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The Blaze Mastercard offers those with less-than-ideal credit a chance to work on their credit score without excessive fees. The cost-effective card doesn’t require a security deposit to qualify and won’t charge you activation fees, monthly maintenance fees or other expensive fees. It's issued by First Savings Bank and serviced by Capital Services in South Dakota.
If you can’t come up with a security deposit for a secured credit card, the Blaze Mastercard is a better choice compared with fee-heavy unsecured card options. Here’s what you need to know.
1. It charges an annual fee
The Blaze Mastercard has a $75 annual fee — but you may not have to be stuck with it forever. As of Jan. 2021, you could contact customer service to ask about qualifying for a lower fee, after establishing a record of on-time payments and managing your account responsibly, according to Alfred Furth, portfolio chief and senior vice president at Capital Services.
The fee is on the lower end compared with other unsecured credit cards, but it's worth noting that it's money that you won’t get back. With a secured credit card, the security deposit may be more expensive upfront — in some cases, several hundreds of dollars — but you’ll at least get that money back with a good payment history and responsible credit usage.
The $0-annual-fee Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card, for example, may offer a bit more flexibility with a lower deposit requirement of $49 or $99 if you can qualify. Otherwise, there’s a $200 minimum security deposit requirement and you'll have 35 days to come up with it after being approved for the card. During that time, the issuer allows partial payments of at least $20, in whole dollar increments.
2. The credit limit is potentially generous
The Blaze Mastercard offers a maximum credit limit of $1,500 for those eligible and a minimum credit limit of $350. At the higher end, it's more generous than the one you might get with a secured credit card. After all, your credit limit is typically only as high as the amount you deposit.
At the lower end, the limit doesn’t leave much room to spend. The annual fee will also cut into your available credit, leaving you with just $275 to use.
A low credit limit isn't necessarily a deal breaker, though, especially not with this card. You can potentially qualify for a higher credit limit in as little as six months if your account is in good standing and you meet debt-to-income requirements.
Using no more than 30% of your available credit can keep your credit utilization low and your credit score on track. If, say, your credit limit is $350 and the annual fee occupied a portion of it, ideally you should put no more than $82.50 on the card at one time to avoid hurting your credit score.
3. Late payments won’t hike up your APR
With the Blaze Mastercard, your credit scores may suffer if you miss a payment, but you won’t get punished with a penalty APR — an interest rate higher than your card's purchase APR that may be applied to your account balance over several months, increasing your bill. There's a late fee of up to $25 if you miss a payment, but that’s still on the lower end considering that late fees can run as high as $41 in some instances.
Avoid paying late to stay on track with your credit goals. The Blaze Mastercard reports payments to all three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). Paying on time can help you establish a strong payment history, which makes up a good portion of your credit score.
4. It has reasonable fees
Aside from late fees, the Blaze Mastercard may charge a returned payment fee of up to $25 and a cash advance fee of 2% per transaction. Beyond those potential charges, though, the Blaze Mastercard is a reasonable and affordable option because you won’t have to worry about monthly fees, activation fees or other pricey fees.
As a Mastercard with broad merchant acceptance and no foreign transaction fees, it’s also well-equipped to travel internationally.
The Blaze Mastercard charges a fee and a high APR for cash advances, but that’s typical of most credit cards. A cash advance is best reserved as a last resort after you’ve exhausted all other options.
5. You can get a PREMIUM Club membership to access discounts
Cardholders have the option of choosing the PREMIUM Club membership, which offers discounts on prescriptions, hotels, dining, car rentals and entertainment. The membership costs $4.95 per month (about $60 annually) and is included on your billing statement.
The program is worth it only if you can use the discounts enough to offset the cost of the membership fee. Considering that this card already charges a $75 annual fee, that would mean paying about $135 per year to hold this card. That’s treading close to the cost of a security deposit on a secured card, so it’s worth considering one if this amount aligns with your budget.
If incentives matter to you, the $0-annual-fee Discover it® Secured Credit Card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. All other purchases earn 1%. The Discover it® Secured Credit Card requires a minimum of $200 as a security deposit, but you can defray some of the cost with its sign-up offer. Plus, it's worth the investment since the card has a possible path to upgrade to an unsecured Discover card. The issuer conducts automatic monthly reviews to determine if you’re ready to move to an unsecured card. If you are, you can get your security deposit back.
This and other secured options can be found on NerdWallet's list of best credit cards.