Credit Cards

Spookiest Credit Cards of 2018

We closely examined the fine print on dozens of credit cards to bring you the biggest personal finance scares just in time for Halloween.

Most credit cards make everyday life highly convenient, but some cards come with hidden fees or features that make them downright scary. Things like ongoing maintenance fees and high APRs can wreak havoc on your financial situation if you're not careful. We highlight some of the spookiest credit cards you'll want to avoid, below.

Spookiest Credit Cards of 2018

A Bone-Chilling APR of Nearly 30% and a $125 Annual Fee in the First Year: Surge Mastercard

The Surge Mastercard comes equipped with a sky-high 29.99% APR, making it one of the scariest credit cards for people who carry a balance. Most other cards have APRs that hover between 16% and 21%, depending on the creditworthiness of the applicant. Even more shocking: Most other cards have a penalty APR of 29.99%, meaning the Surge Mastercard starts you at a rate that's considered a punishment among other cards.

The high APR on this credit card makes it difficult to climb out of the debt cycle. If you were to only make minimum payments on a $1,000 balance on the Surge Mastercard, it would cost you over $700 in interest expenses. Because of the high interest charges, it would take you a little over four years to pay off your balance. While other credit cards aren't exactly friendly when it comes to interest charges, most fare better than the Surge Mastercard.

APRTotal Interest ChargesNumber of Monthly PaymentsTotal Number of Years to Pay Off
Assumes a minimum payment of 4% or $35, whichever is greater, and a $1,000 balance.

Scary Factor: 5 out of 5 Pumpkins

5 out of 5 pumpkins

A high APR is certainly scary, but interest charges can be avoided altogether, provided you pay your bill in full every billing cycle. However, there's no getting around the card's $96 annual fee ($125 in year one).

$164 in Fees in Year One … and $123 in Year Two: TOTAL Visa® Credit Card

The TOTAL Visa® Credit Card has some of the most egregious fees we've seen on any credit card—totaling $164 in year one. Want to apply for the card? You'll have to pay an $89 processing fee. Want another card for your spouse or significant other? You'll have to pay a $29 additional card fee every year. Is your monthly bill due? You'll have to pay $6.25 for the monthly servicing fee. That's not even taking into account the card's annual fee: $75 for the first year and $48 thereafter.

While some cards make up for high fees with worthwhile rewards, the TOTAL Visa® Credit Card doesn't have any sort of rewards program. The card also can't be used at gas station pumps, which is quite an unusual restriction for any credit card and makes it useless for those who want to pay with plastic at the pump.

TOTAL Visa Credit Card Fees Through Two Years

Scary Factor: 4 out of 5 Pumpkins

4 out of 5 pumpkins

Not only are these some of the highest fees we've seen on any card, but there's no way to avoid some of them, such as the $89 processing fee or the $6.25 monthly servicing fee.

Interest Charges That Come Back From the Dead: Best Buy Credit Cards

The credit cards offered by Best Buy may seem to offer a solid deal: 0% APR on purchases for a few months, however if the balance is not paid in full by the end of the promotional period, you'll be charged interest retroactively. This means you'll have to pay interest from the date of purchase. Depending on what you purchased and your APR, these interest charges could be extremely costly. This is particularly troubling for those who are forgetful and may slip up on making a payment.

So what's the spookiest part? A study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) determined that consumers with subprime credit scores that participated in such offers faced owing deferred interest in 43% of promotions. In other words, nearly half of people with subprime credit scores ended up having to pay interest charges when using one of these credit card offers.

Deferred Interest Offers Success Rate

Scary Factor: 3 out of 5 Pumpkins

3 out of 5 pumpkins

This card is frightening, because the language about retroactive interest charges is easy to miss and making just one mistake could prove to be extremely costly.

A Nightmarish Annual Fee of Nearly $1,000: Mastercard® Gold Card™

The Mastercard® Gold Card™ is a 24K-gold plated card that has a $995 annual fee. While the card offers a decent rewards program, it lacks enough features to make it worth that high annual fee. There are other cards, such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, that offer better rewards and come with substantially lower annual fees.

We outline other cards that have similar features to those found on the Mastercard® Gold Card™ and their annual fees, below.

FeatureCredit CardAnnual Fee
$200 Annual Airline Fee CreditThe Platinum Card® from American Express$550
Global Entry and TSAPre Application CreditChase Sapphire Reserve®$450
No Foreign Transaction FeesWells Fargo Propel American Express® Card$0
2% Cash BackCiti® Double Cash Card$0
The Citi® Double Cash Card offers 1% back when you purchase and another 1% back as you pay.

Scary Factor: 2 out of 5 Pumpkins

2 out of 5 pumpkins

While it takes a high level of spending for this card to make sense for anyone, the card does feature a rewards program, which can help offset the card's costly annual fee.

Not Quite As Spooky, But This Card Could Cost You Over $1,000: The Kroger Rewards World Mastercard

The Kroger Rewards World Mastercard is more disappointing than it is scary, as the card features an uninspiring rewards rate that ranges from 0.5% to 1.5%. Unfortunately, to achieve a rewards rate on the higher end of the spectrum, most of your purchases will have to be Kroger-branded products. Users get three points for purchasing Kroger-branded products, two points for making purchases at Kroger, and earn one point per dollar spent anywhere else.

The card has underwhelming redemption values on the points you earn. For example, 1,000 points are worth $5 in free groceries, meaning that each point is worth half of a cent. In comparison, most other credit cards offer a value of at least double—totaling 1 cent per point. The longer you rely on a card, like the Kroger Rewards World Mastercard, for everyday spending, the more money you're leaving on the table than if you were using a top cash back credit card.

Other Cards with better rewards rates

Scary Factor: 1 out of 5 Pumpkins

1 out of 5 pumpkins

The Kroger Rewards World Mastercard doesn't come with an annual fee, and it's actually decent when used for purchases at Kroger or on Kroger-branded products. Just know that there are better offers to be had for any type of budget.

Quick and Scary Credit Card Facts

  • The average American has a credit card balance of $6,354. Assuming no interest charges and a $100 monthly payment, it would take more than five years to pay off the debt. The kicker: Most credit cards have interest rates in the double digits.
  • Credit card debt accounts for 25% of all debt. Two in 10 people use 50% to 100% of their income toward paying back debt. And one in 10 people say they will be in debt for the rest of their lives.
  • As of Q2 of 2018, Americans have $0.83 trillion of outstanding credit card debt. That's more than the GDP of Costa Rica, Croatia or Panama.
  • In Q2 of 2018, nearly one in 10 people with credit card balances were more than 90 days delinquent.
Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).