Sometimes all credit cards can seem alike — or, at least, not different enough to spend a lot of time trying to figure out their differences. We sympathize with the sentiment, which is why we periodically try to cut through the clutter and, based on insight from impartial experts, highlight some of the best cards out there. Depending on your needs and spending habits, some cards are indeed sometimes better than others.
But the flip-side is also true: Some cards are worse than others. CardHub.com recently sifted through more than 1,000 credit cards to determine which offer the least appealing trade-off between, on one hand, perks, rewards, and services and, on the other, fees and interest rates. We also contacted some other credit card experts to find out their least-favorites. Here’s what we found:
Visa Black Card: It’s modeled after the American Express Centurion (aka “Black”) card, but this one, issued by Barclays, is more likely to put you in the red. It comes with a hefty $495 fee — and you don’t really get all that much for your money, according to CardHub, which labels it the worst general consumer credit card for rewards among the 1,000-plus it evaluated. Cardholders earn a measly one point per dollar spent, while many other rewards cards offer 2 points per dollar (and don’t charge you nearly $500 a year, either). And while we’ve seen many penalty interest rates that hover near the 30% mark, the Visa Black takes it over that threshold, with a default rate of 30.24%.
Yes, you get access to airport lounges along with some other perks, but there are plenty of cards that offer airport lounge access and similar benefits for less than $495. CardHub calls it a “cheap imitation” of the AmEx Black Card.
Best Buy Reward Zone Credit Card: As a rule, retailer-issued cards aren’t so hot. They tend to have relatively low credit limits (which can hurt your credit utilization ratio if you come too close to maxing them out) and high APRs. Even so, some stand out as particularly unworthy of space in your wallet. The Best Buy card is one of these, says Curtis Arnold, founder and CEO of CardRatings.com. The rewards program is decent, he says, but the credit card is another story. “We have heard consumer complaints about this card for years,” he says, noting in particular its strict rules that can saddle you with potentially huge amounts of accumulated interest. “Watch the ‘special’ 0% financing offers,” Arnold warns. If you don’t pay your entire balance off by the end of the promotional period, which can be as short as six months, or if you make a single late payment, that hefty APR can really trip you up. “Interest will be charged retroactively back to date of purchase — ouch,” Arnold says.
The interest rate is high, too: Depending on your credit, the APR is either 25.24% or 27.99%, and the default rate is 29.99%.
UBS Preferred Visa Signature Credit Card: Another one in the what-am-I-paying-for-anyway? files, this card also charges $495 a year for the privilege of carrying it. The benefits it touts, like no foreign transaction fees and accelerated rewards on gas and groceries, can be found on plenty of other cards that don’t cost nearly as much.
The hefty cost of ownership doesn’t end with the annual fee. CardHub says this card has the highest introductory balance transfer APR — 9.99% — of all the cards it evaluated, and it also charges a separate 3% balance transfer fee. For that, you’d expect a long period of lower interest, but this intro period only lasts six months before the regular APR of 13.24% kicks in.
Apple Barclaycard: “I know everyone loves Apple but you shouldn’t love their credit card,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com. The current APR on this Visa card, which is issued by Barclays, is a variable 22.99%, even if you have stellar credit. Like the Visa Black card (also issued by Barclays), the penalty rate on this card is a whopping 30.24%.
The card does offer 0% introductory financing for 6 months on purchases under $999, or for a year on purchases over that amount. We get the impression, though, that Apple really, really doesn’t want you to transfer a balance onto the card. The APR for balance transfers is 22.99%, on top of a 4% balance transfer fee. “If you fell out of a tree you’d hit a half dozen credit card offers with 0% rates on balance transfers on your way down,” Ulzheimer said.
First Premier Bank Gold Credit Card: “A lot of the worst credit cards on the market are for people with bad credit,” says Adrian Nazari, founder of CreditSesame.com. “In general the fees on credit cards for people with bad credit are extremely high and can eat into a starting balance.”
The First Premier Bank Gold Credit Card was one that most of our experts flagged in particular. In addition to a 36% APR, it charges an initial “processing fee” of $95 and an annual fee of $75 for the first year and $45 in subsequent years. On top of this, it throws in monthly “service fee” of $6.25 after the first year — which means that even though the annual fee goes down, you’ll be paying an additional $75 per year. It even charges cardholders a “credit limit increase fee” of 25% of the amount of the increase. Even if your credit is poor, you can likely do better.