Sometimes card issuers get everything right when they dream up a new credit card and benefit package, but sometimes they get it so wrong it’s almost laughable. In fact, there are some credit cards and programs so perplexing that it’s hard to imagine anyone would sign up unless they worked for the card issuer and felt bad.
While there are lots of subpar credit cards on the market, we wanted to highlight some of the worst offenders in terms of sad or misleading benefits, cheap rewards programs, and crazy interest rates. Some of these cards are new on the scene while others have been around for a while. Still, each of these credit cards has one thing in common — they all suck.
If you’re in the market for a new credit card this year, here are a few to put on your to-don’t list.
Worst Credit Cards of 2018:
- Worst New Credit Card: Starbucks Rewards Visa Card
- Worst Premier Travel Card: Mastercard® Black Card from Luxury Card
- Worst Credit Card for Cruises: Carnival® World Mastercard®
- Worst Grocery Credit Card: Kroger REWARDS World Mastercard®
- Worst Credit Card for Bad Credit: Horizon Gold Card
- Worst Airline Credit Card: Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Worst New Credit Card: Starbucks Rewards Visa Card
To start things off with a bang, let’s go over the embarrassing Starbucks Rewards Visa Card that was released earlier this year. In our review, which is titled The New Starbucks Visa Card is Exactly What’s Wrong with America, we highlight everything we hate about this card which is, basically, everything.
Where do we begin? Not only do you not earn cash-back with this card, but you earn “stars” for your spending as if you were still in grade school. Said stars are worth free coffee and bagels and cake pops, but not a lot else, since you can only redeem them for Starbucks products.
You do get automatic “Gold status” with the Starbucks Rewards Visa Card, but what does that really mean? Unfortunately, not a lot unless you count “free refills” as an incentive to sign up. You also get a Starbucks gold card with your name on it and a birthday reward. Yay?
The fact that this card comes with a $49 annual fee as well means that it should really be a no-go for anyone who can do math. Next!
Worst Premier Travel Card: Mastercard® Black Card from Luxury Card
The Mastercard® Black Card from Luxury Card has an extremely fancy website. It’s stark black with all kinds of dazzling graphics, and you’ll even read that someone from a website called Credit Card Pro said it was “best in class.”
I’ve never heard of Credit Card Pro and I’m not sure what “class” they are talking about, but this card is not one I would ever recommend signing up for if you want real travel benefits.
There are so many problems here, but it all starts with the fact the card has a $450 annual fee and no signup bonus. Say what?
Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from here. This card does offer 2% back for travel but they don’t have any transfer partners. You also get only 1.5% back when you redeem for cash-back. You do get “luxury gifts” and a “luxury concierge” as well as a members-only Luxury Magazine, so there’s that I guess.
The bottom line: If you have $495 to set on fire, you should sign up. If you are not made of money, skip it and get a real premier travel credit card that offers transfer partners, a signup bonus, and, you know, an actual reason to sign up.
Worst Credit Card for Cruises: Carnival® World Mastercard®
The Carnival® World Mastercard® has a picture of a cruise ship on the front, which may make you think it’s ideal for cruises! The reality, however, is that this is a terrible rewards card for cruises or anything else you might want to redeem for.
It doesn’t have an annual fee, so that’s good. But the signup bonus is only worth $100 off a Carnival cruise. You don’t even get to pick another cruise line, so that’s pretty limiting. And you can’t redeem your points for anything else — no cash-back, no merchandise, no nothing.
You also earn only 1 “Funpoint” per purchase, which translates into 1% back toward your cruise. Considering the fact the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5% cash back with no fee and you can use your rewards for anything, the Carnival® World Mastercard® is a poor option even among no-fee cash-back cards.
Plus, there are tons of flexible travel cards ideal for cruises, including the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. That card offers two miles per dollar you spend — plus 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from account opening — good for any type of travel, including cruises. And you don’t have to cruise with Carnival, either. Score!
Worst Grocery Credit Card: Kroger REWARDS World Mastercard®
As a loyal Kroger shopper, it pains me to say just how awful the Kroger REWARDS World Mastercard® is for consumers. Sure, it may be better than nothing, but the rewards are still pretty sad.
It all starts with the fact that this card doesn’t have a signup bonus. You do earn 2x points at Kroger stores and 3x points on Kroger brand products, but you only get 1 point per dollar on regular purchases.
Worse, the rewards you earn aren’t worth a lot, since 1,000 points is only worth $5 in free groceries. This means that, if you spend $1,000 on regular purchases with the card, you only earn $5. If you had a cash-back credit card that offered even 1%, on the other hand, you would earn double that, or $10.
Even worse, you don’t have the option to redeem your rewards however you want. With the Kroger REWARDS World Mastercard®, you only get coupons for free groceries at Kroger. That’s great if you want to cash in your rewards for Ding Dongs or hummus, but not that great if you want to use rewards for travel instead.
I’m sure we don’t really have to tell you what a bad deal this is. After all, there are many cash-back cards that offer a standard 2% back, and it’s not hard to find a card with a decent signup bonus. Heck, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back up to your first $6,000 in U.S. supermarket spending each year (then, 1%). So, stop already with this one, okay?
Worst Credit Card for Bad Credit: Horizon Gold Credit Card
Credit cards for bad credit typically come with higher interest rates and scarce rewards. Still, some credit cards for bad credit are a lot worse than others.
The Horizon Gold Credit Card is one that fits the bill. This credit card doesn’t require a credit check, which is your first red flag. You are also limited to a $500 credit limit.
But this is where it gets weird. When you sign up for this card, you’re automatically enrolled in a monthly membership benefit plan that includes “access to My Privacy Protection,” a prescription drug program, roadside protection, and some type of legal assistance benefit. And all for the “low” cost of $24.95 per month!
While you shouldn’t expect the moon and the stars when you sign up for a credit card made for people with poor credit, there are better options out there — some of which don’t have an annual fee at all, much less a monthly drain on your finances.
- Related: How to Raise Your Credit Score
Worst Airline Credit Card: Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Drum roll, please… It’s time for the final card on our list — the worst airline credit card of 2018. This one is painful to type because the Delta SkyMiles program isn’t half bad. Still, it must be said — the Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is not great.
While this airline credit card doesn’t have an annual fee (See Rates & Fees), there’s not much to love about it. The current offer is only 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on your card within three months of Card Membership, for starters, which is not a lot. And since Delta no longer publishes an award chart, it’s hard to know what those miles are worth anyway. Most of the time, 10,000 Delta miles won’t even be enough to cover a one-way domestic flight.
You do get two miles per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants and on purchases made directly with Delta, but you only get one mile per $1 spent on everything else. Still, like we said, the fact that Delta no longer publishes an award chart makes it so nobody can assign real value to these miles anyway.
If you want an airline credit card, there are oodles of additional options to consider with better ongoing perks and big signup bonuses. Heck, there are even Delta credit cards with better benefits and rewards with this one if you insist on flying Delta.
The Bottom Line
There are so many credit cards on the market to consider that it’s almost overwhelming, and that’s great news in a lot of ways. More competition is always a good thing, right?
Still, the variety available means there will be some stinkers on the list, and the cards we mention here are ones you should steer clear of no matter what. If you’re going to use a credit card, make sure it has something that benefits you, whether that’s a great rewards program, a low interest rate, or amazing cardholder perks.
If your current credit card doesn’t stand out from the pack, it’s probably time to get a new one.
More by Holly Johnson:
- How to Get TSA Precheck or Global Entry Free With a Credit Card
- Eight Tips to Make Credit Cards Work For You, Not Against You
- This Is Why I Can’t Have Nice Things: Life Is Way Easier Without Them
- Please Stop Getting Disney Credit Cards and Do This Instead
For rates and fees of the Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, please click here.
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