The Worst Credit Cards: What to Look Out For, and Cards to Consider Instead

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As much as we believe good credit habits and the right credit card can be a great way to save money and improve your financial health, some credit cards simply aren’t up to par.

They may have unusually high or unnecessary fees, few worthwhile benefits, or limitations that prevent you from getting much value from your spending. We wouldn’t recommend these cards, but it’s helpful to recognize them and understand why they’re not good, so you know what to look out for in your next card choice.

Here are a few ways ensure you’re choosing a good credit card option, the cards we consider among the worst available today, and better alternatives to consider instead:

What Makes a Bad Credit Card

Credit cards are designed for different purposes, from credit-building to consolidating existing debts and maximizing rewards. So a “bad” credit card for frequent travelers looking to get great travel benefits may be a great option for new cardholders looking to build credit.


Still, there are a few warning signs of a bad credit card that remain true regardless of card type. Before you apply, look for these red flags in the card’s terms or details:

Credit Card Red Flags to Avoid

First, look out for high fees. Cards with annual fees can be worth the cost, especially premium travel cards or other rewards cards with enough benefits to recoup the price. And it’s typical to find fees for things like late or returned payments, cash advances, or balance transfers. But some credit cards, especially those designed for building credit, may tack on very high fees that only cost you in the long run — like monthly maintenance fees, activation fees, or membership fees. 

Another red flag is very high interest rates. Credit cards generally charge high APRs compared to other financial products. The current average credit card APR is around 16%, according to the Federal Reserve. That’s why it’s important to charge only what you can afford and pay your balance in full each month. However, extenuating circumstances or an emergency can sometimes make carrying a balance necessary. Make sure you understand exactly the APR you’ll be assigned and how interest accrues on your card before you open an account.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure your card will help you build credit. Always ensure the issuer reports your payments to all three credit bureaus regularly. If it’s a card for credit-building, look for options to upgrade to another card once you’ve improved your credit score — for example, the option to have your security deposit returned on a secured card, or upgrade from a student card to general card option. 

Credit Cards You Should Avoid — and Alternatives to Consider Instead

Pro Tip

We’ve reviewed dozens of credit cards at NextAdvisor, evaluating them on factors like rewards value, fees, credit-building benefits, and more — you can read our full review methodology here. The cards below are those across multiple categories which score lower than two stars out of our five star weighted scoring system.

First Premier Premier Bankcard Mastercard Credit Card

The biggest issue we have with the Premier Bankcard from First Premier Bank is its lengthy fee schedule. To start, you’ll incur an annual fee ranging from $75-$125 the first year, then $45-$49, and a monthly fee between $6.25 and $10.40. Other fees include a one-time program fee up to $95, a fee when you’re approved for a credit line increase (after automatic account reviews), and an astronomical 36% APR for all cardholders. In all, you could pay nearly $200 or more each year just to own this card — which also offers no rewards.

The main benefit of Premier Bankcard card is that it’s an unsecured option for building credit. However, there are plenty of better unsecured cards for bad or no credit — including the Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card issued by WebBank and the Capital One Platinum Card, both of which carry no annual or ongoing monthly fees.

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PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card

PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (1.2/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    See Provider Website
  • Regular APR:
    See Provider Website
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site
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Petal® 1

Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (3.3/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    22.24% – 31.74% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Petal’s secure site

Surge Mastercard Credit Card

Similar to the First Premier card, the Surge Mastercard is also bogged down by its costly fees. It carries a first-year annual fee between $75 and $99, then $99 every year thereafter. There’s also a $10 monthly maintenance fee starting after the first 12 months, and a variable APR between 24.99% and 29.99%. 

Instead of paying these fees, another accessible option for people with bad credit is a secured credit card. You’ll pay an upfront deposit, but it’s refundable — when you close your account or upgrade to an unsecured card option, you’ll receive your deposit back in full. Some of our favorite secured cards for building credit include the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card and Discover it Secured Card.

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Surge Mastercard® Credit Card

Surge Mastercard® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (N/A)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    See Terms*
  • Regular APR:
    See Terms*
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site
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OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (2.7/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $35
  • Regular APR:
    18.99% (variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Capital Bank’s secure site
Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (3.7/5)
  • Intro offer:
    Cashback Match™
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    25.24% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)

Fingerhut Credit Account

The Fingerhut Credit Account is a credit-building option that’s similar to a retail credit card. But it also has many hoops for cardholders to jump through, and very limited benefits. You can use the account to make purchases with Fingerhut, an online retailer that sells a variety of items you could find at a large superstore or Amazon.com. 

The drawbacks? The card carries a very high 29.99% APR, no other meaningful benefits, and your purchasing power is limited to the single retailer. As for Fingerhut itself — based on our research, you can find many items for lower prices elsewhere.

Instead of Fingerhut, consider other options for people with bad credit or no credit at all. There are plenty of credit-building cards that allow you to make purchases anywhere cards are accepted. For example, cards with alternative approvals like the Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card issued by WebBank and Tomo Card determine creditworthiness using your savings and spending history, and you can earn cash rewards on your spending.

  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    See Issuer Website
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site
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Petal® 2

Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    15.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    (No Credit History)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Petal’s secure site
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Tomo Card

Tomo Card

Editor’s Score: (4.0/5)

Mastercard Black Card

Unlike the other cards on our list, the Mastercard Black Card is not marketed as a credit-building card. It’s a luxury, premium travel card with a $495 annual fee. For that price, though, you’ll get limited value. 

Each dollar you spend earns one point, which you can redeem for boosted returns in certain categories: points are worth 2% for airfare redemptions and 1.5% value for cash back redemptions. You’ll also get up to $100 in annual airline credits, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, a credit toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership, and World Elite Mastercard benefits. But for the sky-high price, these perks fall short.

For one, you can earn the same rewards even with a no annual fee card — the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, for example, earns 2% cash rewards on purchases without category limitations. And if you’re looking for premium travel options, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Platinum Card from American Express offer much more robust benefits, higher rewards rates, and flexible redemption programs for frequent travelers. 

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Mastercard® Black Card™

Mastercard® Black Card™

Editor’s Score: (1.9/5)
  • Intro offer:
    N/A
  • Annual fee:
    $495 ($195 for each Authorized User added to the account)
  • Regular APR:
    17.24% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site
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Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Editor’s Score: (4.3/5)
  • Intro offer:
    60,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $550
  • Regular APR:
    19.24% – 26.24% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    740-850 (Excellent)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Chase’s secure site
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The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Editor’s Score: (4.5/5)

Editorial Independence

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.