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First Access Visa® Card review: Costly credit for little payoff

 /  12 min
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Snapshot

1.4

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 1.4 stars out of 5

Bottom line

The First Access Visa® Card provides a small bump of credit history to your report even when you have bad or nonexistent credit. However, there is a price to pay for this boost: numerous fees and a very high APR.

Image of First Access Visa® Card

First Access Visa® Card

  • Cost of membership
    Rating: 1 stars out of 5
    1 / 5
    Ease of building credit
    Rating: 3 stars out of 5
    3 / 5
    APR
    Rating: 1 stars out of 5
    1 / 5
    Features
    Rating: 1 stars out of 5
    1 / 5
Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info
Recommended Credit

35.99% (Variable)

Regular APR

$75.00 1st year, $48.00 after*

Annual fee

First Access Visa Card Overview

The First Access Visa Card is for people who’ve made credit mistakes in the past and want an easy-access card that allows the opportunity to rebuild. You can feasibly be approved with bad credit and it’s one of few cards for bad credit that has a first-year welcome offer, but these perks come with an excess of fees.

The First Access Visa card isn’t a secured credit card, meaning you don’t have to put down a deposit to open and access the account. However, the initial credit limit is fairly low, the high annual fee will eat into your already low credit limit and any credit limit increase assessments will incur a fee. It’s an option for people who don’t have immediate cash on hand but also need a lifeline to improve their credit, but you should weigh the card’s limitations and compare other options carefully before applying.

  • Credit Card Cash Back

    Rewards

    • Earn 1 percent cash back rewards on payments made to your First Access Credit Card

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

  • Rewards

    Welcome offer

    • $0 monthly fees and cash advance fee for the first 12 months

    Expert Appraisal: Weak
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • $75 your first year, $48 annually thereafter (See terms)
    • $0 maintenance fee your first year, $8.25 per month thereafter
    • $95 one-time program fee
    • 25 percent credit limit increase fee 
    • $9.95 premium plastic card design fee
    • No intro APR for purchases or balance transfers
    • 35.99 percent (See terms)

    Expert Appraisal: Weak
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Fair

    Credit-building features

    • Reports to all three major credit bureaus

    Expert Appraisal: Typical
    See our expert analysis

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • Access to supplementary cards

    Expert Appraisal: Unimpressive
    See our expert analysis

First Access Visa Card pros and cons

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Easy approval, as it’s designed for people with poor or limited credit history.

  • Checkmark

    It’s not a secured card, meaning no collateral deposit is required.

  • Checkmark

    One of the few credit-building cards to earn flat-rate rewards on purchases.

Cons

  • It carries a high APR of 35.99 percent (see terms).

  • The card comes with an extremely low starting credit limit of $300.

  • Your payment due date is only 21 days after the close of each billing cycle. Many other cards give you 24 or 25 days before your payment is considered late.

  • There are an egregious number of fees attached to this card.

Why you might want a different card for bad credit

Even though the First Access Visa Card can technically help you build credit, there are quite a few downsides to using this card, such as the slew of fees and lack of cardholder perks and credit-building features.

Rates and fees: Packs on high costs for cardholders

Like many other credit-building cards, the downsides to the First Access Visa are buried in the credit card agreement’s fine print. The card charges exorbitant interest and maintenance fees, even for a card designed for people with poor credit. With all of the First Access Visa card’s fees combined, you could spend close to $300 a year (the same amount as your initial credit limit) just to hold the card.

  • APR: There is an incredibly high 35.99 percent APR on purchases (see terms) and cash advances (see terms), and any interest charges have a minimum price of $1.
  • Sign-on fee: First Access charges a one-time program fee of $95 once your application is approved.
  • Annual fee: The first year’s fee is $75, charged upfront and deducted from your overall credit limit. This means your $300 credit limit will actually start out at just $225. After the first year, the fee drops to $48 annually. There is also a $29 annual fee on supplementary cards.
  • Monthly service fees: While there is no monthly service fee in the first year, this kicks in from month 13 at a cost of $8.25 per month (or another $99 per year).
  • Credit limit increase fee: After the first year, you become eligible for a limit increase assessment. The cost of this assessment is 25 percent, meaning that if your limit is increased by $50, the fee is $12.50.

Other fees

  • Late payment and returned payments fees are quite steep at up to $41 per incident.
  • There is a cash advance fee beginning in the second year, which costs $10 or 3 percent per transaction, whichever is more.
  • If you want one of First Access’s card designs, there’s a $9.95 Premium Plastic Card Design fee.
  • First Access will impose a $35 Express Delivery fee for express delivery of your credit card
  • First Access may charge a $3 copying fee for each requested duplicate of any monthly billing statement or other document unless the request is made due to a billing error dispute.

From annual fees to monthly maintenance fees and even one-time processing fees, these charges can eat into any available credit limit and hinder your ability to improve your credit score effectively.

Welcome offer: No monthly fees and cash advance fees for 12 months

In lieu of a standard introductory APR or rewards offer, the First Access Visa charges no monthly or cash advance fees for the first year of card ownership. Even though this card does not have a traditional welcome offer in the form of cash back, points or miles  — considering the high fees charged on the card, waiving the monthly service fee of $8.25 and the cash advance fee ($10 or 3 percent, whichever is greater) will come as a relief.

Credit-building: Only reports to credit bureaus 

The First Access Visa Card falls short in terms of credit-building features. When it comes to a credit-building card, one would expect additional tools and resources to help with establishing or improving credit. However, the card lacks these crucial features and, as a result, doesn't really measure up to similar credit-building cards.

Without additional credit-building tools, such as credit score tracking or credit education programs, you are left with little guidance on how to effectively manage and improve your credit. Other credit-building cards often provide tools like credit tracking apps, personalized recommendations and access to credit education resources. These features not only help you understand the factors that affect your credit score but also encourage responsible financial behavior.

Additionally, the lack of credit limit increases over time for responsible usage can be discouraging. Many credit-building cards gradually increase the credit limit as the cardholder demonstrates responsible credit behavior. Managing greater amounts of credit is an essential part of growing as a responsible credit user and important to maintaining a healthy credit utilization ratio, so it’s a shame the First Access Visa doesn’t offer a timeline on such increases (and worse, charges a fee when it does grant them).  While reporting to credit bureaus is essential, it is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to establishing a positive credit history. 

Cardholder perks: Barely offers the basics

The First Access Visa Card offers a couple of basic features:

  • Supplementary cards allowed: If you need an additional card for a spouse or partner, you can get one. You’ll be charged another annual fee and share the credit limit, so it’s likely this won’t prove worth the cost and effort.
  • Wide card acceptance across the U.S.: Since the First Access Visa is a Visa credit card, virtually all merchants across the U.S. and online will accept this credit card. However, you can’t make charges abroad with this card.

In the realm of credit-building cards, this minimal feature set is not uncommon. But the card falls short compared to other similar cards that may offer more robust rewards programs, credit score tracking or other benefits that incentivize card usage and responsible financial behavior. 

Why you might want the First Access Visa Card

The First Access Visa Card could work well if you need a starter card or an unsecured credit-building card without the security deposit barrier. It also offers a flat rewards rate.

Rewards: Offers a flat rate on all purchases

The First Access Visa Card's flat rewards rate on purchases provides an uncommon incentive for a credit-building card. While many credit-building cards don’t offer rewards or cash back programs, this card does, so it may motivate you to use your card regularly and responsibly. 

How the First Access Visa Card compares to other credit cards for bad credit

Plenty of issuers offer credit cards for bad credit designed to help people with bad or fair credit scores — and plenty of them have much more to offer for far fewer costs than what you’d get with the First Access Visa.

Image of First Access Visa® Card

First Access Visa® Card

Annual fee

$75.00 1st year, $48.00 after*

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

1% Cash Back
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info
Image of Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
Info
Image of Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit

Annual fee

$75 for the first year. After that, $99 annually ($8.25 per month)

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

1%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info

Best cards to pair with the First Access Visa Card

As a credit-building card, the First Access Visa Card could pair well with a secured credit card that earns rewards.

Who is the First Access Visa Card right for?

The First Access Visa Card may be a good fit for some potential cardholders, but not all.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the First Access Visa Card worth it?

Put simply, no.

If you’re in the market for a credit card when your credit is on the low side, the First Access Visa is a very expensive option. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s an attainable card for people with low credit, it wouldn’t be a worthy credit card option at all. The excessive fees and the incredibly high ongoing APR are not worthwhile when there are so many other card options available for people with bad credit that don’t cost hundreds of extra dollars a year just to maintain the card. Most people would be better off saving for a secured credit card deposit.

*The information about Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

How we rated this card

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Our proprietary card rating system takes into account a mix of factors when scoring credit cards for students and people building credit, including each card’s cost, APR, credit-building tools and more.

We analyzed over 50 of the most popular cards designed for students and people with no credit history, bad credit or a fair credit score and scored each based on where its key features stood in relation to others in its category. 

Here are some of the key factors that gave this card its score: 

Written by
Re'Dreyona Walker
Associate Editor, Credit Cards

Re’Dreyona Walker is an editor for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, focusing on product guides and reviews. As a personal finance expert, she is dedicated to providing honest product reviews as well as in-depth, comprehensive guides to assist readers in building credit and finding the best credit cards for their needs.

Edited by Senior Editor, Credit Cards

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.