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Awful Offers

Some credit card offers are so bad that they should be refused. Here, from our Fool Community, a roundup of some recent awful offers they've received.

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By Dayana Yochim

Poor trees. Unfortunately, they cannot choose their destiny. While one goes on to a lifetime of appreciation as a framed wedding invitation fawned over by generations of family members, the next tree finds its limbs turned into the lowliest of paper products -- junk mail.

Some credit card offers are so bad they aren't worth the paper they're printed on -- let alone the color ink, glossy decals, and the salary of the copywriter who has to somehow make a sour deal sound sweet. We asked Fool Community members to tell us about some of the recent awful credit card offers they've received. And boy, they came up with some doozies.

"What bothers me most is that I'm sure there are plenty of people who accept offers like these, even knowing the terms," laments Pailyeller on our Consumer Credit/Credit Card discussion board. "Banks wouldn't offer these deals if people didn't accept them."

She's right. Out of desperation, some folks are forced to accept sub-standard offers just to get a line of credit. If that's you, then check out "Finding The One" for some tips on getting the best credit card you can.

At a glance, some of these offers look fine. But further inspection usually turns up a few sour apples. Sometimes the stinger doesn't show up until you've already accepted the offer. It's all about the fine print -- find a good light, get your reading glasses, or borrow a child with 20/20 vision and look for the loopholes. And don't forget that you've got legions of eagle-eyed Fools in our Fool Community on your side to help you decipher that "Once In a Lifetime -- You Absolutely CANNOT Pass This Up" offer.

Here is a brief roundup of recent awful offers mailed to Fools in the Community. Post your own worst offer ever received on our Consumer Credit/Credit Card discussion board, and we'll periodically update this list. And next time you get a particularly bad solicitation in the mail, do yourself and the poor trees a favor -- save a few saplings and recycle.

JoeBedford: I received a 0% balance transfer offer from GM MasterCard. I applied and was accepted... and then given a $500 credit limit. That's next to useless as a balance transfer tool, not to mention borderline insulting. I have not had a $500 credit limit since the very first credit card I ever got.

Michaelzehr: I recall getting an offer for an unsecured card that carried a $79 application fee, payable in cash. If you wanted an answer in a week, they would rush it for another $25. It was advertised as an "unsecured" card. But here's the kicker -- they charged you a refundable fee equal to your credit limit when you signed up. Meaning, as you pay that fee down, your available credit increases, allowing you to charge things. If you cancel, they credit that original charge back to you. I think the account fee was payable at $9.95 per month, and the APR was 27%.

Pailyeller: I was offered a card a couple months ago with 0% rate on a balance transfer. The balance transfer had to be more than $4,000, and the rate would increase to 25.9% after three months. The regular APR was 25.9%, if I recall correctly, and the annual fee was around $120. It was from a bank I'd never heard of.

Gasnthren: My husband gets some real wham dingers -- a particular favorite is the $10K "Gold Credit Card" where you are required to order stuff out of their catalog.

EmmaFrances: AT&T Universal Card routinely offers me a 7.9% balance transfer rate -- on an account with a 7.35% APR. I've been getting this offer for almost two years.

ArgentLupe: I was offered a cash-back card just for "students." The best part was the big, colored print that said, "Up to 5% cash back!*" And of course the * referred to the fine print, which said, "In any month where you carry a balance." Otherwise the "cash back" was like .25% or something.

WolfShead56: Well it wasn't exactly an offer, but when Merrick took over my NextCard, I got a letter saying that they were going to do me a favor and collect my annual fee in 12 installments of $10 instead of one big one of $120. When I called to say I didn't have an annual fee on that card, I was told, "You do now." I told Merrick, 'Thanks, but no thanks." A $120 fee on a $300 limit card is pretty outrageous. When I called NextCard to cancel it before Merrick took over, the service rep asked why, and I told them about the fee. Even the NextCard customer service agent said, "I don't blame you."

Chances are a few awful offers will cross your path. According to CardWeb.com, more than five billion credit card solicitations were mailed out last year alone. We're pretty sure a few of those have been slipped into your mail slot.