Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Prioritizes sticking to their budget while buying what they want and need See more cards
Attacks existing balances while avoiding new debt See more cards
Takes improving their finances seriously and wants recognition for using credit responsibly See more cards
If you have bad credit and can’t afford the deposit on a secured card, your options are often limited to cards issued by niche banks such as Merrick. In exchange for granting unsecured credit to consumers with a poor payment track record, these banks usually charge some serious fees—including annual fees and account set-up fees—and painfully high interest rates.
The Merrick Bank Double Your Line Visa credit card is no different, with an annual fee of up to $72, a one-time set-up fee of up to $75, and a variable APR as high as 29.20%.
One standout feature, however, is the credit limit. Your initial limit of $550 to $1,250 will be automatically doubled after seven months of on-time payments, and regularly reviewed for increases after that too, according to a bank spokesperson. Many competitors, by contrast, award a lower initial limit (often as low as $300) and will make you wait at least a year before they’ll consider a credit limit increase. Some even charge a fee equivalent to 20% or 25% of the increase.
It’s worth noting that only the least creditworthy applicants will be charged the maximum fees, so if you’ve got good credit, you may be offered this card with no annual or set-up fee and a more reasonable APR. If your credit profile is that promising, however, you’re better off with a competing card with a lower APR and rewards on your purchases.
The good news? You can easily find out where you stand before you apply, and without dinging your credit score. Just use Merrick’s online prequalification tool to see which terms you’ll be offered. (And if you end up applying, keep in mind that while prequalification means you're more likely to be approved, there's no guarantee.)
If you only qualify for a card that carries high fees, you’re probably better off with a secured credit card. Although you’ll have to provide a security deposit upfront, the deposit is refundable (unlike fees) and there are many that don’t charge an annual fee. Typically the credit line is equal to your deposit, but you may be able to get one with a $200 limit by depositing as little as $49.
Potential to double your credit limit quickly
Free access to your FICO score
Annual fee for some borrowers
Account set-up fee for some borrowers
- Potential to double your credit limit quickly: Everyone loves to be rewarded for good behavior, and it can be a pain to have a low credit line. If your credit limit is initially $550, just make timely payments for seven months and it will automatically increase to $1,100, at no additional cost to you. Not only will you have to worry less about maxing out your card, but you’re less likely to negatively affect your credit utilization ratio—an important credit scoring metric. (More on this below.)
- Free access to your FICO score: Free credit scores have become a ubiquitous benefit on mainstream cards, but aren’t nearly as common on cards for consumers with bad credit, oddly enough. Plus, some card issuers offer scores that are less widely used by lenders, such as the VantageScore. The FICO score is the most popular and particularly good to monitor as you rebuild your credit.
- High annual fee for some borrowers: If you’re offered a card carrying an annual fee, it will be as high as $72. Among unsecured cards in this category, $72 is on the higher end, though there are cards on the market charging as much as $99. (If you’re charged $72, it will be spread out after the first year, at $6 a month.)
- Account set-up fee for some borrowers: Depending on the offer, you may be charged a one-time fee of up to $75 just to get your account started. That means you could wind up owing $147 before you’ve even used your card. Be aware that any annual or set-up fees eat into the credit limit initially available to you. (So if you’re approved for a $550 credit limit, it could actually be $403 at first.)
- Steep APR: If you have bad credit, you’ll likely have to pay a significant amount to carry a balance on any card. But this card’s highest interest rate is expensive by any standard, outdoing several competing cards. Such a high APR could make it much harder for you to afford your card’s minimum payments, putting you at risk of falling behind on your bills.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Chances are you have a poor credit score if you’re looking at this card. If so, make sure to pay your bills on time, month in and month out. It’s the best thing you can do to rehabilitate your credit.
For one, payment behavior is the single biggest factor in a FICO credit score calculation. Plus, if you pay on time, you’re likely to get that higher credit limit—giving you more wiggle room and improving your credit utilization ratio. (Scoring systems like to see that you’re using less than 30% of your available credit.)
You should also aim to pay your balance in full, if at all possible. Interest charges can blow up your credit card debt like a balloon, increasing your chances of falling further behind. With a 29.20% APR, for example, interest charges would inflate $1,000 in debt to $1,571 if you could only manage a payment of $35 a month. Likewise, paying off a balance of $2,000 could cost you a whopping $4,658 if you could only afford $50 a month.
While this card may wind up being quite expensive, you can do worse. Many others for bad credit profiles have yet another type of onerous fee you should aim to avoid: a monthly maintenance fee. This fee is commonly $6.25 or more, adding to your financial burden at an annual cost of at least $75.
Merrick Bank offers 24/7 customer support by phone, and a mobile banking app that you can use to check your balance and pay bills.
The Double Your Line Visa card offers standard security features.
Fees to Watch Out For
The Double Your Line Visa Card’s fees are fairly standard among those offered to borrowers with poor credit. Besides the annual fee of $0-$72 and the set-up fee of $0-$75, you’ll pay $0-$12 per person if you add any authorized users to the account and a foreign transaction fee of 2% if you use your card to pay in foreign currencies. (Other cards charge 1%-3%.) Thankfully, this card doesn’t have a monthly account maintenance fee, like many of its competitors.