays cost you?

The Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card has no annual fee, which is always nice, but then it also sports one of those annoying credit-dependent interest rate set-ups. You’ll receive either a decent 13.74 percent, a less impressive 17.24 percent or a poor 21.24 percent rate. You have no way of knowing which rate you’ll get before applying, and word on the web says anything less than amazing credit lands you in the poor-rate club. In fact, reviewers are saying qualifying for this card at all is a bit difficult in comparison to most credit cards on the market today.

Balance transfers are an option with this card at an above-industry standard 4 percent, but limits are often pretty low on store cards, so it’s not likely you’ll use this option. Cash advances are an even steeper 5 percent, also above industry standard, at a 25.24 percent APR. The late fee for this card is $35, but also garners a rate increase to 27.24 percent which my apply indefinitely, so you don’t want to be late.

Finally, the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card does have a foreign transaction fee of 3 percent, but being this is certainly not a travel card, this is seen as less detrimental downside than with other cards. Williams-Sonoma, does however, have non-US stores, for example, they have stores in Canada and purchases there would cost you a 3 percent fee.

So, is the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card from Barclays worth it?

Let’s recap here. You only gain a decent return on Williams-Sonoma purchases. Those points can only be used pretty much at Williams-Sonoma. You get coupons for Williams-Sonoma and free shipping from Williams-Sonoma, but no other perks at all really. It doesn’t take an expert to deduce that the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card is only a good choice if you shop at Williams-Sonoma frequently enough to justify the impact a new card has on your credit.

If you think, “oh well, why not have it for the rare times I do shop at Williams-Sonoma just for that free shipping,” think again. Opening a new card affects your credit in a number of ways. You shorten the average account length, increase your number of open accounts, and you get a new inquiry. All of the above can decrease your score, but generally, these three factors play a bigger role in whether or not you’ll be approved for more credit, less so on big credit purchases like auto loans and mortgages. So if you’re a credit card addict having a Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card for occasional purchases is going to hurt your chances of being approved for other cards you may actually benefit from.

In short, if you don’t shop at Williams-Sonoma frequently, skip the Williams-Sonoma Visa Signature card, if you do, there’s a pretty good collection of Williams-Sonoma specific perks to enjoy.

And when I say “frequently” I mean really frequent. Consider that if 25,000 points is $25 and a 10 percent coupon, you’d have to spend just over $833 to get this reward, and that’s at Williams-Sonoma to gain 3 points rather than the general  1 point.

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