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How to Shop for Electronics With Bad Credit

Written by
Andrew Tavin, CFEI
Andrew Tavin is a personal finance writer who covered budgeting with expertise in building credit and saving for OppU. His work has been cited by Wikipedia, Crunchbase, and Hacker News, and he is a Certified Financial Education Instructor through the National Financial Educators Council.
Read time: 4 min
Updated on July 27, 2023
young couple having coffee and using an iPad to learn how to shop for electronics with bad credit
Your best bet is to skip making this purchase altogether, but some savvy deal searching or shopping refurbished could also work.

It seems like there are more and more cool gadgets and gizmos coming out every day. And you might feel like some sort of caveperson if you don’t have the newest thing. A lot of these devices even seem smart enough to make fun of you for not having them.

But what if your credit isn’t so great? Can you still gain access to the wonders of our digital, always online, Internet of Things age?

Read on and find out!

Why do I need credit for electronics?

If you have the cash to buy a device outright and it won’t hurt your budget and finances too badly, then it doesn’t really matter what your credit score is. You can walk right into the store, plunk down the money for an Alexa, and then ask that Alexa to play Money by Pink Floyd or Money by Barrett Strong.

But if you don’t have the cash on hand, your ability to get electronics is going to depend on your credit. If you have good credit, you’ll have a wide range of options. Obviously, if you qualify for a credit card, you can use that to purchase whatever electronics you need—so long as they're within your credit limit.

However, if you want to keep your good credit, you should really make sure you’re paying off your credit card bill in full each month so you don’t start racking up interest.

Some electronics stores even have their own credit card that will provide specific benefits if you shop there regularly. Best Buy’s card offers cash back and financing options. Amazon, Target, and Office Depot all have similar card offers. These cards are easier to qualify for, but they usually have much higher interest rates, too. So be careful!

But if your credit still isn’t good enough to qualify for one of those cards, that isn’t likely to help.

If you have poor credit, be careful with "alternative financing" options.

If your credit isn’t great, you’re going to have fewer options when it comes to purchasing electronics, as is the case with purchasing most things. One bad credit option for purchasing an electronic device is, of course, to not buy that item.

Unless the electronic device in question is something vital to your job or another part of your day-to-day life, you’re probably better off waiting until your credit is in a better place before purchasing it.

In the meantime, if you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, consider a secured credit card. A secured credit card requires you to put down some cash as collateral, but you may be able to get one even with poor credit.

Then you can use that secured credit to make purchases (perhaps even cheaper electronics) and build up your credit. Just be sure to pay your bill in full each month and try to spend no more than 30% of your credit limit. Admittedly, with a cash deposit securing your credit limit, 30% of your total might not add up to very much.

Renting a film on a laptop is one thing, but renting a laptop?!

Even if your credit isn’t in a good enough place to purchase an expensive but necessary electric device like a computer, you could look into one of the services that let you rent a computer. Many of them are “rent-to-own” so you won’t just be throwing your money away. The payments will be applied towards eventual ownership.

If you do consider a rent-to-own agreement, you’re going to want to read the contract very, very carefully. Aside from being certain that you’ll be able to afford the payments, you need to know what the penalties for missing a payment and for getting out of the deal early. The last thing you want is to be hit with penalties that will cause your credit to get even worse.

Deals, deals, deals.

Another method to getting the electronics you need without the credit you want is to become a deal master. By keeping an eye out for deals and taking advantage of sales, you may be able to get a TV or even a computer for way less than you’d normally pay. Many apps will also provide you with virtual coupons or other deal opportunities.

It may also be worth looking into used or refurbished products as a cheaper alternative. For example, you may find that there are tablets that will be able to fill the role of a laptop for you right now—and that are hundreds of dollars cheaper.

Bad credit doesn’t mean you can’t purchase things you need or even want. But it does mean you should be very careful and thoughtful about how and on what you spend. (If you're considering taking out a bad credit loan, be sure to read the OppU Guide to Bad Credit Loans here first!)

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