Please Don’t Get a First Premier Credit Card


The Aventium and Centennial credit cards, offered by First Premier Bank (or 1st Premier), are among the very few credit cards offered to those with bad credit and may seem attractive to people who don’t qualify for almost any other card. However, the cards come with a low credit limit, unreasonably high fees, and a number of “gotcha” charges that riddle the cards’ fine print. In fact, the two cards are exactly the same – always a red flag. The Federal Reserve tried to make lending more transparent in 2010. First Premier did an end run around them, and Aventium and Centennial are the results.

1st Premier’s “perks” for Aventium and Centennial: high APR and higher fees

The two credit cards come with an astronomical interest rate: 49.9% the first year, with the possibility of a minor reduction to 39.9% thereafter. For comparison, the industry average for those with poor credit is 23.95% – less than half of the Aventium/Centennial’s. First Premier is notorious for its high interest rates: previous iterations of the Aventium and Centennial came with 79.9% and 59.9% APR’s, but were yanked after public pressure.

First Premier Aventium security deposit

The cards also have a $75 annual fee the first year – 25% of the cards’ credit limit, the maximum first-year fee allowed by the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Essentially, the card only has a $225 credit line, after fees. That fee is lowered to $45 a year after that, but is supplemented by a $6.50 monthly fee, for a total of $123 a year – more than one-third of the credit limit.

These unsecured cards come with a secret: they’re actually secured credit cards. In the cards’ very, very fine print is a requirement that account holders make a “security deposit” of $95, which will be refunded when the account is closed. This makes the cards almost like secured credit cards, but with even higher fees and interest rates!

First Premier vs. the Fed: a cat-and-mouse game

Before the Credit CARD Act, First Premier’s terms were even more egregious. An unsecured Visa with a $250 credit limit included:

  • • A $35 processing fee
  • • A $119 acceptance fee
  • • A $6 monthly fee ($72 a year)

That adds up to $276 in fees – more than the credit limit. The CARD Act stipulated that the first year’s fees can be, at most, 25% of the card’s credit limit, prohibiting this practice. The Visa could cost, at most, $62.50 in the first year.

Not to be deterred, First Premier issued a set of $300 credit limit cards with a $75 annual fee: identical triplets Aventium, Centennial and Classic. In addition, 1st Premier began charging $95 in processing fees, which were assessed before the card was approved and therefore technically did not count towards the first year limit.

“Nice try,” said the Fed, which clarified earlier this year that all processing fees are indeed part of first year’s costs. First Premier moved on to Plan B: the $95 processing fee took on its current incarnation, a security deposit.

What’s more, the Credit CARD Act regulates how much issuers can levy in fees for the card’s first year: 25% of the initial credit limit. After Year One, however, all bets are off. Because 1st Premier charges the maximum allowed fee upfront, the bank is barred from levying further charges the first year. However, as soon as the CARD Act’s protection expires, a number of fees and charges crop up:

  • • A 3% foreign transaction and cash advance fee, which are industry standard but are notable because they only take effect the second year, after the fee cap expires
  • • A $3.95 one-time fee to access online banking, whereas most banks actually reward e-statements
  • • A $6.50 monthly fee, which doesn’t seem like much but adds up to $78 a year

1st Premier Bank annual fees

By default, the credit limit is set at $300 the first year. After that, customers have the option to increase their credit limit – for a fee of 25% of the increase. To increase the credit limit by $400, then, a customer must shell out $100. This is essentially punishment for good behavior: only those who spend responsibly will qualify for a higher credit limit increase, but they will pay the highest fees.

Credit limit increase fees, combined with cash advance, foreign transaction and monthly fees, mean that you can easily pay 70% more each year you hold the card. As time goes on, First Premier really starts making the money that it couldn’t make from you the first year, and therefore destroys the Credit CARD Act’s intent to protect vulnerable consumers.

Bad credit cards that aren’t so fee-ridden

Fortunately, there are cheaper and more straightforward alternatives to the Centennial and Aventium for those with less-than-stellar credit. The Orchard Bank MasterCard is intended to help establish or reestablish credit. HSBC, which owns Orchard Bank, gave the bank the goal of helping those with the least access to credit. While it does have some fees, it is far cheaper than First Premier’s cards and offers much lower interest rates. The interest rate falls between 14.9% and 19.9%, and the annual fee is $68 the first year and $59 after that. The Orchard Bank MasterCard is among the easiest unsecured credit cards to qualify for: FICO scores as low as 500-600 have made the cut. Among the few hard-and-fast qualifications are a $12,000 salary and a valid social security number.

If Orchard Bank credit cards are not an option, a secured credit card is open to almost anyone and can help to rehabilitate credit scores. Orchard Bank also offers a secured MasterCard with an APR of 7.9% and an annual fee of $35 that’s waived the first year. The Applied Bank Platinum Zero has no interest rate, but has a high $119 annual fee and requires a deposit of $500 or more. Many credit unions offer low APRs as well as low fees. And amongst larger banks, the Capital One Secured Card and the Citibank Secured Card come with a high APR of 22.9% and 18.24% respectively (as of this writing), but have unusually low annual fees of $29. Secured credit cards require an up-front deposit, usually equal to the credit limit. This deposit will not be used to pay down a balance; it’s collateral held against default, and is returned when the account is closed.

Watch out for this particular scam: Net First Platinum offers what looks like a credit card, but is actually a fee-laden gift card equivalent that can only be spent on the heavily marked up Horizon Outlet website. Another often-cited alternative is prepaid debit cards, but these come with a number of  similar fees and do not actually help to build credit. A regular checking account serves the same purpose, but without the ATM, reloading, and monthly fees.

  • Michael Holm

    I had First Premier before had nothing but good things too say about them you idiot’s got too realize for people like use has bad credit scores this is the only option we have not even those crooks capital one can’t approve people with bad credit not even Visa or Master Card or even American Express high interests rights and high cost of a fee too start using your card is worth it too put your credit back on track people like this man Lode or any other are paid by other credit companies too lie and say these credit card companies for use who have bad credit are doing use wrong and they certainly are not. People like Lode is preventing people like us too re fix our credit this man is obviously lying like I said I had a card like this before still using it they helped me when no one eal’s could

  • Deezy

    lol Well I’ve had my first premier card for 10 months, it’ll be a full year in April.
    I did not realize my APR is .36 and they’d charge monthly after the first year.
    I always pay in full before my cycle ends, so I guess it’s cool. As far as the monthly fees, after the first year.. well it’s cool too, at least they’ll be making money from me, when I’m not using the card, besides when I increase my credit limit and it’ll stay active. $30 reduced annual fee is okay too. Almost every credit card can be bad for you but how you use it and pay for it is a different story. Eventually, I’ll get to the point, when they’re no longer needed and their services will have served it’s purpose lol It takes money, to make money, right?!! I have 4 credit cards after discharging from a chapter 7#1 of them are unsecured#CREDIT#Charge it to the game

  • kristal

    I got a card in the mail will it be active if i dont pay the $95 processing fee or can i throw it away

  • Justin Myers

    Entitled much? Not everyone at the age of 18 knows how to manage their credit and things get out of control. I’m guessing you’re perfect and have never made a mistake though.

  • Lisa Jenkins

    I got my FP card when my credit score was a 508 and no one else wanted to deal with me. FP despite their high fees was an excellent tool to rebuild my credit. Fast forward 4 years my credit had seen a 214pt jump all because of FP, and the 7 year fall off rule. After maintaining a good track record with them for the first year, i started to qualify for much better cards. Now that my credit has improved so much i will be closing FP because the fees do suck when you dont even use the card.

  • christina

    Wow. I’m pretty terrified after what I read about this card. I had to pay $95 to get it first off. Annual fee and additional fees are insane. I should have been more prudent. I don’t even have bad credit, just excessive inquiries and low income. This card is reward I get for never being late on a payment for years? I know, I shouldn’t have accepted it. Live and learn. At least I have a year before they start charging me every month for the honor of having their wonderful card, and I hope to close it before then. Of course I’m sure there is a closing account fee, over credit line so you get an overlimit fee and interest rate jumps to 69% rather than 39%. Just a guess, I don’t know this for sure. I say run far away from this card and don’t look back.

  • christina

    People applying for this card don’t usually have AMEX. if they did, they wouldn’t need to apply for this card, would they? Just sayin…

  • Dominique

    I applied for this card and I have a 524 credit score with short credit history, I didnt know if I would be approved but they wanted me to pay a $95 processing fee…. NO WAY because if I didn’t get approved I would have to wait hella long for my refund. Anyways about two weeks went by and I just recieved my card in the mail saying I was approved so I just yesterday payed my processing fee and my available credit is $300. It’s not much and the fees are pretty high but if you’re like me and don’t really have any other choices this is great to start building your credit