Be warned, these low APRs come with a high hurdle…
Simmons First National Bank is one of the oldest in America. Their first location in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was opened nearly a hundred years ago in 1903. Today they operate in 47 different communities in Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri.
Despite being just a regional bank, during the last few years the Simmons First credit card offers have gotten a lot of praise by the national media. You can apply for them wherever you live (even if it’s outside those states) but should you?
Here’s a peek at the pros and cons, the latter of which I have not seen covered much by the media. This review will mostly focus on the Simmons First Visa Platinum since those are their most popular cards, but we’ll talk about the others, too.
Low Interest Rates: The most talked about feature of their credit cards is the low rates they offer. As I write this review here are the APRs to give you an idea:
- Visa Platinum card: variable 7.25%
- Visa Classic & Gold Select: variable 10.25%
- Visa Platinum Travel Rewards card: 9.25%
In today’s economy and the post-reform era of credit cards, they are definitely on the low end for a standard purchase APR.
No Annual Fees: None of their cards have an annual fee. However there is a “Membership Fee” for the Travel Rewards credit card which we will discuss in a moment.
Rewards: One of the cards give rewards: Simmons First Visa Platinum Travel Rewards. The program gives 1 point per dollar spent. When 10,000 or 20,000 points is redeemed, the value for airfare is only $0.01/point (so basically 1% cash back). However if a bigger chunk of points is redeemed it’s possible to do better than 1%. For example, a coach class ticket from the U.S. (48 states) to Europe is 50,000 points, but the price of the ticket can be up to $1,000.
Extremely Difficult Approval Process: Without a doubt, the most common complaint is the approval process… the Simmons First credit card application is only the first step (which by the way, is a whopping 4 pages of questions). They don’t go just by credit score but rather the whole picture. You will have to prove your income by faxing/mailing your latest pay stubs and even a utility bill. To say this bank is conservative would be an understatement. Many people with stellar FICO scores (near 800 and even above) have reported getting denied.
Customer Service Drawbacks: The call centers are US-based (in Arkansas) which is a huge plus but there are some drawbacks. For starters, while writing this credit card review I called customer service and had to wait a few minutes before I could speak with someone. When I finally a got a rep on the line, she was an extremely sweet Southern lady whom was very polite and helpful, but I have read comments by customers who are not pleased with the service quality. However in all fairness, on the other hand I have read reviews saying the opposite, so the quality seems to be a mixed bag.
Undisclosed Membership Fee For Travel Rewards: I think this is a bit deceiving, because if you go on the bank’s website and look at the credit cards section, there is a table showing the cards and in the “Annual Fee” column all of them list $0. It wasn’t until hearing from a customer that I discovered the Simmons First Travel Rewards credit card charges a $25 membership fee. The rep I spoke to confirmed this. I also let her know that they really should be disclosing that on the fee table!
Overall, I would say the credit cards from Simmons First National Bank are only a good deal for the standard APRs. But given the fact that you have to jump through a bunch of hoops and have stellar credit to get approved, I’m not sure they’re worth pursuing.
The rates of 7.25% to 10.25% are great for a standard APR, but that applies to both purchases and balance transfers. Personally, I believe it’s smarter (and definitely saves more money) by using 0% offers instead, since many of them give 0% for on both purchases and balance transfers.
This review was updated for 2013