Surge Mastercard® review: A surge of interest and fees

Woman sitting at her kitchen counter, eating breakfast and reading on her laptopImage: Woman sitting at her kitchen counter, eating breakfast and reading on her laptop

In a Nutshell

If you have less-than-perfect credit, the Surge Mastercard® could give you access to an unsecured credit card with a minimum credit limit of $300. But applicants aren’t guaranteed the unsecured version of the card — they may end up with a secured card instead. The card charges an annual fee between $75 and $99, adds a monthly maintenance fee up to $10 a month beginning in the second year, and has a $30 authorized-user fee. With better starter cards available, the Surge Mastercard® should be chosen only as a last resort.
Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.
Pros Cons
Invites applicants with limited or poor credit to apply High annual fee
Reports payment history to all three main consumer credit bureaus Monthly maintenance fee up to $10 (after first year)
  High variable purchase APR

What you need to know about the Surge Mastercard®

The Surge Mastercard®, issued by Celtic Bank and serviced by Continental Finance, is designed to help people with bad credit or no credit at all start building their credit, and it can be used anywhere that Mastercard is accepted. There’s a lot of competition in this space, so let’s see how the Surge Mastercard® measures up.

An unsecured starter card … except when it’s not

The Surge Mastercard® markets itself as a credit-builder card, and in some respects that’s true. Celtic Bank considers individuals with less-than-stellar credit, and it does report payment history to all three main consumer credit bureaus.

But where the Surge Mastercard® really stands out is that it claims to offer a way for you to get your hands on an unsecured credit card with an initial limit of $300 to $750.

When you can’t afford to put down a security deposit, unsecured credit cards can be attractive, even when they offer few additional perks.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be approved for the unsecured version of the Surge Mastercard®. Depending on your credit profile, you may be offered a secured card instead.

Without the guarantee of an unsecured card, the Surge Mastercard® loses almost all of its appeal — especially considering its exorbitant fees.

High annual and monthly fees

The Surge Mastercard® charges an annual fee ranging from $75 to $99, and it’s not clear how they choose the fee within the range.

Doing the quick math, $75 is 25% of the card’s $300 minimum credit limit, which is a pretty high percentage of your credit limit.

But it gets worse. After your first year, the Surge Mastercard® charges a monthly maintenance fee — a total of up to $120 per year — once cardholders enter their second year.

What if you to want to add an authorized user on the account? Surprise, there’s a one-time fee for that too — $30 per authorized user.

Sky-high interest rate

The Surge Mastercard® charges a variable 25.90% to 29.99% APR on purchases — that’s high even for starter credit cards.

If you do decide to apply for the Surge Mastercard® and you’re approved, we recommend that you don’t carry a balance. The interest charges on even a few dollars carried over from month to month can accumulate quickly at this high rate.

Thankfully, this credit card comes with a 25-day grace period from the close of your last billing cycle to pay off your statement balance without interest charges.

Unclear upgrade path

One of the hallmarks of great secured credit cards is clarity about how long you’ll need to wait to get your security deposit back and graduate to an unsecured card.

But the Surge Mastercard® offers no such guidelines for how or when it considers upgrading its secured cards to unsecured status. In the card’s agreement terms, Continental Finance states that your account will be reviewed for a credit limit increase after it’s been open for at least six months.

Who is the Surge Mastercard® card good for?

The Surge Mastercard® should be considered only after you’ve reviewed other options on the market. Compare offers for cards for poor credit or secured credit cards on Credit Karma to start. If you’re not sold after researching your other options, the Surge Mastercard® could be an option to consider and could help you build credit in the short term.

If you’re able to build your credit, applying for a more user-friendly card down the road could give you opportunities to earn rewards at a lower interest rate.

Does Surge Mastercard® give credit increases?

Surge Mastercard® offers the ability to double your initial credit limit after six months, but it’s not guaranteed. At minimum, you’ll need to have made your first six monthly minimum payments on time. And to have a better shot at a credit line increase, it’s best if you pay your entire monthly bill, use under 30% of your current credit limit and keep your income up to date.

If you haven’t received an increase after the first six months and believe that you should qualify, you may need to reach out to the lender directly. But keep in mind that this can result in a hard inquiry on your credit reports that could affect your scores.


Not sure this card is for you? Consider these alternatives.


About the author: Clint Proctor is a freelance writer and founder of WalletWiseGuy.com, where he writes about how students and millennials can win with money. When he’s away from his keyboard, he enjoys drinking coffee, traveling, obse… Read more.