The Total Visa Card is an unusual credit card aimed at consumers with poor credit histories. Offered by the Bank of Missouri, it markets itself as a way for people unable to qualify elsewhere to open a credit account.
But with high fees, strict limits, and confusing terms, it may do more harm than good for those working to build or rebuild their credit. This article takes an in-depth look at the pros, cons, fees, and alternatives to make an informed decision before applying.
Overview of the Total Visa Card
- Intended for people unable to qualify for typical credit cards
- Charges a $95 program fee just to open an account
- Reports customer payment history to credit bureaus
- Allows access to monthly credit scores
- No security deposit required but charges expensive fees
- Very small $300 credit limit granted to new cardholders
- Has a variable 35.99% purchase APR that’s sky-high
- Earns meager 1% cash back rewards on card payments
- Cannot be used for key purposes like automated gas pumps
- Available only to U.S. residents through Cross River Bank
The Many Fees and Charges
- $75 annual fee the first year, $48 every subsequent year
- $8.25 monthly servicing charge after the first year
- 25% fee to increase the tiny $300 credit limit
- Additional fees for authorized users, expedited delivery, etc.
Pros of the Total Visa Card
- Requires no security deposit
- Allows access to credit for people with very poor credit
- Can help initiate building a credit history
- Gets reported to all three major credit bureaus
- Offers 1% cash back rewards on card payments
- Provides access to your monthly credit scores
- Comes with autopay and mobile app capabilities
Cons of the Total Visa Card
- Extremely high interest rate of 35.99% variable APR
- Lots of fees including annual, monthly, program, authorized user, etc.
- Very small initial $300 credit limit
- Cannot be used at gas stations with automated pumps
- Allows only minimal credit line increases with 25% fee to raise it
- Little rewards value compared to other card options
- Numerous usage restrictions and requirements
As you can see, the cons heavily outweigh the pros when it comes to this credit card. The fees, rates, limits and rules make it an unappealing choice compared to alternatives specifically geared for credit building that exist in today’s market.
Alternatives to Consider Instead
While the Total Visa aims to provide credit access to those with poor histories, its expensive fees and harsh terms make it a last resort at best. Many better starter card options can help establish positive payment activity without gouging consumers.
- Secured Credit Cards
Secured cards require an upfront security deposit that acts as collateral and sets the credit limit, but are designed specifically for credit building. Popular picks like the Discover it® Secured Card and the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card feature:
- No annual fee
- Opportunity to graduate to unsecured line after responsible use
- Rewards on purchases (Discover offers 2% cashback)
- Mobile app with credit tools and alerts
The refundable deposit means your risk is limited while allowing an initial line of credit to prove payment punctuality month after month. Avoiding interest and fees can lead to higher limits and eventual graduation.
- Student Credit Cards
Students lack extensive credit histories but issuers like Discover and Bank of America offer student cards with:
- No annual fee and lenient approval odds
- Rewards like cash back or travel points on spending
- Special financing offers on large purchases
- No penalty APR spikes on late payments
Terms are structured to help students build healthy habits. Using lightly, paying on time, and keeping utilization low establishes the foundation for post-graduation creditworthiness.
Alternative Bad Credit Card Options
Other issuers are also now using more innovative metrics on top of traditional credit reports to approve those with poor scores but offer better terms than the Total Visa. Options like the Surge Mastercard or Indigo Platinum offer:
- No annual or monthly account fees
- Free monthly credit score reporting and analysis
- Mobile wallet compatibility and online account access
- Fraud protection with $0 liability policies
So alternatives exist even for bad credit applicants that provide reasonable credit limits and transparency without needless fees.
Tips for Using Responsibly If Approved
If you do get approved for the Total Visa card despite its numerous downsides, exercising caution and diligent card management becomes critical. Consider these best practices to avoid making mistakes that could worsen your credit standing and lead to endless fees.
Keep Credit Utilization Below 30%
With the small $300 limit, try to keep your monthly balances very low under $90. High credit utilization is detrimental to your scores, so minimize spending until the limit can hopefully be increased over time. Pay off larger individual charges promptly before statement closing.
Create Automatic Payments
Set up autopay through your bank account to pay at least the minimum amount due every month by the payment due date. This prevents missed payments that incur late fees and credit score damage. Monitor payments to ensure they go through on time.
Avoid Cash Advances
Cash advances typically carry much higher interest rates and fees compared to standard purchases. It’s best to avoid these altogether and just stick to using your card for normal everyday buying within your budget.
Check Statements and Credit Reports
Carefully review monthly statements and online account activity for any erroneous charges, hidden fees or suspicious transactions. Also obtain free annual credit reports to verify accurate reporting of payment history and credit utilization.
Pay Annual Fees Promptly
Pay the $75 first year annual fee as soon as your first statement generates rather than waiting until it’s due. This avoids accruing interest charges all month on that fee before paying it off. Set payment reminders annually for the $48 recurring charge each cardmember year.
Explore Credit Limit Increases
If used lightly and paid diligently for 12 months, you may request a higher credit limit over time. Just be aware the 25% limit increase fee can quickly diminish the benefit of having more available credit. Evaluate whether added purchasing power merits that surcharge.
Let me know if you would like any other sections expanded in more detailed outlines! I’m happy to continue developing this further into a full piece.
Should You Apply for This Credit Card?
For nearly all consumers, especially those looking to establish or rebuild credit, the answer could be a no. Between the punishing interest rates, restrictive rules, and endless fees, other options almost certainly exist that make more financial sense.
When This Card Might Work
About the only scenario where swallowing the Total Visa’s numerous downsides could be worthwhile is if you:
- Have declinations on every other credit card applied for
- Understand exactly how much the fees and terms will cost
- Have the income and discipline to avoid interest charges
- Simply need an emergency backup payment option
Even those with deep subprime scores on the verge of having no credit access may wish to explore alternatives before resigning themselves to this card’s requirements.
You Have to Look Elsewhere in Most Cases
For everyone else focused on building/rebuilding credit responsibly, plenty of better starter card options are available, such as:
- Secured cards that require refundable security deposits
- Student cards with lenient approval odds and rewards
- Credit builder loans designed specifically to establish payment history
Unless you face outright declines from all other issuers first, it makes sense to apply elsewhere to find an on-ramp better suited to your financial situation.
The Total Visa card’s toxic blend of barriers, penalties and constraints make it highly inadvisable for most people compared to what else exists today. Thoroughly review your options before settling on this solution.