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The Total Visa credit card is an option if you have bad credit, but it's not ideal.
Sure, it's an unsecured Visa card, meaning it doesn't require an upfront security deposit and will be widely accepted. And it reports payment activity to the three main credit bureaus, so it can help you build credit.
But the benefits end there because the Total Visa credit card, issued by The Bank of Missouri, charges an absolute onslaught of pointless fees, along with a jaw-dropping interest rate. Even though some other credit cards for bad credit (FICO scores of 629 or lower) have annual fees and high interest rates, the Total Visa credit card takes this to a new level.
Other credit cards can help you build credit with careful use, and the costs won't be as high.
Here are five things to know about the Total Visa credit card.
1. It's loaded with fees
To carry and use the Total Visa credit card, get ready to pay these fees:
Program fee. You must pay this $89 fee within 60 days of your application being accepted. You can't activate your new card until you fork over the money. Generally speaking, "program fees" are not a thing for most credit cards, even among those meant for bad credit.
Annual fee. The card costs $75 for the first year and $48 per year after that. While annual fees are much more common for credit cards — and they can be worth paying — the Total Visa is more expensive than other cards in its class.
Monthly servicing fee. This is waived for the first year and costs $6.25 per month after that. That translates to $75 per year, and it's not typically a fee you'd have to pay on other cards for bad credit.
Other fees. Depending on your card use, you may incur late payment fees, cash advance fees, a fee for another card for an authorized user, and even a fee to increase your credit limit. And if you're feeling fancy, it costs $6.95 to choose a "premium plastic card design." So save your cash and opt for one of their free basic design options — or better yet, choose a different credit card entirely.
Assuming you don't rack up any other fees and pay the first three fees listed above, this card will cost at least $164 in the first year and $123 after that.
2. The interest rate is alarmingly high
Interest rates on credit cards for consumers with bad credit are notoriously high, but the Total Visa credit card pushes the limit. As of January 2023, the interest rate for this card is a whopping 34.99%.
Think of it this way: If you make minimum payments on a $1,000 credit card balance, you'll spend an additional $2,045 in interest with the Total Visa credit card. However, if you had that balance on a card charging a 29% annual percentage rate or APR and made the same monthly payment, you'd pay $963 in interest instead.
3. A credit limit increase involves a wait and a cost
You must carry the Total Visa credit card for a year before being considered for a credit limit increase, which is a long time to wait, considering you can become eligible for increases in less time with other cards. The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card will consider you for a credit line increase in as little as six months.
And let's go back to fees because you'll pay another if your credit limit goes up with the Total Visa credit card. In this case, you'll pay 20% of the amount your credit limit is increased. So, according to the card's terms and conditions, if your credit limit grows by $100, you must pay a $20 fee that eats into the increase. So, really, it's a credit limit increase of $80.
Such a fee is highly unusual, even among cards for bad credit.
4. You must have a checking account
Like many cards for consumers with bad credit, you need a checking account to qualify. This can create a limitation for anyone who lacks a checking account but wants to establish a credit history.
An alternative is the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card, a secured credit card that allows you to pay a security deposit with a money order or Western Union transfer if you don't have a checking account. It does have a $35 annual fee, but that's cheaper than the Total Visa credit card, especially in the long run.
5. Other cards cost much less
If building credit is your goal, other credit cards designed for that purpose don't pile on a bunch of pricey fees.
First, let's consider secured credit cards. Yes, they require you to put down an upfront deposit, which can be a hurdle. But unlike the Total Visa credit card, it's not a recurring amount you must pay every year, and you can eventually get that money back when you close the card in good standing. (The fees you pay on the Total Visa card? Not refundable.) It's even possible to find secured cards that earn rewards.
Consider the Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card, which has a $0 annual fee and earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.
The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is another $0-annual-fee option that earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
There's even a bonus for new cardholders: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
Both cards also offer a path to graduating to unsecured cards over time.
If you don't think you can afford to tie up $200 to $300 in a security deposit for a year or more, you might want to look into a so-called "alternative" credit card. These products are designed for those with poor or no credit, and while they tend to lack flexibility and may come with some restrictions, many don't require a traditional upfront deposit, credit check or annual fee. Some even earn rewards.