The NetFirst Platinum card makes a lot of promises to consumers: an unsecured $500 credit limit, no credit check, guaranteed approval. If you don’t read the terms and conditions carefully, though, the limitations and large membership fees could catch you off guard. Before you apply for this offer, make sure you understand what’s on the table.
NetFirst Platinum sounds like the name of a credit card you could use anywhere. But, in fact, you can only use the card at NetFirst’s affiliated online store, according to the terms and conditions. Here’s what it says:
“Upon Account activation of your membership, you will receive various benefits as well as a credit card account to use exclusively on purchases available through the Horizon Outlet Website. Your Account will not work at any other website.”
This isn’t mentioned anywhere in the card’s marketing bullets, but for many, it’s a deal-breaker. You can’t even see what Horizon Outlet sells by going to its website, Shop.TheHorizonOutlet.com, since it doesn’t display its merchandise to non-members. If you’re looking for a card to use for general shopping, this isn’t a good pick.
To be sure, there’s a difference between the NetFirst Platinum and other store credit cards that can only be used at one outlet. A JCPenney credit card, for instance, can only be used at JCPenney stores, the JCPenney website and a partner website. Considering it’s a JCPenney card, that’s not entirely surprising. Meanwhile, nothing about the NetFirst Platinum card’s name indicates that it can only be used at the Horizon Outlet store. That’s a problem.
Robert Kane, the president of Horizon Card Services, which issues the NetFirst Platinum card, says that the way the card is marketed isn’t misleading.
“If you look at the landing page, there’s a box consumers have to check. It says the card can only be used at Horizon Outlet. You have to check that before you go onto the application,” he tells NerdWallet. “We’re giving them exactly what they’re signing up for.”
Judging from consumer complaints on online forums, though, more than a few people have missed this disclosure, which is set in small print. If this is the case for you, and you’re unhappy with the terms, you can call the company at 1-800-251-6144 during business hours, cancel the card and request a refund.
Steep membership fees
When you look at credit cards from mainstream banks, you’ll notice that most information about rates and fees is easy to find. Every online application includes a link to a Schumer box, where rates and fees are printed in order, in large type. This is absent from NetFirst’s website, NetFirstPlatinum.com. The terms and conditions page notes that the purchase APR is 0% — which, at first, sounds like a good deal. But the card’s high membership fees make the interest rate beside the point.
There’s a $19.95 monthly maintenance fee auto-debited “for ease and convenience.” That adds up to about $240 per year. The card also charges processing fees on the items sold on Horizon Outlet, which vary by item.
Is the card really worth those fees, even if you think of it solely as a credit-building product?
As of July 2015, the card reports to two credit bureaus, which NetFirst Platinum doesn’t disclose, according to Kane. In contrast, other less-expensive credit-building options report to all three.
Kane says the card provides “exceptional value.” It’s designed for people who can’t afford a full secured credit card deposit, but want to establish credit, he adds. “We believe whole-heartedly we’re giving people a way to establish credit in the most cost-effective way possible,” he says. If you call customer service, you can also get your benefits plan changed so your monthly payments are $6.95 per month, he says, though that option isn’t listed in the application process.
Compared to other methods of credit building, though, this card remains an expensive option.
I have bad credit. What’s the best way to rebuild?
If you have bad credit, and you’re not sure what’s bringing down your credit, start by checking your credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus once every 12 months, which you can get at AnnualCreditReport.com. Go through all the account information, check for errors that may be hurting your credit and, if necessary, dispute them.
After that, look for ways to get positive information on your credit report. NetFirst Platinum isn’t your only option if your credit is severely damaged. Here are some better, more affordable ways to build your credit:
Shared secured loans: At your bank or credit union, you can generally apply for what’s known as a shared secured loan or credit-builder loan. These generally are reported to the three major credit bureaus, offer low APRs and don’t require an upfront deposit. Call your local branch to ask about terms on the types of share secured loans they offer.
Rent: If you get your landlord to sign up for a program like RentTrack, you can get your rent payments reported to the three major credit bureaus. As a tenant, you won’t have to pay for the service.
Secured cards: A secured credit card, designed for people with no credit or bad credit, requires you to pay a security deposit upfront, usually equal to the credit limit (if you want a $200 credit limit, you’ll have to post $200 when you open the account). This money is collateral, which you’ll get back when you close the credit card account in good standing. Some cards let you pay the deposit in smaller installments. On many cards, monthly payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus. If you’re not sure whether that’s the case, call your issuer for clarification.
As with any financial product, make sure you understand the terms before applying for a credit-building product. When you have have poor credit, your options may be limited, but they’re not as limited as you may think.