One of the best ways to build credit is responsible use of a credit card. By maintaining a low balance and making your payments on time, you can use your credit card to improve your credit score. But if you already have bad credit, it can be tough to get approved for a card in the first place.
There are choices available for people with bad credit, including secured and unsecured credit cards. But some companies use unfavorable terms and policies to prey on consumers who are desperate for credit.
Here are five things to avoid in a credit card for bad credit:
1. Unreasonable Fees
Some credit cards target people who have bad credit with unreasonable or unusual fees. While a credit card with an annual fee is normal, you should be wary of annual fees approaching $100, the same price you’d pay for a premium rewards credit card. Try to find a card with a low (or nonexistent) annual fee.
The fees don’t stop there. Some credit card providers charge fees to submit an application, fees to open your card, and monthly maintenance fees just to use it. While all credit cards charge fees, watch out for ones that seem tacked on or unusually high.
2. Exorbitant Interest Rates
Your credit determines the interest rates you can qualify for, and it’s no secret that people with bad credit will pay higher interest. Even so, some cards charge truly outrageous interest rates, with annual percentage rates (APR) hovering around 30% or above!
If you tend to carry a balance month to month (it’s best to pay off your balance in full every month), an exorbitant interest rate will cost you dearly. Before you submit an application, shop around and find the best interest rate you can.
3. Lack of Visibility
When you have bad credit, it’s important to watch your finances closely. A credit card that provides detailed statements, online account access, and other insights can help you monitor your credit card activity and avoid mistakes. Some credit cards go above and beyond, providing insight into your credit score.
If you don’t have visibility into your account, it’s easier to make financial mistakes like maxing out your card. Look for a card that provides plenty of visibility and account management features.
4. Incomplete Credit Reporting
To get the full benefits of using a credit card to build credit, your account activity must be reported to all three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. If the credit card company doesn’t report to all three bureaus, you should keep looking for one that does.
5. Poor Customer Service
Most credit card providers make it very easy to submit an application for their products online, but you may want to call the company with questions about their credit cards. You can use the call to get information and gain impressions of the company’s customer service. Did you experience long hold times? Were the representatives knowledgeable and helpful?
If not, you may want to look for a company with better customer service. Read some reviews and do your research online before you settle on a subpar credit card company.