What Are the Worst Credit Cards of 2021?

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.

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    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: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

    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.

    Plus, there are tons of flexible travel cards ideal for cruises, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. That card offers unlimited 2X miles per dollar you spend — plus enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel — 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.

    Worst Airline Credit Card: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

    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 Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card 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.

    You do get two miles per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide 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.

    More by Holly Johnson:

    For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please click here .
    For rates and fees of Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here

    Please Note: Information about the Blue Cash Preferred® Card and Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card from American Express has been collected independently by TheSimpleDollar.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

    Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view our disclosures, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser’s page for terms & conditions.

    Holly Johnson

    Contributing Writer

    Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.