Picking one of the worst credit cards on the market is an easy mistake to make.
CardHub has released its selections for the Worst Credit Cards of 2013, and one look at their terms and potential costs will have you quaking in your boots. After all, who can spare a few hundred dollars in this tough economic climate?
CardHub’s list of scary credit card offers is based on analysis of more than 1,000 different cards, which were compared based on their ability to meet the needs of major population segments. So check them out below, in addition to our selections for attractive alternatives and some tips for steering clear of the bottom feeders of the credit card market in the future.
Consumer Credit Cards
• Worst Card for Credit Building: First Premier Bank Gold Credit Card – This card charges $170 in initial fees, $120 in membership fees per year starting on your first anniversary of account opening, a 36 percent APR, and a 25 percent credit-limit-increase fee.
o Attractive Alternative: Harley-Davidson Secured Credit Card – Given that its “secured,” Harley Card users are required to place a refundable security deposit that acts as their credit line and prevents overspending. They don’t have to worry about an annual fee, though, which means cardholders who do not carry a balance can rebuild their credit standing at no cost.
• Worst Rewards Card: Visa Black Card – An imposter trying to capitalize on the American Express Centurion Card’s “black card” mystique, the Visa Black Card from Barclaycard U.S. has a $495 annual fee as well as relatively modest rewards for the cost.
o Attractive Alternative: The Barclaycard Arrival Card offers an initial bonus worth $400 in travel-related expenses and its $89 annual fee doesn’t kick in until the second year. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express gives you 6 percent cash back on groceries, 3 percent on gas and department store purchases, 1 percent on everything else, and a $150 initial bonus in return for a very reasonable $75 annual fee.
• Worst Card for Financing: Arvest Bank Classic Credit Card – This particular card charges 4.9 percent interest on new purchases for the first six months until a 17.9 percent regular rate takes effect. Arvest Bank’s other credit card offers were also among the most expensive cards to use for financing big-ticket purchases.
o Attractive Alternative: The Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers 0 percent on new purchases for 18 months.
• Worst Card for Balance Transfers: UBS Preferred Visa Signature Credit Card – As if a $495 annual fee weren’t enough, this card’s introductory interest rate is an unexciting 9.99 percent and only remains in effect for six months (until a 13.24 percent regular rate kicks in). The card also charges a 3 percent balance transfer fee.
o Attractive Alternative: The Slate Card from Chase doesn’t charge an annual fee or a balance transfer fee and offers 0 percent on transferred debt for 15 months.
• Worst Student Card: U.S. Bank College Visa Credit Card – Not only are rewards and introductory interest rates absent from this offer, but it also charges one of the highest interest rates on the student credit card market, at 20.99 percent.
o Attractive Alternative: The Capital One Journey Student Rewards Card gives you 1.25 percent cash back on every dollar that you spend, as long as you pay your bill on time.
Small Business Credit Cards
• Worst Business Rewards Card: First Hawaiian Bank Business MasterCard – Business credit cards are known for offering lucrative rewards in purchase categories such as office supplies or telecommunications services. The First Hawaiian Bank Business MasterCard is an outlier, however, as it does not have a rewards program (it doesn’t offer a low intro interest rate either).
o Attractive Alternative: Chase’s Ink Plus Business Card offers a $500 initial bonus, 5 points per $1 in key small business expense categories, and its $95 annual fee does not kick take effect until year two.
• Worst Card for Business Funding: All of Them – According to CardHub’s 2013 Small Business Credit Card Study, the vast majority of credit card offers designated for company use aren’t covered by the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Issuers can therefore increase the interest rates on existing debt whenever they want to, as opposed to only being able to do so when a consumer account becomes at least 60 days delinquent.
o Attractive Alternative: Both of the 0 percent consumer credit cards mentioned above are well-suited to small business funding purposes, as they provide debt stability without adding any additional personal liability (you’re held liable for business card debt anyway).
Tips for Avoiding Scary Credit Cards
Finding a credit card that meets your individual needs as well as your budget is a product of financial self-awareness and direct comparison of applicable offers. That means you should begin your search by evaluating your credit standing as well as your spending and payment habits. Then consider the following rules of thumb:
1. If you have damaged, limited or fair credit: Focus on finding a secured credit card or an unsecured credit card that does not charge an annual fee.
2. If you have above-average credit and always pay your bills in full: Focus on getting a card with market-best rewards in your biggest everyday expense categories. Paying an annual fee in return for higher earning rates can often be worthwhile.
3. If you have above-average credit and are planning a big-ticket purchase: Find a no annual fee credit card that is offering 0 percent interest on new purchases for as long as possible.
4. If you have above-average credit and carry a balance from month to month: Identify the card whose introductory interest rate, balance transfer fee, and will enable you to comfortably pay off what you owe at the lowest possible cost.
Other than that, just make sure to support your card choice with responsible habits. Establishing automatic monthly payments from a checking account and using a credit card calculator to strategically repay debt will help in that regard.