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If you got a too-good-to-be-true offer for a $500 unsecured credit line from Net First Platinum, or if you decided to sign up for a card through their site NetFirstPlatinum.com, please take a second to read the post. You may be the victim of an all-too-common online credit card “bait and switch”.
When you visit their website, the first things you’ll see are the bullet points of what the Net First Platinum card offers: a $500 credit limit, no credit check, 0% intro APR, etc. These features all sound great; in fact, they’re just too good to be true. Imagine for a second that you are running a credit card company. Would you issue credit cards to anyone and everyone, without checking their credit backgrounds, and then NOT penalize them if they paid you late? By definition, you’re probably going to get a ton of applications from people with bad credit, so of course you wouldn’t do that! But that’s what NetFirstPlatinum.com appears to be offering at first glance…
Is this really a credit card? Wait… is Net First even a bank?
Maybe what Net First offers is not a credit card at all, appearances to the contrary. The card that appears on their website does not have a Visa or MasterCard logo. Instead, you see two gray smudges that look like the effects of Photoshop (see the image up top). Moreover, the card that the girl is holding in the picture looks disproportionately large for a credit card. It really makes you wonder if that card could fit into her wallet or even her pocket.
Have bad credit or no credit? Be careful
If so, these types of fake credit card deals and potential scams are targeted towards people just like you. In fact, the scams of NetFirstPlatinum and the linke are among the largest pitfalls of having a limited credit history.
Get great rewards, minus the scary fees: Okay, so NetFirst is trying to screw you. That doesn’t mean everyone who offers you rewards is out to take your money. PerkStreet Financial is an online bank that offers rewards on its debit cards – meaning no credit check, no line of credit, no security deposit and almost no chance of getting denied. Plus, you won’t have to pay an annual fee or even a monthly one. And unlike prepaid debit cards, the PerkStreet MasterCard doesn’t have high, hidden fees for everyday occurrences like, say, paying for things with your card. Yes, prepaid debit cards actually charge you to make transactions.
The only downside of getting a debit card with rewards like PerkStreet’s is that it doesn’t help to build your credit score. It makes sense – no line of credit, no impact on your credit history. Still, its lack of fees and its great rewards program are great recommendations.
Building credit: If you are in need of a card to build your credit, then we recommend going with a secured credit card from a reputable bank or credit union. A secured credit card requires you to pay collateral upfront, usually equal to the credit limit (if you want a $250 credit limit, you’ll have to post $250 when you open the account). This money is just collateral – you still have to make monthly payments – and you get it back when you close the credit card account. In the meantime, you’re responsible for making monthly payments and paying interest on your purchases, just like a regular unsecured card, which helps you to build credit.
The Capital One® Secured MasterCard® is one of the best, in terms of fees. And it offers you the option to upgrade to an unsecured credit card after a year or 18 months of “good behavior.”
A prepaid debit card is another option for those with bad or limited credit, but you should know that it won’t help you build credit. Instead, it’s just a convenience until you are able to get a credit card. It works like a checking account: you load money on the card and spend it. You’re posting money upfront, but that money is deducted to pay for your purchases. We should clarify – it’s like a checking account, but often with annual, reloading, and ATM fees.
Because of this, we recommend a secured credit card over a prepaid debit card. With all of the fees involved in prepaid debit cards, most users are much better served with a traditional checking account and ATM card. Secured credit cards, on the other hand, report on-time payments to credit bureaus.
The Schumer Box that wasn’t
According to the Truth in Lending Act of 1991, every real credit card is required to disclose its fees and interest rates in an easy-to-read format, called the Schumer Box after then-Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY). We’ve seen some generous interpretations of the “easy-to-read” provision, but Net First’s is one of the worst. And there’s no Schumer Box at all. I imagine they’re able to get away with this because this card isn’t really a credit card.
The pre-acceptance disclosure is incredibly hard to read, and is placed in an area where few users would think to look. It’s in a narrow text box at the very top that requires you to scroll down every three lines or so. In fact, the box is about 80 pixels tall – barely bigger than the title box of this blog post. If you read the entire disclosure (it took me 20 minutes to finish because it’s so annoying to read), you will find out that it’s a line of credit, not a credit card. Effectively, they’re just giving you $500 to shop at their affiliated site, called The Horizon Outlet. If you’re masochistic and want to read the whole disclosure itself, I found the link to the full document buried in the source code of their site: https://netfirstplatinum.com/terms.php?s=NF.
One of the biggest warnings signs in the Terms and Conditions was the following block of text, right at the top (bolded emphasis is mine):
HORIZON CARD SERVICES™ IS NOT A CREDIT SERVICES ORGANIZATION, BANKING INSTITUTION OR INSURANCE COMPANY, NOR IS IT AFFILIATED WITH ANY CREDIT SERVICES ORGANIZATION, BANKING OR INSURANCE INSTITUTION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT A VISA, MASTERCARD, OR DEBIT CARD. HORIZON CARD SERVICES ACCOUNT IS A LINE OF CREDIT THAT CAN BE USED BY AN ACCOUNT HOLDER TO SHOP EXCLUSIVELY AT OUR ONLINE SHOPPING WEBSITE. THERE ARE NO DOWN PAYMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR PURCHASES AT OUR WEBSITE. HORIZON CARD SERVICES™ DOES NOT FACILITATE, NOR PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IN OBTAINING CREDIT FROM ANY OTHER CREDIT-ISSUING ENTITIES. HORIZON CARD SERVICES™ DOES NOT CHARGE AN ADVANCED FEE TO ESTABLISH CREDIT, NOR DOES HORIZON CARD SERVICES™ ATTEMPT, OR CLAIM TO ATTEMPT, TO ESTABLISH, RE-ESTABLISH OR REPAIR ANY CUSTOMER CREDIT HISTORY.
Since they disclose this information on the site, they aren’t technically doing anything illegal, but it’s hard to argue that what they are doing is “right.” The promises of a “$500 Unsecured Credit Limit” and “Reports to Major Bureau” are clearly misleading, and their site seems designed to take advantage of those with poor credit or who don’t truly understand how credit cards work, and then charge them egregious fees for a card that offers no real benefits. It smells a lot like the Anacott Financial scam we uncovered last year.
The pre-acceptance disclosure states that there will be a processing fee applied to items purchased on the Horizon Outlet site. This fee varies depending on the item, so you have no idea how much you’ll have to pay. According to some users on the Complaints Board, the site’s products are egregiously marked up, but you can’t log in to see what they sell until after you’ve gotten a card.
There’s also a $24.95 monthly maintenance fee auto-debited “for ease and convenience.” Charging $300 worth of fees annually makes the Net First Platinum of the most expensive “credit cards” we’ve seen.
Although Net First advertises that it doesn’t perform a credit check, and that they guarantee approval, getting the card isn’t a foregone conclusion. Previous consumers have paid the $29 processing fee to open the card but never received it.
If you’ve faced any similar issues, such as not receiving a card after paying the fee, we encourage you to call the company during regular business hours at 1-800-251-6144 and cancel your account immediately. If, like many of the Complaints Board members, you aren’t able to have your problems resolved by the company, try filing a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center to help protect other consumers just like you.