Layaway offers options for shoppers

Christmas is 36 days away but it is not too early to start Christmas shopping for loved ones and friends.

In today’s economy, layaway is making its way back as opposed to using credit cards and getting charged interest.

According to the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Consumer Credit, which regulates and supervises financial services, layaway is a purchase plan designed for customers who want to buy merchandise without using credit or paying the full price immediately.

Instead of waiting for good deals on Black Friday, layaway can give consumers more time to find and reserve gifts.

Sears and K-Mart, sister companies, give consumers the luxury of buying products online or in person with four easy payments over an eight week period.

Payments, whether they are by cash, check or debit/credit card have to be made every two weeks either online or in the store. For new layaway contracts at Sears, the service fee is $5 with a down payment of 20 percent. K-Mart’s service fee is the same, but with a down payment of $20.

However, if the order needs to be canceled, there is a $15 fee. After it is paid in full, the items can be picked up at the store if they are held there. If items are held at the warehouse, it is required to schedule a pick-up or delivery time.

Wal-Mart has hopped back on the layaway bandwagon for toys and electronics after ending the program in 2006 for anything other than fine jewelry.

Wal-Mart started the program on Oct. 17 and will not be applicable on Fri Nov. 25. Final payments and pickups must be made by Dec. 16. Eligible items include toys, electronics and fine jewelry.

Total purchases must be over $50 and each item must be $15 or more. The down payment is 10 percent with a service charge of $5. This program only applies to in store purchases.

Best Buy also has a layaway program where customers can bring items to customer service at a participating store (such as the one in Riverside on 3900 Tyler St) and make a down payment of 25 percent with a 5 percent nonrefundable layaway fee. Total purchases must total $250 or more.

In this program, consumers are issued a Best Buy layaway card in the remaining amount for the item, toward which any future payments made will be applied. Payments can be made every 2 weeks until the balance is paid in full.

Some tips, provided by the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions, include getting specific information on the layaway terms, determining what items are eligible for layaway, knowing how much time you will have to pay for the item, payment deadlines, the minimum payment requirement and charges, if any, are added to the purchase price.

Moreover, it is important to find out if there is a penalty for late payments, such as a charge, or possible loss of the layaway merchandise. Being aware of these terms and conditions can help prevent misunderstandings.

Instead of being pressured to rush and buy gifts on a specific sale or bargain weekend, layaway gives the luxury of choosing ahead of time.

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