The Worst Credit Card Ever

Having been $45,000 in debt once and down by nearly $60,000 today, I've had some awful credit cards. But I've been lucky. The worst credit card ever has never been in my wallet.

But then again, my credit has never been so bad as to need the Aspire VISA card. Pity the poor soul that's had to carry this wealth-destroyer.

Strong words? Of course they are. That's because the Aspire VISA has as many ways to separate you from your money as do most Vegas card sharks. Here's a brief list.

  • Annual fees. The Aspire VISA charges $150 a year for the right to extend you credit. Even among those cards designed for those who are seeking to rebuild their credit history, as Aspire claims to be, this VISA falls far short. For example, the Orchard bank 2% cash back MasterCard, a top choice from the editors of researcher Cardratings, charges those with poor credit no more than $59 annually.
  • Monthly fees. But there's more. Aspire also dings its customers $6.50 monthly for the right to have a card. Nice. Why not raid the fridge and kick my cat while you're at it?
  • Application fee. And finally, there's the cruelest charge: $29 just to open the account.

What, exactly, do all these fees buy you? A lower average interest rate, perhaps? Hardly. Aspire's terms and conditions set the rate at 19.75% as of December 2005. But that may be cheap. Taken from the terms and conditions for the card:

"Your APR may vary. The APR for Purchases is determined by adding 12.50% to the Prime Rate, but in no event will be less than 19.50% ... The Prime Rate used to determine the applicable APR is the highest 'Prime Rate' published in the 'Money Rates' section of The Wall Street Journal on the 25th day (or if not published on the 25th, then on the date of the next publication following the 25th) of any of the three calendar months immediately preceding the month in which the Billing Cycle begins." [Emphasis mine.]

Let's do the math. According to the Journal, the Prime Rate, at 8.25%, sits at a 52-week high. Therefore, it's a good bet that Aspire is charging its customers in the neighborhood of 20.75% on unpaid balances.

Little gain, lots of pain
And that's going to hurt. Once again, to the terms and conditions:

"Available Credit Limitations: Your initial credit limit will be $300 and the following fees will appear on your first statement: Annual Fee of $150, and an Account Opening Fee of $29. After making your initial minimum monthly payment of $20, your available credit will be $141." [Once again, emphasis mine.]

That's right, Fool. Open an Aspire VISA, and, within minutes, half of your so-called credit limit will be gone, eaten up by fees. And you'll be paying 20.75% on the balance. Still want to order that pizza?

Follow the money
Unfortunately, Aspire isn't alone. Foolish poster rah1420 had some choice words for MBNA at our Credit Cards and Consumer Debt discussion board:

"Sure, we could get on their hardship plan. All we needed to do was maintain 12 months of on-time payments and we'd be off of it again. ... In a week we had a letter confirming the hardship rate (18%) and the suspension of the credit privileges. ... We grimly paid on time, faithfully, for the year. However, after a year elapsed and we were off the hardship rate, and after making a year of on-time payments, MBNA rewarded us. How? By raising the rate from the hardship rate BACK up to 24%. And did they restore all our credit privileges? No."

The lesson? Don't think that just because you're starting over, you have to accept a rotten deal. You don't. Credit issuers do best when they keep your accounts earning interest. So, whether you're dealing with Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , JPMorganChase (NYSE: JPM  ) , or American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) , ask whether your bank can do better. If they can't, move on. is my preferred place to find card deals, although Bankrate, which is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick, also features some excellent links.

Need more money-saving advice? Consider our Motley Fool Green Light newsletter service. Therein, co-advisors Dayana Yochim and Shannon Zimmerman show you how to unlock the hidden fortune inside your paycheck. There is $686 worth of tips in the January issue alone. Click here to get your copy and 30 days of free access to the service. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 1,284 out of more than 20,500 in Motley Fool CAPS, didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Get a peek at everything he's invested in by checking Tim's Fool profile. You can bank on The Motley Fool's disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 22, 2008, at 5:58 PM, prginww wrote:

    if you think aspire is bad you should try contenial. you start with 300.00 and after all there charges you got 50.00 to spend. and then you need to pay 50.00 when you activate your card. so i guess aspire isnt that bad after all

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2008, at 1:41 PM, prginww wrote:

    Thanks for this. I was told that Aspire would be a good way for me to rebuild my credit. I'm happy I did my research. For once, I'm glad to be a FOOL.

  • Report this Comment On July 28, 2008, at 6:03 PM, prginww wrote:

    yes aspier is the worst card. iam trying to get a hould of them to find out wher my pamens ar going so i can fix my cridet reopert that they f up.

  • Report this Comment On October 24, 2008, at 7:05 PM, prginww wrote:

    Aspire SUCKS ! ! I had applied for and received this card 10 years ago to help reestablist me credit after my divorce. Yes, I knew I was being charged high interest rates but what to do after your ex destroys your credit. Now after 10 years I receive a post card telling me that my charging privileges are hereby revoked and that I can no longer use my card. After I called the toll free number on the notice to find out why this was happening I was told that I was late on my Oct payment (payment was made a week before the due date) I was told that they have changed their policy and that payments must be made with in 5 days before due date. I then asked them does that include weekends and holidays the supervisor that I spoke to would not even give me an answer. When I had asked when did this policy change occured she said yesterday (10/23/08) I told her that I had not been informed of these changes I was told that I would be receiving notice sometime in the mail. I wanted to know if they were in the habit of changing their policy an acting on them before they even notified their customers but I never received a response to that question. I then asked if she could restore my charging privileges I was told that I was not eligible for that (why the hell not) I have ran up and paid off that card several times over the last 10 years. And this is how they repay a loyal customer ?

    What is wrong with these credit companies. The people who pay their bills are treated as if they are a bunch of dead beats. I have never walked away from my financial responsablities. But I guess that does not matter to them. And it is no wonder that there are not jobs in the country since the companies in America out sources their billing jobs to other counties. It's no wonder why the economy is in such bad shape. Companies like them are what is going to make the United States a 3rd world country.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2008, at 2:30 PM, prginww wrote:

    ASPIRE is full of crap. Not only did they give me the run around and put me off for another two days but they just informed me that the gorgeous gold card in my wallet was going to be cancelled as of midnight tonight. All this after I called and requested a card with my current married name. I was told that I would get a new card with my new name on it. He also said the account number would be different as well. Well, in the meantime my payment came due. I called duringthe waiting for the new card to arrive period to make payment and was told that they dont give account information over the phone and don't do emails. Received the card in the mail. Called to make paymnet, can't make payment without activating card first. I was transferred around six different times until finally someone told me that I couldn't talk to customer service until my payment posted that's the reason for the call around. Then today I called and was told that not only I couldn't activate the card, but the ASPIRE GOLD cards were going to be terminated as of midnight tonite. When asked to speak to a manager, he told me that the bank closed the accounts and that no one could have informed me of this earlier because it just showed up in the system. I haven't made any purchases on this card since earier this year and have made my payments ontime every month. They claimed I was a loyal customer and if I had not noticed the Exp Date (01/09), I would have never inquired about the short Exp Date for the new card. They are truly a RIP OFF Company!!!!

  • Report this Comment On December 11, 2008, at 6:24 PM, prginww wrote:

    got letter stating that my card was reason was given .Now they want you to pay out the balance,they must be crazy.What a big ripoff with this card

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2008, at 3:39 PM, prginww wrote:

    I just got a letter today stating they are discontinuing the Aspire Visa program. My card says it's good thru 3/09. Up until now, I have not had any problems with Aspire. I paid my bill long before it's due, my credit line was increased regularly, never did cash advances. But, I travel alot, so renting a car with a "debit card" is going to be nearly impossible. I know about bad credit and after my divorce, my ex took me through credit hell and the Aspire Card was an answer to a prayer to get back on my feet. They could have had the decency to come up with something better. Did they not get any money from the bailout???

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2008, at 3:07 PM, prginww wrote:

    Imagine card is pretty bad, too. I had been paying steadily, even moe than due when I had a money crisis--the mortgage on my home adjusted. They put me on a payment plan and then next thing i knew the card was permanently canceled.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2008, at 1:43 PM, prginww wrote:

    How can a class action suit be started? This is truly a bad company, do we have to pay as it was they who cancled? How will this affect our credit?

  • Report this Comment On January 05, 2009, at 8:08 PM, prginww wrote:

    I got a question for you all I got an aspire visa over 4 years ago because of my bad credit... I received a credit card with an intial $300 limit minus all the start up fees i think i ended up with like a 50 -100 left..

    Well to keep this story short i charged some items sent them a $90 payment not even a wekk lated maybe 2 weeks later they call me demanding another 100 payment i said i was willing to send them a payment at the end of the month. they said that wasnt good enough so i tlod them where to put their credit card..... Then about a week ago i get a summon in the mail theat Erica L. Branfeld law officed are suing me for 1,137.13 so can anyone direct me in what i need to do

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2009, at 11:46 AM, prginww wrote:

    And then there is Tribute. Same concept in credit cards. Had it for 3 years. They sent me a new card with 9/2012 expiration date just a week ago. Always paid on time in fact paid most of the balance off each month. Couldn't pay the balance in full because if I did it generated a hold on a "money order" payment and a call about paying off the balance in full from the company, Went to use the card last night, declined. Got home there was a letter saying they were discontinuing my program. No reason. Just a nasty note to pay the balance in full or else. I guess credit is a privilege but it's very wrong to treat people this way. I'm sure they cut me off because I paid too much of the balance and they couldn't collect interest. I'm like the other commentor, how do you rent a car without a credit card. SAD !!

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2009, at 8:28 AM, prginww wrote:

    Like many I got this card to repair my credit. Willing to spend the money to improve bad credit. Paid every bill on time and in full but still got mysterious charges. After four years of messing with this company, I finally cancelled it and was able to get an Am Ex card. In the mail yesterday, I received a check from a class action suit. Called the company and they varified that the $1574. was really mine, no strings attached. Lady was rude, said explanation was in the letter. Letter stated that I was reimbursed for those mysterious fees paid over the year. Wonder if anyone else got a check.

  • Report this Comment On December 05, 2009, at 1:17 PM, prginww wrote:

    All comments are SOOOO true, and now after canceling the service, they charge $9.99 to pay the bills online ... anyone else know of a legitimate organization that charges to save them money? These guys need to spend a whole lot of time with Bernie Madoff!!

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2011, at 11:27 AM, prginww wrote:

    My 98 yr old mom got a card from Aspire for $1700 4 yrs ago she never asked for extra insurance but yet they charge her $15.90 every month saying she signed for it, which is kinda funny seeing as shes blind.

    I pay $100 every month on this card for her and yet the balance never goes down, this was the worst mistake she ever made.

  • Report this Comment On February 24, 2013, at 5:26 PM, prginww wrote:

    Most unsecured credit cards targeted at people with bad credit come with crazy high fees and interest rates. Your best bet is to get a secured card and make your payments on time for a year, then apply for a unsecured one with decent rates. You could also try to use a free consumer organization such as "Bad Credit MD" that helps people get back on track with credit.

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