If you have a low credit score or no established credit, turning to a subprime credit issuer might help you with credit card approval. One company to consider is Continental Finance, which offers a handful of cards available to those with poor credit.

Take the time to learn more about Continental Finance credit cards, weighing the pros and cons of each card, before deciding whether its cards are right for you.

What is Continental Finance?

Continental Finance is a credit card company that specializes in offering cards targeted for consumers with low credit scores or no credit at all. A subprime credit issuer, the company markets itself as offering accessible financial products to underserved consumers, helping them rebuild or establish their credit.

“Continental Finance typically targets individuals facing challenges in obtaining traditional credit cards due to past financial issues,” says Baruch Silvermann, founder of The Smart Investor. “They focus on providing a pathway to responsible credit usage, supporting customers in improving their creditworthiness over time.”

Its consumer underwriting, marketing and servicing platform is designed to provide a variety of services to consumers when other financial institutions will not accommodate them. The company claims to have managed more than 2.6 million credit cards since its founding in 2005, and it boasts an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Continental Finance credit cards

Continental Finance offers several unsecured credit cards that cater to people with limited or bad credit — which typically means those with FICO scores of 300 to 669.

Each of Continental Finance’s credit cards report monthly to the three major credit bureaus, which helps establish and boost credit. Plus, with Mastercard Zero Liability Protection, you aren’t held responsible for unauthorized charges on your card. And you get a free monthly credit score when you enroll in e-statements.

Still, Continental Finance’s cards do have downsides.

While these cards have different names and slightly different terms, they all follow the same blueprint. They have low credit limits, charge hefty fees and do not offer rewards. — Ted Rossman | Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst

Continental Finance cards: A breakdown

Credit card Issuing bank Annual fee Initial credit limit Other fees What else to know
Cerulean Mastercard® Bank of Missouri $125 annual fee $300 to $1,000 initial credit limit
  • No monthly fee
Credit limit doubles after six months of on-time payments
FIT Mastercard® Bank of Missouri $99 annual fee $400 initial credit limit
  • One-time $89 fee
  • $6.25 monthly maintenance fee — or $75 annually — after 12 months
Credit limit doubles after six months of on-time payments
Reflex Mastercard® Bank of Missouri $75 to $125 for first year, then $99 to $125 annually after $300 to $1,000 initial credit limit
  • Up to $10 monthly fee after 12 months
Credit limit doubles after six months of on-time payments
Revel Mastercard® Bank of Missouri $75 to $125 for the first year, then $99 to $125 annually after $300 to $1,000 initial credit limit
  • Up to $10 monthly fee after 12 months
Credit limit doubles after six months of on-time payments
Surge® Platinum Mastercard® Celtic Bank $75 to $125 for the first year, then $99 to $125 annually after $300 to $1,000 initial credit limit
  • Up to $10 monthly fee after 12 months
Credit limit doubles after six months of on-time payments
Verve Mastercard® Celtic Bank $75 to $175 for the first year, then $49 to $175 annually after $300 to $1,000 initial credit limit
  • Up to $10 monthly fee after 12 months
Credit limit doubles after six months of on-time payments

Benefits of Continental Finance credit cards

With each of these cards, the main benefits boil down to access to credit and building credit.

“You get access to credit, although probably with a low credit limit, and you can build your credit up if you use your card responsibly,” Rossman explains. “Continental Finance pledges to double your credit limits after you make your first six monthly payments on time. Plus, these are unsecured credit cards, so you don’t need to put down a security deposit.”

Silvermann points out that these cards also boast higher approval rates than many expect, and they offer account management tools that provide users with convenient ways to track their progress.

“The long-term advantages of these cards lie in the opportunity to improve your credit scores, enabling cardholders to ultimately access better financial opportunities in the future,” says Silvermann.

Drawbacks of Continental Finance credit cards

Even with the potential benefits, you can’t ignore the downsides — namely the high fees.

“The annual and monthly fees are significant, especially for products that don’t offer credit card rewards,” adds Rossman. “Also, since the credit limits on these cards are relatively low, your purchasing power is limited.”

In addition, count on paying high interest rates, as the APRs on many of these cards were up to 29.99 percent as of November 2023.

“While designed for those with limited credit, the risk of falling into a cycle of debt with these higher interest rates remains, especially if you don’t manage your spending responsibly,” cautions Silvermann.

Should you get a card with Continental Finance?

If you’re looking to build or rebuild your credit, your credit card options will be limited. Continental Finance does offer options. That said, don’t jump at the first card offer for people with bad credit that you see.

Carefully evaluate your means to pay off the credit card balances promptly and avoid high-interest charges. Also, ponder whether the possible credit score improvement justifies the fees attached, which are significant with Continental Finance cards.

“It’s also crucial to understand the terms and conditions applicable, including your credit limits and any potential penalties for late payments,” Silvermann advises.

Alternatives to Continental Finance credit cards

These cards are far from your only options when you have low or no credit.

“There are plenty of better credit cards out there for people looking to build or rebuild credit,” Rossman says. “It would probably be better to put down a $200 deposit on a no-annual-fee secured credit card and get your $200 back once you upgrade or close the card, as opposed to paying hundreds of dollars in annual and monthly fees to Continental Finance and not getting that money back.”

Rossman recommends the following options:

  • The Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase and doesn’t charge annual or monthly fees.
  • The Discover it® Secured Credit Card, which provides 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1 percent) and 1 percent cash back on everything else. “It doesn’t charge annual or monthly fees and it [matches] your rewards earned in the first year with the card,” Rossman says.
  • Credit-builder cards like the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa or the Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card, “which may have lower or no annual fees and provide opportunities for credit limit increases without an additional deposit,” Silvermann says. “These cards also offer cash back rewards.”
  • Unsecured credit cards from Petal or Tomo – two startups that emphasize building and rebuilding credit and practice cash flow underwriting that goes beyond your credit scores. “These companies offer unsecured credit lines with potentially much higher limits,” Rossman notes.
  • Student credit cards, a different choice for people seeking to build or rebuild credit that often come with friendlier terms and easier approval standards.

The bottom line

Continental Finance offers several credit-building cards that can look enticing if you have limited or no credit. But they aren’t your only choices worth considering, and the fees and high interest rates charged coupled with the lack of rewards can make these cards especially unattractive.

Hunt around for different options and see if you can qualify for a secured credit card or other credit product that doesn’t require you to pay annual or monthly fees.

Information about the Cerulean Mastercard®, FIT Mastercard®, Reflex Mastercard®, Revel Mastercard® and Verve Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.