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The 5 Worst Credit Cards (And What to Consider Instead)

4 min read
Susan Shain By Susan Shain Oct 03, 2019 | Updated Jul 30, 2020

We spend a lot of time talking about the best credit cards on the market, for obvious reasons.

But if you’re on the hunt for a new credit card, it’d also behoove you to know about the very worst credit cards out there — which features to avoid, which fees are cruel and unusual, which issuers are flat out offering a raw deal.

Here are five of the world’s worst credit cards, each accompanied by a superior card to consider instead.

Insider tip

Not what you were looking for? If you landed here hoping to rebuild your credit, here are the best cards for bad credit.

The 5 Worst Credit Cards You Can Get

So what makes a bad credit card?

A grab bag of characteristics, including high interest rates (APRs), abundant fees (annual fees, late payment fees, monthly maintenance fees, processing fees, the list goes on), confusing or non-existent rewards programs, and bad customer service.

The following five cards check all of those unfortunate boxes, making them some of the worst credit cards around.

Insider tip

The worst credit cards are often targeted at people with bad credit, as issuers are hoping to lure these customers with promises of “instant approval!” and “no credit check required!” If you have poor credit, however, these cards aren’t your only option. Take a look at these top-notch secured cards, which will help you rebuild your credit without all the fees.

Surge Mastercard

Our rating
Min. credit levelBad
Details
Annual FeeSee Terms*
Regular APRSee Terms*
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified with no impact to your credit score
  • All credit types welcome to apply
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score from TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Use your card at locations everywhere Mastercard® is accepted
  • Checking Account Required

When it comes to high APR credit cards, the Surge Mastercard from Continental Finance is a serious offender. It’s designed “for people with less than perfect credit,” and typically charges an APR near 30% for purchases.

What’s even worse are the fees, which may look like: $125 the first year, then $96 each year following. After your first 12 months are up, the card issuer also charges a “monthly maintenance fee” of $10 ($120 per year). You can click the Apply Now button above to see the latest terms.

What to consider instead: The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® (Review), also designed for people who are rebuilding their credit, is a much better idea. It has a $0 annual fee, saving you $125 off the bat, and you may be considered for access to a higher credit limit (without an additional deposit) after after six months. Or, if you’re looking for an unsecured option, take a look at the Petal® Visa® Credit Card.

Insider tip

Wondering why you should care about APRs? Let’s say you have a $1,000 balance on your card, and are only making the minimum payments. If your card had a 17% APR (the national average), it’d take almost six years and cost you $433 in interest to pay it off. But if your card had a 30% APR, it’d take you basically nine years and cost a whopping $1,262 in interest. (BTW, you won’t owe any interest on purchases with most cards if you pay your statement in full each month.)

First PREMIER® Bank Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelBad
Details
Annual FeeUp to $125 the first year, up to $49 each year after that
Regular APR36.00% Fixed
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Must have a checking account to qualify
  • Only you can build a good credit history. Make your payments on time each month, and keep your balance low relative to the credit limit, for positive marks on your credit reports each month
  • Your First PREMIER Bank credit card activity is reported to the Consumer Reporting Agencies each month
  • Track your progress. Your quarterly FICO Score is provided for free on your monthly billing statement
  • Credit scores are used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit scores alone do not guarantee or imply approval for any First PREMIER® Bank product

You know what’s a bad sign? When you need a giant chart to explain all your fees, like this card does. It has one of the highest credit card interest rates, too: 36.00% Fixed.

Image credit: First Premier Bank

Image credit: First Premier Bank

Another particularly heinous feature is the fact that this card charges a 25% fee for credit limit increases. So if you pay your bill faithfully each month, thereby earning a credit line increase of $100, for instance, you’ll get charged $25!

What to consider instead: The Discover it® Secured (Review) is a fantastic secured card for people with less-than-stellar credit. It has no annual or monthly fees, and even offers rewards: 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 spent each quarter, then 1%), and 1% on everything else.

Total Visa® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelBad
Details
Annual FeeSee Terms*
Regular APRSee Terms*
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa® card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit).
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
  • Select your favorite card design from our gallery, for free!

Three boos for the Total Visa, which misleadingly paints itself as “a perfect tool for people who have faced financial challenges and struggled to get credit in the past.”

We’ve seen APRs of almost 35% and a raft of fees: a one-time “program fee” of $89, an annual fee of $75 the first year — and after that, an annual fee of $48 and a monthly fee of $6.25 ($75 per year). Translation: You’d spend at least $287 just to keep this card in your wallet for two years! (Click the Apply Now button above to see the latest terms.)

What to consider instead: If you have bad credit, try the Citi® Secured Mastercard® (Review), which doesn’t require a bank account to apply. It has a minimum security deposit of $200, with a max of $2,500, and your credit line will match your deposit. It has no annual fee.

Mastercard® Gold Card™

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$995
Regular APR14.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Patented 24K-gold-plated front and carbon back—weighing 22 grams.
  • 2% value for airfare redemptions with no blackout dates or seat restrictions. 2% value for cash back redemptions. Earn one point for every one dollar spent.
  • 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge®—available by phone, email and live mobile chat. Reach out to manage tasks big and small.
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel® benefits—average value of $500 per stay (e.g., amenities, room upgrades and complimentary food and beverages) at over 3,000 properties.
  • Annual Airline Credit—up to $200 in statement credits toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more. Up to a $100 application fee credit for the cost of TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry.
  • Enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select with access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide with no guest limit.
  • Cell phone protection for eligible claims of up to $1,000 each year. Plus Lyft credits, ShopRunner membership, Fandango perks and more.
  • Annual Fee: $995 ($295 for each Authorized User). Terms and conditions apply.

You’ve gotta be kidding me. When a card is touting its weight (22 grams, thank you very much) as one of the top perks on its application page, you know it doesn’t have much going for it.

Image credit: Luxury Card

Image credit: Luxury Card

The craziest thing about this so-called rewards card is its $995 annual fee. That’s offset by a $200 travel credit — and not a whole lot else. In our humble opinion, there’s almost zero reason to get this card, unless you have a 24K gold toilet and really need a card to match.

What to consider instead: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) offers similar benefits to the Gold card — such as Priority Pass lounge access, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and travel insurance — with an annual fee of $550 and a travel credit of $300. And, um, in case you care, it’s also made of metal.

First Digital Mastercard®

Our rating
Min. credit levelBad
Details
Annual FeeSee Terms*
Regular APRSee Terms*
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Get the security and convenience of a full-feature, unsecured Mastercard® Credit Card – accepted at millions of merchant
    and ATM locations nationwide and online
  • Build up your Credit with a card that reports to all three major credit bureaus every month.
  • Perfect credit not required for approval; we may approve you when others won’t
  • You may be eligible for a Credit Line Increase after six months
  • Easy and secure online application – it just takes moments to apply
  • Checking account required.
  • If approved, just pay the one-time Program Fee to gain access to your new account and credit line (subject to available
    credit)
  • Receive your card more quickly with optional Expedited Processing (additional fee applies)
  • Get a result in as little as 60 seconds upon completion of the online application
  • Online Customer Center available 24 x 7
  • Issued by Synovus Bank, Member: FDIC

We’d give a big “thank u, next” to this card, which has APRs that can run as high as 35.99%, and fees that can include a $95 program fee and $75 annual fee the first year ($48 after that). For all those fees, you’d hope you’d get some perks — but, spoiler alert, you don’t. Click the Apply Now button above to see the current terms.

The only thing this card can brag about is the fact it’s a “full-feature” Mastercard that’s “accepted nationwide.” (Like basically every other Visa or Mastercard out there.)

What to consider instead: If the aforementioned Capital One, Discover, and Citi cards aren’t available to you, one alternative is the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card (Review). While it’s far from perfect, its annual fee is only $35 and it has a 17.39% Variable APR. It doesn’t require a credit check, and it reports your behavior to all three credit bureaus.

What Traits Do the Best Credit Cards Share?

Now that you’re familiar with the worst cards and their predatory features, here’s a look at what the best credit cards have in common:

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At a glance

From exorbitant fees to insane interest rates, these are the five worst credit cards on the market. Even if you have bad credit, you should avoid them like the plague — here’s what to look for instead.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, Discover it® Secured, and Citi® Secured Mastercard® have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

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