Once considered a payment method rendered antique by credit cards, the layaway trend in retail has roared back to life over the past few holiday seasons as more and more big-box stores have been reintroducing layaway programs, many of them exclusive to the holiday season.

Layaway

photo: eric731 / Flickr

In spite of said trend, Best Buy have done away with their holiday layaway service this year after offering customers the opportunity to place a minimum of $250 in merchandise on layaway.

Best Buy’s decision to nix their program hasn’t deterred the likes of Walmart, Toys ‘R’ Us, Sears, and Kmart from bringing their layaway services back.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again:
Please keep in mind that our opinion is that layaway is a bad consumer decision. You should just save the money yourself and make the same purchase, without a fee. You are literally loaning the retailer money and paying them a fee for the privilege!

That being said, retailers like Walmart and Toys ‘R’ Us have introduced new “free” layaway plans. In lieu of service or storage fees, you’d only be obliged to make a down payment and a cancellation fee should you withdraw from the layaway program. Also, if a store has a price-matching policy in place, they’ll likely honor it when it comes to layaway orders.

While these are far more fiscally sound payment plans, always be sure to check a layaway program’s fine print for any hidden fees. Cancellation fees of $5, $10, even $15 are a killer, especially because you’re not getting anything for that money spent.

With that in mind, you should be certain of and committed to following through on your purchase and payments if you choose to utilize a retailer’s layaway program.

Below you’ll find links to and details about the 4 retailers’ layaway programs you can use this holiday season as well as the Better Business Bureau’s suggested best practices to help you navigate layaway programs.

Walmart Christmas Layaway Store

Back again after being reintroduced in 2011, Walmart’s Christmas Layaway Store offers shoppers a “free” layaway program.

That means no opening fees, a $10 or 10% (whichever is greater) down payment to get started, and a $10 cancellation fee. There’s a $50 total purchase minimum in order to use the program, with each item you place on layaway needing to $15 or greater.

You’ll have between now and December 13 to complete your layaway payments and pick up your order, otherwise your order will be cancelled, your payments refunded, and you’ll be charged the $10 cancellation fee. Although Walmart’s layaway program is available the majority of their items, it does exclude mobile phones that require service contracts.

Toys ‘R’ Us Layaway

Another “free” layaway program, Toys ‘R’ Us have done away with their service fees during the holiday shopping season and only require a deposit of 10% of your order’s total cost.

Up until December 15, you’ll be able to pay your bi-monthly installments in store or online. There’s a cancellation fee of $10 on all layaway orders that you’ll be charged if you cancel your layaway account, if you’re unable to complete your payments, or if you don’t pick up your order by December 15.

Toys ‘R’ Us’ layaway program is available on all toys, electronics, and most infant and toddler items.

Sears Layaway

With 8-week and 12-week layaway payment plans, Sears has two separate sets of fees and payment requirements attributed to each.

For the 8-week plan, you’re charged a $5 service fee upfront and required to make a down payment of $20 or 20% (whichever is greater) on your order. On top of the service fee and down payment, there’s a $15 cancellation fee on all 8-week layaway orders. You’ll also need to make 4 bi-weekly payments, each one being 25% of the balance due after your down payment of $20 or 20%.

For the 12-week plan, there’s a $10 service fee, a $25 cancellation fee, and you have to make a down payment of $35 or 20% (whichever is greater). Your 6 bi-weekly payments will equal 16.7% of the balance due after the down payment.

Kmart Layaway

Although they’re owned by Sears, Kmart has a slightly different fee structure for their layaway program, although they also offer 8-week and 12-week payment plans.

With Kmart’s 8-week plan, you’ll be charged a $5 service fee, a $10 cancellation fee, and you’ll need to make a down payment of $15 or 10% (whichever is greater).

Their 12-week plan requires a $10 service fee, comes with a $20 cancellation fee, needs a $30 or 10% (whichever is greater).

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to keep in mind when considering layaway programs:

  • How much time do I have to pay off the item?
  • When are the payments due?
  • How much do I have to put down?
  • Are there any storage or service plan fees?
  • What happens if I miss a payment? Are there penalties? Does the item return to inventory?
  • Can I get a refund or store credit if I no longer want the item after making a few payments?
  • What happens if the item goes on sale after I’ve put it on layaway?
  • Does the retailer or third-party layaway service have a good BBB rating?

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About Connor Laughlin

Connor is an amateur food critic (read: he eats and has opinions), self-proclaimed film-buff, & expects to be starting in the NBA or selected to the USMNT's starting XI by the time he's 45 years old. He enjoys fine wine (when told it's fine), international travel, & is passionate about reading, writing, & the Oxford comma. Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorlaughlin!