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Surge® Mastercard® review: Excessive fees for a credit-building card

 /  11 min
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Snapshot

2.5

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Bottom line

The Surge® Mastercard® can be an effective tool for getting a decent credit limit without a security deposit and a chance at a credit limit increase in as little as six months. But the card’s high fees and APR make it a questionable choice for most credit-builders.

Surge® Platinum Mastercard®

Apply now Lock
on Continental Finance's secure site
  • 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: 3.8 stars out of 5
    3.8 / 5
Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info
Recommended Credit

N/A

Intro offer

Info

Annual fee

Regular APR

The Surge Mastercard overview

The Surge Mastercard, issued by Celtic Bank, is for people with a bad credit history or none at all who want to build or rebuild their credit without tying money up in a hefty security deposit.

The card has some convenient credit-building features, like payment plans, but it comes with a significant annual fee and a stack of other fees that could make it more expensive than other credit-building cards. A few unsecured credit cards feature lower fees, and several of the best secured cards even offer rewards and other credit-building perks.

  • Congrats

    Rewards

    • This card doesn’t offer rewards, which is typical of secured credit cards

    Expert Appraisal: Weak 
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • Annual fee: $75 to $125 for the first year, then $99 to $125
    • Monthly maintenance fee: $0 to $10 (not billed for the first 12 months account is open)
    • Purchase Intro APR: N/A
    • Balance Transfer Intro APR: N/A
    • Regular APR: 29.99 percent variable
    • Foreign transaction fee: 3 percent
    • Premium card fee: $9.95
    • Expedited service fee: Undisclosed

    Expert Appraisal: Weak
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Fair

    Credit-building features

    • Reports use to all three major credit bureaus 
    • Fast prequalification process
    • Access to monthly Vantage 3.0 credit score
    • Doubles credit limit after six months of on-time payments

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • Mastercard zero liability fraud protection

    Expert Appraisal: Unimpressive
    See our expert analysis

Surge Mastercard pros and cons

Pros

  • Checkmark

    It reports to all three credit bureaus, which is important for building or repairing credit

  • Checkmark

    Comes with $300 to $1,000 credit limit with no security deposit requirements

  • Checkmark

    You may qualify for twice your credit limit after six months of on-time payments, which helps your credit utilization ratio

Cons

  • Its high annual fee and potential monthly maintenance fees make it more costly than many other credit-building cards

  • The variable APR is among the highest on the market — equal to many penalty APRs

  • This card is light on perks and protections compared to other secured and credit-building cards

Why you might want the Surge Mastercard

The Surge Mastercard isn’t the strongest pick on the market if you want to build credit. However, it does have a few features that make it worth a look.

Starting credit limit: Potentially high for a credit-building card

Depending on your credit score and financial history, you may qualify for a starting credit limit as high as $1,000. This is a respectable starting credit limit for an unsecured credit-building card, as most cards offer credit limits as low as a few hundred dollars.

You also have the opportunity to increase your credit limit by up to $2,000 by making on-time payments of at least the minimum required amount for your first six months. Although some secured cards could provide a higher maximum credit limit (typically up to $2,500, but some outliers offer up to a $5,000 limit), you usually need to deposit funds equal to the credit limit you want. The Surge Mastercard’s limit increase could help keep your credit utilization ratio low.

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Bankrate Insight

Your credit utilization ratio is a percentage of how much of your available credit you’re using and makes up 30 percent of your credit score. If you have $1,000 credit limit among all your credit cards and a total $400 balance, then your credit utilization ratio is 40 percent. We recommend keeping your ratio less than 30 percent. You can use a credit utilization ratio calculator to help you determine how much of your available credit you’re using.

Application: Prequalify and no security deposit is required 

The Surge Mastercard’s other main strength is how simple it is to apply. You can prequalify online and begin the application process within minutes. You also don’t need to provide a security deposit because it’s an unsecured credit-building card.

These features aren’t revolutionary, but they are helpful if you have a history of poor credit as they remove some of the barriers — like security deposit and hard credit check — that may prevent you from applying for a credit-building card in the first place.

Credit-building features: Makes tracking credit score progress easier

While the Surge Mastercard reports credit usage to the three major credit bureaus, it goes a few steps further to make your credit-building journey a bit easier. For instance, the opportunity to double your credit limit to up to $2,000 after six months of on-time payment and responsible use can reduce your credit utilization ratio and positively affect your credit score. Only a few other credit cards offer credit limit increases, so seeing this on the Surge Mastercard bumps it up a few notches.

Plus, when you enroll in electronic statements, you can get your VantageScore 3.0 on your monthly statement to help you track your credit-buliding progress. Having this monthly update on your credit score can give you insight on what’s affecting your score and keep you updated with how your creditworthiness is progressing.

Why you might want a different credit-building card

A few sore points ultimately hamper the Surge Mastercard’s usefulness as a credit-building card. 

Rates and fees: Excessive monthly and yearly costs

The Surge Mastercard is yet another credit-building card that charges far too many fees for comfort. While it’s not the worst offender we’ve seen, the card’s $75 to $125 annual fee for the first year (then $99 to $125) and potential monthly fee are expenses you don’t want to — and shouldn’t have to — worry about when you’re trying to build credit. This card’s APR is also quite high. Although high APRs are typical of credit-building cards, the Surge Platinum Mastercard poses one of the steepest APRs around — on par with the typical penalty APR for missing payments.

There are also a few optional one-time fees you may run across. These include a $30 fee for an authorized user’s card and a $9.95 “premium card fee” if you want a different card design. You’ll also be subject to a 3 percent foreign transaction fee for international purchases and late and returned payment penalty fees of up to $41.

If you ever call customer service to make a same-day payment, or if the payment needs to be processed after 5 p.m. or on a non-business day, there’s also an undisclosed “expedited service fee” that the customer service representative will inform you of.

Cardholder perks: Bare-minimum benefits

Other than the credit-building features, the Surge Mastercard has no real cardholder benefits to speak of. As a Mastercard, it comes with Mastercard’s zero fraud liability protection, which is a standard protection many cards have.

A plethora of perks and benefits is uncommon on many credit cards for people with bad or no credit, so it’s not unsurprising to see limited perks with the Surge Mastercard.

Rewards: No incentives on your spending

The Surge Mastercard doesn’t come with any rewards or cash back offers. This isn’t totally out of the ordinary for a credit-building card, but a surprising number of similar cards on the market offer rewards on card purchases. For example, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card offers a flat cash back rate on all purchases and an elevated rate on select purchases.

Earning rewards on your card use can sweeten the credit-building process and compensate for the relatively low spending power credit-building cards tend to offer. However, all the fees that the Surge Mastercard charges would probably eat into any rewards you accumulate anyway.

How the Surge Mastercard compares to other credit-building cards

If you’re looking for an effective credit card to build credit, the Surge Mastercard may be worth considering if you want to avoid secured cards. But given the card’s costly fees, you may be better off with other options.

Image of Surge® Platinum Mastercard®
Bankrate Score
Apply now Lock
on Continental Finance's secure site

Annual fee

See website for Details*

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info
Image of OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Bankrate Score
Apply now Lock
on Capital Bank's secure site

Annual fee

$35

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
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

Who is the Surge Mastercard right for?

The Surge Mastercard best fits a few types of cardholders. 

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Surge Mastercard worth it?

If you need an unsecured credit card and don’t qualify for better cards, the Surge Mastercard can help you build credit with responsible usage. Although it has a high annual fee and significant maintenance fees, it can provide you with a decent credit limit that can help you keep your credit utilization ratio low.

However, if you can qualify for a card with a lower annual fee or have the funds to contribute to a refundable security deposit, you may want to consider a lower-cost secured credit card or a card with better perks.

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: 

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Steve Dashiell
Editor, Credit cards

Steven Dashiell is an editor for Bankrate and CreditCards.com with expertise in rewards credit cards, financial literacy, and helping consumers build and maintain their credit.

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.