With only 129 shopping days left until Christmas, the Sears and Kmart chains are trying to entice customers to start saving for the holidays early with a Christmas Club card program.
Shoppers who join the program can add money on a regular basis to their cards and receive a 3% reward, up to a $100 value, based on the value of the balance Nov. 14.
The card is free, available in stores and online and must be activated by Oct. 31 to be eligible for the 3% reward.
Shoppers will need a minimum balance of $5 to use their cards.
Executives at Sears Holdings Corp., parent of the Sears and Kmart chains, are hoping the program will give the company a leg up on its competitors during the holiday season, which is expected to be weak again as consumers scrimp on presents for family and friends. It also could help shoppers who don't want to rely on credit cards to finance their gifts.
Shoppers "want more ways to provide the very best holiday they can, and they want to do that in a responsible way," Susan Ehrlich, the company's president of financial services, said in a prepared statement.
The card works like a gift card and is reminiscent of old-fashioned Christmas club accounts, which were once a banking fixture.
The Christmas Club program is the latest move the retailer has taken during the economic downturn to help consumers budget. Last year, Sears stores brought back layaway after not offering the program for years, and Kmart began heavily promoting its longtime layaway service.