One-stop shopping: Bread, eggs, milk, mortgages

More retailers now offering a variety of financial services

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With today's consumer feeling more comfortable shopping for financial products outside of a traditional bank, a growing number of retailers are stepping up their game.

First time homeowner Lilly Neubauer is always looking for ways to save money. 

"At the beginning of this year we were seeing historically low interest rates and we had heard that refinance was a great option," she said.

So she headed to Costco, where she picked up groceries, home insurance and a mortgage.

"We were really surprised!" she added.

Think of it as the next generation of one-stop shopping.  A growing number of retailers including Costco, Walmart, Sam's Club and Home Depot are going beyond the basic store credit card, offering exclusive deals on a slew of financial services.

"Mortgages, home equity loans, home improvement loans, life insurance," explained Tom Feltner, with Consumer Federation of America.

Even home and auto insurance is being offered, depending on the store.

Feltner says with nearly 10 million US households without bank accounts, and credit from conventional lenders tight, these retail services may offer a sense of comfort. (Read the 2011 FDIC national survey.)

"Consumers are drawn to the simplicity of a transaction that in previous products, there was much more of a barrier to entry," said Feltner.

At Sam's Club, the company's small business loan program is devoted to customers who do not qualify for traditional bank loans.

Catherine Corley with Sam's Club says, since 2010, ""We've had over 1,000 members qualify. The average loan size is around $11,000, so that's putting over $11 million into the hands of small businesses that otherwise would not have had."

At Home Depot, personal project loans are offered up to $40,000.

"We have a lot of people that come in and want to do kitchen remodels, need a new roof, need a new bathroom. The project loan allows them the opportunity to finance that project," explained Brandon Hayes with Home Depot.

And Walmart is testing out prepaid MetLife Insurance cards.

No matter which store you choose, Feltner says remember, "They're targeting customers who are looking to complete transactions very quickly and at the point of sale, and I think in many ways that puts the onus on consumers to make sure that they're getting the best deal."

So shop around, read all terms and conditions carefully and compare things like premiums, interest rates, closing costs and general fees.

"It's important for consumers to look at their own household balance sheet to determine whether or not these products are going to make sense for them," added Feltner.

For Lillly Neubauer, it was a numbers game.  Not only is she saving 10 percent a year on home insurance, after refinancing her mortgage at Costco, she said, "The difference that we've seen financially in our mortgage has been about $200 a month, so that's a big difference."

Feltner says it's important to realize that retailers are partnering with financial institutions and insurance brokers to offer these deals.  That means when it comes to things like mortgages and home equity loans, you'll still be putting your house up as collateral.

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