Surge Mastercard® review: A surge of interest and fees

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In a Nutshell

If you have less-than-perfect credit, the Surge Mastercard® could give you access to an unsecured credit card with a $500 credit limit. But applicants aren’t guaranteed the unsecured version of the card — they may end up with a secured card instead. The card charges a $125 annual fee (then $96 after the first year), adds a $10 monthly maintenance fee 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.

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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 (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. 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 a $500 credit limit (which is really only $375, because Continental Finance assesses the first year’s annual fee before you begin using your card).

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 creditworthiness, 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.

Fees, fees, fees

The Surge Mastercard® charges an eye-popping $125 annual fee your first year (after that the annual fee is $96). That’s a bigger annual fee than many rewards cards charge.

Doing the quick math, $125 is 25% of the card’s $500 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 $10 monthly maintenance fee — a total of $120 per year — once cardholders enter their second year.

The Surge Mastercard® does reduce its annual fee to $96 in the second year, but you’ll still pay $91 more in the combined annual fee and monthly maintenance fees in your second year than in your first year with the card.

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 29.99% annual percentage rate 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. For example, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card will consider returning your security deposit after eight months.

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 12 months.

In contrast, cards like the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® pledge to review your account for a credit-limit increase after only five on-time monthly payments.

Who this card is good for

The Surge Mastercard® should be considered only after you’ve reviewed other options on the market. Check out our top picks for easier-approval credit cards or secured credit cards 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.

5 quick tips to improve your credit health

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