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Discover provides free FICOs for all

Discover has given its cardholders free access to their FICO (TransUnion) FICO scores for a few years now. But it’s taken that several steps further to offer free Experian FICO scores to everyone (not just cardholders).

The new service is called Credit Scorecard, and it’s the first free, widely available credit-tracking service to offer a free FICO score.

What Credit Scorecard offers

Once you sign up (again, you don’t have to be a Discover cardholder), you’ll get access to your Experian FICO score and a personalized credit summary. That summary includes:

  • Total number of accounts reporting to Experian
  • Length of credit history
  • Number of inquiries reported on your Experian report
  • Revolving credit utilization
  • Number of missed payments on your Experian report

Discover scorecard dashboard summary

You also get a more complete version of your Scorecard, which includes a breakdown of the scoring factors in your summary, how your score compares to others your age, and the factors that are helping and hurting your score:

discover scorecard helping and  hurting

Your Credit Scorecard will refresh every 30 days.

How does it compare?

There are lots of free-credit-score sites out there, both from issuers (like Capital One) and from other parties (like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, etc.). Each has features to consider, and some are more robust than others.

How Credit Scorecard may be better: It’s quite simple – Credit Scorecard offers you a free Experian FICO score, and it’s the first widely available free service to do so.

FICO is the most popular score among lenders, so knowing where you stand before applying for a card or a loan is extremely valuable. Granted, you have two other FICO scores (from TransUnion and Equifax), and you should know all three before applying for a major loan, like a mortgage. After all, each credit bureau may have slightly different information on you and produce a slightly different FICO score. But, when it comes to keeping tabs on your credit health and knowing when you’re ready for a card designed for excellent credit, having access to your Experian FICO score is a powerful asset.

Before Credit Scorecard, you had to buy your FICO scores (for about $20 each) or have a credit card that offers free FICO scores.

How Credit Scorecard may fall behind: As valuable as your FICO score is, Credit Scorecard doesn’t offer some of the features that other free-score services and websites do. For example, you get just a summary of your Experian report data. You don’t get access to an actual credit report, which other services provide (see a list here). Being able to see your report is helpful, as it allows you to spot mistakes or evidence of identity theft (such as accounts opened by a fraudster in your name). Some sites even email you alerts whenever something on your report changes.

Other free-score sites also have score-prediction tools, which allow you to see how your score might fluctuate if you, say, closed an account or applied for a new one.

The bottom line

How exactly Credit Scorecard measures up to other similar services may be beside the point, however. All these sites are free. And all of them employ a soft pull on your credit, meaning you could sign up for all of them at once and not harm your credit.

So, if you want to feel fully advised of your credit health, you may want to utilize several services and stitch them together to get a nearly complete credit picture. We can say, however, that, while it may not give you anything you want, Discover’s Credit Scorecard is a vital piece of your credit-tracking puzzle, as it’s the only free service to offer an Experian FICO score.

Compare other free-score services in the table below:

Comparing sites that offer free credit scores/reports
Free score typesFree credit report?Frequency of score/report updatesExplanation of score factorsFree credit monitoringCredit score prediction/simulator tool?
Credit KarmaVantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion and EquifaxYES. From TransUnion and EquifaxEvery 7 daysYESYES, via TransUnionYES
Credit SesameVantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion.NO. Can pay per viewing ($9.95 for TransUnion report) or via monthly subscription (starts at $7.95/month for monthly access to TransUnion, Equifax and Experian reports).MonthlyYESYES, via TransUnionNO
QuizzleVantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion.YES. TransUnion report.Every three months (every month for paid accounts)YESNO. Can pay for monitoring plan (starts at $8/month)NO
My.CreditCards.comVantageScore 3.0 from TransUnionYES. TransUnion report.MonthlyYESYES, via TransUnionNO
Credit.comVantage 3.0 from Experian; Experian National Equivalency ScoreNo. Must sign up for access to Experian report with Experian CreditWorks ($1 for 7-day trial, then $21.95/month)MonthlyYESNO. Requires paid plan.NO
Mint.comEquifax Credit Score (proprietary model used by Equifax)NO. Can get Equifax credit report via Mint Credit Monitor ($16.99/month).Quarterly score. Monthly for paid subscribers. Monthly credit report via Mint Credit Monitor (paid)YESNO. Three-bureau monitoring via Mint Credit Monitor.NO
Wise PiggyVantageScore 3.0 from TransUnionNO. Provides “Account Summary”MonthlyYESNONO
Lending TreeVantageScore 3.0 from TransUnionNOMonthlyYESNONO

Amtrak Credit Card Review (UPDATED)

Amtrak has gone through a bit of a credit-card rewards slump this past year. First, Chase axed its Amtrak rewards card in 2015. Then, near the end of 2015, Chase announced that it would no longer allow Ultimate Rewards transfers to Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program.Amtrak rewards credit card

But Bank of America picked up the mantle in 2016 and launched its own co-branded Amtrak rewards cards – the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard ($79 annual fee) and the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum MasterCard (no annual fee). The card is an improvement over the previous product and rewards those who commute or travel frequently with Amtrak.

Earning rewards

Both cards are offering a sign-up bonus right now. For the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard ($79 annual fee), you can get 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days. For the Platinum MasterCard version ($0 annual fee), you get 12,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Beyond that, you’ll earn rewards as follows:

 Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard ($79 annual fee)Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum MasterCard
Amtrak travel and onboard purchases3 points/$12 points/$1
Other travel purchases (airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, motels, inns, resorts, cruises, travel agencies)2 points/$1N/A
Other purchases1 point/$11 point/$1

Note that you will also be earning the regularly rewarded points that come from being a member of Amtrak Guest Rewards — 2 points per dollar spent on tickets (with bonuses for Business and First-Class travel).

Our analysis:

We like travel rewards cards that allow you to earn rewards in categories other than the co-branded partner – and the World MasterCard version allows you to do just that. However, if you’re playing the credit-card rewards game, you probably have another dedicated travel rewards card you’re using for travel purchases.

If that’s the case, the no-annual fee version of the card may be a better fit (especially if you’re not going to use any of the other World MasterCard benefits, which we’ll get to in a moment).
The Platinum version allows you to rack up points with Amtrak at a rate of just 1 fewer point per dollar than the World MasterCard. That means, with the no-annual-fee Platinum version, you don’t have to fret about recouping an annual fee and can just use your rewards whenever it’s convenient.

Redeeming rewards

Amtrak’s rewards program gives the following redemption options:

Amtrak travel: You can reliably get 2 cents per point with this option, but your value varies, depending on the fare.

For example, say you’re traveling from Chicago to New York. Here’s the cash cost of one route:

Amtrak reservation cash

And here’s the cost in rewards:

Amtrak reservation reward points

If you book the Saver rate (worth $85), you’re getting a value of 2.3 cents per point. If you book the room, your value goes up to 2.9 cents per point.

Gift certificates and points toward other travel: You can redeem for Hertz gift cards and cruise gift cards (for a value of nearly 1 cent per point to slightly more than 1 cent per point). You can also redeem for Starwood stays (starting at 10,000 points for one night at a Category 1 hotel).

Retailer, restaurant and movie theater gift cards: The redemption value varies but maxes out at 1 cent per point. For example, you can get a $100 Regal Entertainment Group gift card for 10,000 points (a 1-cent-per-point value) and a $50 Olive Garden gift card for 6,000 points (a 0.8-cents-per-point value) as of April 2016.

Our analysis: No surprise here — your best bet is to redeem for Amtrak travel, and a value of 2 cents per point is competitive among travel rewards cards. The other options fetch a smaller value. However, in other travel rewards programs, gift card redemption values =can be much lower (sometimes as low as half a cent per point). So, if you can’t redeem for Amtrak tickets, you at least have other options.

Other benefits

The following benefits might make the World MasterCard version worth the annual fee:

Amtrak Guest Rewards card benefits
Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCardAmtrak Guest Rewards Platinum MasterCard
Redemption bonus5 percent rebate when you redeem for Amtrak travel
Elite status benefits1,000 Tier Qualifying Points toward status each time you reach $5,000 in eligible spending in a calendar year (up to 4,000 TQPs per year)N/A
Companion ticketComplimentary companion coupon upon account opening and annually after you renew your card membership. Blackout dates apply.N/A
UpgradesA one-class upgrade upon account opening and annually after you renew your card membership. Not valid for sleeping card upgrades. Blackout dates apply.N/A
Lounge accessSingle-day ClubAcela pass, upon account opening. This gets you into lounges at stations that have them (including CubAcela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or First Class lounges)N/A

Our analysis:
If you travel with Amtrak frequently, these perks could make the $79 annual fee worth it. In fact, the companion ticket alone could cancel out the annual fee, assuming the fare is more than $79.

The value of the upgrade and lounge perks are harder to quantify. The lounge pass is a one-time thing (you don’t get it every year), but it could make a long transfer more comfortable (assuming the station has a lounge).

As for the annual upgrade perk, not all trains have business or first class. But, if you frequently use a route that offers the possibility of upgrades, it can help justify the annual fee. For example, upgrading from coach to business when traveling from Washington, D.C. to New York is worth $45 on a regional train. And upgrading from business to first on an Acela Express train is worth $123:

amtrak upgrade costs

The bottom line

It’s a shame that Amtrak is no longer an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. If you don’t use Amtrak for regular daily and business commutes (or don’t live in an area well served by Amtrak), train travel probably isn’t something you do that often. Having Amtrak in the Ultimate Rewards transfer family allowed you to transfer in UR points when you needed to – and use them for a variety of other travel programs in the meantime.

Now that UR transfers are no longer possible, the co-branded Amtrak card is a compelling option. However, getting any co-branded card requires committing to the associated program. Assuming Amtrak travel is in your future, which version of the card to get depends on your level of commitment:

  • If you plan to take Amtrak for the occasional vacation or commute (as a back-up to flying), the no-annual-fee card is likely your best bet. You’d be hard pressed to use the benefits that justify the annual fee (especially considering Amtrak’s blackout dates). Plus, if you put your travel spending on another travel card, the only other “advantage” of the World MasterCard is the 1 extra point you get per dollar on Amtrak purchases.
  • If you are a hard-core Amtrak business commuter or spend your vacations traversing the country by rail, the annual-fee card may be worth it, especially if you don’t travel alone; just one use of the companion pass can knock out the annual fee.

    If you’re looking for a more generalized, flexible rewards card that allows you to earn and redeem rewards on Amtrak (albeit at a lesser per-point value) and other travel purchases, consider one of the following travel rewards cards:

Blispay is a new credit product that promises an alternative to store cards for those who want to finance large purchases — and earn rewards.

As with any intriguing new product, though, it’s vital to understand how it works and how to use it responsibly.

The basics

Blispay screenshotUsually, if you want get 0 percent financing on large purchases across multiple stores, you’d need to apply for multiple store lines of credit (one at Best Buy for the TV, one at Home Depot for the bathroom fixtures, one at Ashley Furniture for the sofa, etc.).

But Blispay allows you to apply for one card (a Visa issued by First Electronic Bank, Utah) and then always get automatic 0 percent financing for six months on all purchases over $199 (see the screen shot to the right).

Blispay founder Greg Lisiewski says he aims to bring to the brick-and-mortar realm some of the financing flexibility that his former employer (PayPal’s Bill Me Later) brought to the online-shopping realm.

“Big merchants for sure have financing programs,” Lisiewski says. “But Main Street stores, regional stores, service business don’t typically have access to financing as a way to help them move more product. And, on the other side, customers may not always have access to financing at stores they’d otherwise like to shop at.”

If you don’t pay financed purchases off in full within six months, you’ll be charged interest (at 19.99 percent APR), including interest that has accrued from the date of purchase – more on that in a moment. Standard purchases (ie, those under $199) not paid off by the end of the monthly grace period are also subject to a 19.99 percent APR.

All purchases earn 2 percent cash back – which is redeemed automatically as a statement credit each billing cycle.

How to apply

Stores that partner with Blispay will display signage inviting you to apply for the card – which you can do on the spot with your own mobile device. If you’re approved, you’ll immediately get a digital card (the merchant will key in the number manually when you make your purchase). Later, a physical card will be mailed to you. Blispay is also compatible with Apple Pay.

Offering and advertising the service costs merchants nothing beyond the normal costs of processing Visa transactions. However, Lisiewski says Blispay may offer value-added services down the road.

How the interest works

Blispay’s APR is 19.99 percent. That’s higher than the national average (which hovers just above 15 percent), notes Bruce McClary, National Foundation for Credit Counseling spokesman. According to Blispay’s website, the APR is priced between the usual rate on rewards cards and that of financing cards (which tend to have higher APRs).

In any case, McClary says, it’s wise to compare the product’s interest rate to other rates you may qualify for, especially if you intend to carry a balance over a longer period. Check your mailbox for offers. Ask your current bank what it offers. Or use an online soft-pull credit tool to see the APRs available to you.

“You want to make sure you’re saving as much as possible,” McClary says. “Even though we advise people not to roll purchases over into another billing cycle, you still want to make sure you’re getting a card with a competitive interest rate in case you have to for some reason roll the balance over into another month.”

The purchases qualifying for six months of 0 percent financing have a particularly important stipulation: The interest is retroactive, the go-to model among store-financing cards. That means, if you don’t pay off the purchase in six months, you’ll be charged back interest, starting from the purchase date.

Retroactive interest can appear to be a “double whammy” to customers who don’t understand it, McClary says.blispay online experience

“You really have to scrutinize your ability to repay within the interest-free time,” McClary says. “If you can’t, you have to have a contingency plan. What are the dollars and cents when it comes to that retroactive interest you’re now going to have to pay off in addition to whatever principal is left over?”

Blispay’s online experience, Lisiewski says, is designed ensure its interest model catches nobody off guard. In addition to providing guidance to consumers, partner merchants don’t want consumers’ dissatisfaction to recoil on them.

“My big goal is that I don’t want anyone to feel like they were surprised,” Lisiewski says.

When you view your Blispay account online, there are clear demarcations that differentiate standard purchases from those qualifying for 0 percent financing. When you click on your financed purchases, you can see how long is left on the promotion and the remaining balance (see the image to the right).

“My history with these programs has shown me that the vast majority of customers manage these programs well, or they manage them strongly in their favor,” Lisiewski says. “The majority of customers who use Blispay for the financing will, in fact, take advantage of the financing and pay it off in full before we collect any interest or fees. A meaningful but minority group of customers will choose to revolve it, but they won’t do it unknowingly.”

How your payments are applied

One of the most confusing parts of cards with promotional interest rates is how your payments are applied. After all, if a promotional 0 percent rate (with retroactive interest) on a $500 purchase is about to expire in a month, you’d like to think your payment would go toward zeroing that out instead of the $50 balance from last week’s bar tab.

Ever since the CARD ACT went into effect in 2010, issuers are required to earmark payments above the minimum for high-interest balances. The minimum payment is allocated at the issuer’s discretion.

Here’s how it works with Blispay: The minimum payment will go toward fees and interest on your account first and then to your highest-interest balance, Lisiewski says. Anything above the minimum and below the full amount due will be applied as follows:

  • If you have a balance with promotional interest that expires in two months or less, your payment will be routed to that first, Lisiewski says.
  • In other situations, your payment will go first to your higher-interest balances.

The credit limit

Bankcards from major issuers (Citi, Chase, Bank of America et al.) give credit lines that are at the intersection of your credit worthiness and what you’re likely to spend, Lisiewski says. Store card limits, meanwhile, determine your limit based on your creditworthiness and how much you’re willing to spend at that store – so they tend to be lower.

The limits Blispay gives, Lisiewski says, are more in line with those on major banks’ cards. The maximum limit possible is $12,000, but yours will be determined by your credit profile.

While super-prime customers used to $20,000 limits may be let down, “We’re trying to give people a reasonable limit so they’re not surprised when they compare it to their Chase card,” Lisiewski says.”

Credit rating required

Store-financing cards are often considered a leg up for consumers with shaky credit. Blispay isn’t that kind of product.

“It’s definitely for good credit and above,” Lisiewski says. “It’s for a prime audience.”

Should you consider it?

As with all credit decisions, weigh all your options McClary says. If you are looking for financing for a cluster of purchases, all within a short window of time, other cards may give you 0 percent on purchases for the first several months (or year, in some cases) of card ownership. And that interest won’t be retroactive.

Also take an honest look at your repayment habits. Are you the type to constantly carry balances – or who might get consistently zinged by retroactive interest?

“If you really want to be fair to yourself, you should shop around and compare,” McClary says. “Because there still could be a credit card product that could be used for large purchases but with a much lower interest rate, without the prospect of retroactive interest on unpaid balances.”

If you can carefully track your financed purchases, though, Blispay offers something no other bank card currently does – ongoing 0 percent financing for all large purchases. The fact that you have to worry about only one credit pull (instead of multiple pulls at multiple stores) is also compelling. Finally, 2 percent cash back on all purchases is competitive among cash back cards.

For those reasons, Blispay could very well be a good fit for responsible, strategic consumers.

JetBlue Credit Card Review

Jetblue barclaycardOn March 21, 2016, JetBlue will officially end its relationship with American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and begin a new one with Barclaycard.

Under Barclaycard, four new versions of the JetBlue credit card will be available (three are open to anyone and one is available only to current AmEx JetBlue cardholders).

Our review will help you understand the new products – and decide which is best for you.

Four new cards

The old version of the card (the JetBlue card from American Express) will cease to exist March 21, 2016.

Here’s how this transition will play out for existing and potential JetBlue card holders.

Existing American Express cardholders will automatically roll over to the JetBlue Rewards MasterCard ($40 annual fee) and will receive their new cards in the mail by March 21. This unique version of the card will NOT be available to new cardholders.

New cardholders who want to apply for a JetBlue credit card after the transition to Barclaycard (and existing AmEx cardholders who would want to apply for a different product) will be able to choose between the JetBlue Credit Card ($0 annual fee), the JetBlue Plus card ($99 annual fee) and the JetBlue Business Card ($99 annual fee).

Compare the notable benefits and features of the new cards (with each other and with the original AmEx version) below:

 Original American Express
JetBlue card (discontinued)
JetBlue Rewards MasterCard (available only for AmEx JetBlue cardholders)JetBlue CardJetBlue Plus CardJetBlue Business Card
Annual fee$40$40 $0$99 $99
Points earned on JetBlue purchases2 points per dollar4 points per dollar3 points per dollar6 points per dollar6 points per dollar
Points earned at restaurants & grocery storesN/A2 points per dollar2 points per dollar2 points per dollar2 points per dollar
Points earned on other purchases1 point per dollar1 point per dollar1 point per dollar1 point per dollar1 point per dollar
Redemption bonusN/A5 percent of your points back when you redeemN/A10 percent of your points back when you redeem10 percent of your points back when you redeem
Checked bag benefitsN/AN/AN/AFirst bag free for you and up to 3 companionsFirst bag free for you and up to 3 companions
Sign-up bonusNo longer available$100 companion discount after you spend $500 on card by June 30, 201610,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days
Anniversary bonusN/AN/AN/A5,000 bonus points every year for accounts in good standing5,000 bonus points every year for accounts in good standing
In-flight discount50 percent discount on movies, drinks food50 percent discount on movies, drinks food50 percent discount on movies, drinks food50 percent discount on movies, drinks food50 percent discount on movies, drinks food
Statement credit$50 statement credit after purchasing JetBlue Getaways vacation package worth $50 or more (1 per calendar year)$50 statement credit after purchasing JetBlue Getaways vacation package worth $50 or more (1 per calendar year)N/A$100 statement credit after purchasing JetBlue Getaways vacation package worth $100 or more (1 per calendar year)$100 statement credit after purchasing JetBlue Getaways vacation package worth $100 or more (1 per calendar year)
Elite benefitsN/AN/AN/AEarn Mosaic benefits after spending $50,000 in calendar yearEarn Mosaic benefits after spending $50,000 in calendar year

Improvement on – or step down from – the original AmEx?

It can be frustrating when a card switches issuers and downgrades in the process. Luckily, this is not the case with the new JetBlue products from Barclaycard. The new cards all add a “grocery and restaurants” bonus category, meaning you can earn extra rewards without traveling. And they all increase the number of points per dollar earned on JetBlue purchases. These bonus earnings are on top of what you earn from JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty program, which will reward additional points based on ticket price and fare type.

If you go for one of the higher-annual-fee cards (the JetBlue Plus and the Business card), you open up some additional premium benefits that simply weren’t available on the AmEx, such as the ability to achieve Mosaic status (which includes benefits like two free checked bags, waived change fees and complimentary alcohol onboard) and anniversary bonuses.

JetBlue perks aside, though, there are some advantages unique to AmEx that rollover cardholders may miss when Barclaycard takes over. For example, American Express offers a free-shipping service for online purchases called ShopRunner and a popular card-linked offers program called Amex Offers (which can get you discounts on eligible purchases).

Which version should you choose?

If you frequently fly JetBlue, any one of these cards could boost your rewards and get you benefits when you fly. Which one you should choose depends on just how frequently you fly – and whether you were rolled over from the AmEx JetBlue card.

If you got rolled over from an existing AmEx card, the JetBlue Rewards MasterCard is probably worth sticking with. It has a relatively low annual fee (compared with other Airline cards), boosts your earnings on JetBlue spending and provides some nice-to-have benefits. Keep in mind, though, that by rolling over (instead of applying for a new card), you’re foregoing the sign-up bonus.

Barclaycard throws you a minor bone here — you can get a companion ticket credit worth $100 if you spend $500 by June 30, 2016. However, getting traditional sign-up bonuses (ie, pure points) is more flexible, as you can use points for yourself or for someone else. If you value JetBlue points at a little over 1 cent each (as The Point Guy does), the sign-up bonus on the no-annual-fee JetBlue card is worth about as much as the companion ticket credit and is more flexible. On the other hand, though, the rollover-only Rewards card gets you a 5 percent redemption bonus, which could make the card more valuable in the long term.

If you’re an extreme JetBlue loyalist you’ll want to consider the Plus or Business versions of the card. You’ll pay a higher annual fee ($99), but you’ll get some notable benefits, including free checked bags, an anniversary bonus and a bigger (10 percent) redemption bonus – things that can save you real money throughout the life of the card.

Whichever card you pick, rest assured that the benefits on the new JetBlue cars are competitive among other co-branded airline cards, even though JetBlue’s points are often valued lower than other airlines’ miles. The no-annual-fee version is especially compelling, as it’s rare for airlines to offer no-annual-fee cards that have bonus categories.

Other options to consider

These cards are for JetBlue frequent fliers – as are all frequent flier cards.

If you aren’t sure you qualify as a “frequent” flier, but still want the option to take the occasional JetBlue rewards flight, consider one of the Membership Rewards (MR) cards from American Express. These allow you to transfer your MR points directly to JetBlue, albeit at a less-than-ideal rate of 5 MR points to 4 JetBlue points. You could also transfer to a number of other partner airlines. If you’re considering this route, here is a no-annual-fee MR card and a premium one to consider:

Discover it Secured Card review

The ever-growing Discover ‘it’ family has a new addition. This time, it’s a secured credit card. If your less-than-stellar credit places Discover’s regular credit card offerings out of reach, the Discover it Secured Credit Card (with no annual fee) may be worth pursuing. But before you apply, make sure you know all the details.

discover it secured card

The basics

If you’re not familiar with secured credit cards, they’re products designed specifically for consumers who want to rebuild their credit. If you’re approved for the card, instead of getting an unsecured line of credit (as you would with a regular card), you have to put down a deposit upon approval to secure your line of credit.

For the Discover it Secured card, here’s how it works:

  • First, you’ll apply and, if you’re approved, you’ll put down a security deposit. Your credit line will be equal to that deposit. For example, if you deposit $500, you’ll have a $500 line of credit. The minimum required deposit is $200, and the highest you can go is $2,500. Discover will determine your limit based on your income and ability to pay.
  • Then, use your card (responsibly) to build credit. That means paying on time and keeping your credit usage well below your limit.
  • Discover will review your account monthly (starting at the one-year mark) to see if you qualify for a security-deposit refund. If you’re eligible for a refund, that would essentially turn your card into a regular Discover rewards card.

Unlike some other secured cards on the market, this card has no annual fee.

The rewards and perks

Unlike most secured cards, the Discover it Secured Card offers rewards:

  • 1 percent cash back on all eligible purchases
  • 2 percent back at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter)
  • Double cash back the first year (for new cardholders only). However much cash back you earn in Year One, Discover will double it.

Plus, as with Discover’s other products, you get the following benefits:

  • Free FICO score access: You can see your TransUnion FICO score for free on your statements or via online banking.
  • Freeze-it: Freeze-it lets you temporarily block purchases, cash advances and balance transfers via an app if you misplace your card. This buys you some time to search for it and determine it’s really missing before you contact customer service for a replacement.

Is it a good option for rebuilders?

For something as important as rebuilding your credit, you’ll need to make sure you have the right card – and there are other cards for rebuilders to consider.

For example:

  • The Capital One Secured MasterCard is a no-annual-fee secured card with a unique security-deposit structure; your credit limit may be higher than the deposited amount. Your security deposit will be $49, $99 or $200. A $49 deposit gets you a $200 credit limit, and, if you deposit one of the higher amounts, you could get a limit of up to $3,000 (depending on your credit history). In other words, you may get a higher limit with this card for less money up front. The drawback? Unlike the Discover it Secured Card, you won’t earn rewards.
  • The Cash Back Rewards Card from Credit One Bank is designed for rebuilders, too, although it’s not a secured card (meaning no deposit). It also offers rewards (an unlimited 1 percent back on groceries and gas). However, this card comes with an annual fee of $35 to $75 the first year and $35 to $99 thereafter. It’s also worth noting that Credit One doesn’t have any prime cards in its portfolio. After you’ve built up your credit, you’ll have to close your card and move on to another issuer.

For more secured card options, go here.

The Discover it Secured card is a well-rounded and compelling option. While we usually advise consumers to put rewards on the back burner while they’re rebuilding credit, the rewards on this card are a nice perk (especially because there’s no annual fee). Because your (likely low) limit will keep you out of too much trouble, overspending to earn rewards is less of a concern.

More importantly, perhaps, is that Discover may refund your deposit and allow you to keep the card and its benefits. That basically turns your card into the Discover it Chrome card. There’s no guarantee Discover will raise your limit (which will be relatively low to start with). But even if it doesn’t, you can rest assured that you have a card with competitive rewards and benefits (and no annual fee) – and good enough credit to go for one of Discover’s prime products or for a prime product from another issuer.