smart spending

8 things you need to know about layaway

Availability may be limited
Availability may be limited

Just because a retailer offers layaway doesn't mean it's available at every location. And some retailers offer layaway only on certain items.

Call first or go online before showing up at the store. Websites will often spell out which locations and items are included in the program. Some stores also offer layaway through their online sites. But be careful because the rules can be different for online layaway than if you put something on layaway in the store.

In some cases, online layaway is run through a third-party entity rather than the retailer, says Katherine Hutt, spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the national umbrella organization for local bureaus.

While Kmart and Sears run their own online layaway programs, the online program offers only eight-week layaway. Their brick-and-mortar stores offer up to a 12-week option, according to the companies' websites.

Ask who is managing the layaway transactions -- the store or a third party? Where is the merchandise held? And how and when will it be conveyed to you?

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