Aw nerds! Looks like this page may be out of date. Please visit NerdWallet’s How to Pick a Credit Card page for updated info.
Bogus credit card offers usually fall under the umbrella of: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Unsuspecting consumers are promised great credit card deals that turn out to be scams. There are a few ways to tell whether the offer you’re getting is really too good to be true:
Faulty promotional offers
Some credit card companies use alluring marketing materials that neglect to disclose fees for balance transfers or purchase transactions that are required in order for you to receive promotional reduced- or zero-interest rates, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You need to read the fine print of every promotional offer, not just the marketing materials.
Unless you’ve applied for a secured credit card, you shouldn’t have to pay up front for any credit card offer.
If a credit card company claims that advance fees will help you get a credit card, run away. Typically, secured credit card offers are the only cards that require application or processing fees. These amounts should be minimal, so if costs seem overblown — hundreds of dollars, for example — don’t take the bait.
Other scam credit card companies may also offer to repair bad credit for a large upfront fee. In reality, no payment can be used to repair bad credit.
Third-party credit card applications
If you have bad credit and a third-party broker or company promises to help get you a card, especially if they want a fee to do it, that’s a big red flag. You need to apply for a card directly with a reputable company. Also, if you apply online, you must use a secure site directly with the credit card issuer.
No processing network
Every legitimate credit card offer needs a network it’s processed on. The card should include a logo indicating the network, such as Visa, MasterCard, AmEx or Discover. If the credit card doesn’t include a network logo, or if it looks fake, you may be getting scammed.
Suspect bank issuer
If the bank issuer seems suspect, do a basic search of its legitimacy. All real bank websites should carry VeriSign or SSL security logos. If these logos seem doctored, check directly with the verifying sites to make sure.
Be wary of unsolicited offers from sound-alike banks. Find out its trustworthiness by checking the credit card issuer’s standing with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Better Business Bureau.
They don’t care about your credit history
If you have bad credit, you may feel desperate to get any card you can. But if a credit card issuer doesn’t ask about your credit history, they’re probably a scam.
Legitimate credit card companies may reach out to you via phone to make you a credit card offer. Bogus credit card offers via phone can come from automated robotic calls. You can also tell it’s probably a scam if the telemarketer won’t give out a customer service phone number to call back. If you’ve registered with the Do Not Call Registry, but still receive an unsolicited phone call, that’s also a bad sign.
‘VIP,’ ‘platinum’ or ‘gold status’
If you’ve never done business with a credit card company, but they claim you qualify for some kind of special status — usually “VIP” “platinum” or “gold” — it’s not a real credit card offer.
Always remember that worthwhile credit card offers will come from reputable companies rather than sources you haven’t heard of that are promising more than can really be delivered.
Image via iStock.