Know the rules before you sign up for layaway

Published On: Nov 21 2012 01:59:53 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 23 2012 06:20:00 AM EST

Big time changes in layaway are happening in some of the most popular stores. Wal-Mart cut down fees from $15 to $5, and Kmart and Toys “R” Us have dropped fees altogether, but you still may not be saving money using layaway.

For cash-strapped consumers, there are many reasons to fall in love with layaway, but here are a few things to consider before signing up.

First, watch out for fees. Some stores have layaway and cancellation fees. If you decide you don’t want the item or miss a payment, you could lose anywhere from $10 to 10 percent of the item’s cost.

Second, you might miss the sale. If what you bought goes on sale, many stores don’t offer price adjustments, meaning you’ll have to pay regular price.

Finally, credit could be better -- especially if you have a new card that offers no interest. You’ll get the item immediately, and credit cards increase rewards like cash back and travel perks around the holidays.

Experts say beware of stores advertising “fee-free layaway.” Often, what they mean is there are no upfront fees, but cancellation fees may still exist, so make sure to check with the store.