People with good credit can easily secure a standard-issued credit card. But for those with a less-than-perfect credit score, getting approved is a struggle. Although you can find credit cards for those with bad credit, such as Discover it® Secured Credit Card and Secured Mastercard® from Capital One, you still need to go through the approval process, which involves a credit check.
Is there a way to get a credit card and make purchases without a credit check? Yes—through catalog credit cards. In most cases, applying for this type of card doesn’t involve a credit check.
What is a Catalog Credit Card?
Catalog credit cards, also known as merchandise cards, are made for consumers with bad credit. They’re not affiliated with Mastercard, Visa, or any card network. You can only use catalog credit cards to purchase items from an affiliated catalog.
Some consumers who struggle to secure a regular credit card because of their bad credit turn to catalog credit cards because of features, such as buy now pay later, no credit check, and instant approval. Unfortunately, these types of cards are saddled with hefty monthly fees and can only be used on the card’s online store.
If money is tight, relying on catalog credit cards where charges come with high-interest rates can lead to a debt trap. If your primary goal is to establish or build your credit, you should consider other alternatives first, such as applying for a secured credit card (backed by a security deposit), such as Discover it® Secured Credit Card and Secured Mastercard® from Capital One.
What Sites Offer Catalog Credit Cards?
Listed below are some buy now pay later websites that offer catalog credit.
Fingerhut.com also offers catalog credit cards to consumers who have a less-than-stellar credit history. Not only can you purchase items offered on the website using a Fingerhut credit card, but you can also rebuild your credit by making timely payments. Fingerhut reports your credit and payment activities to all three major credit bureaus. It’ll help you reach a good credit score that will make it easier for you to apply for standard credit cards with lower interest rates and better payment terms.
For starters, your credit limit will range from $200 to $800 and you can pay off your purchases between 6 and 8 months depending on the agreed-upon payment terms. You may qualify for a higher credit limit of up to $2,500 if you manage to pay off your balances on time. The average APR of a Fingerhut credit account is 29.99%.
2. My Unique Outlet
My Unique Outlet is one of the many buy now pay later websites that offer catalog credit cards. Its Unique Platinum card, which can only be used to make online purchases on the site, comes with a starting credit limit of $1,000. Consumers with a credit score of at least 300 can apply and your monthly payments are reported to all three credit reporting agencies.
There’s a $10 non-refundable fee if you apply for a Unique Platinum card. Additionally, you have to pay a one-time fee of $29.95 when you open an account. After that, you need to pay a monthly membership fee of $19.95.
You can opt-out of the My Services membership by calling 888-805-7648, but it may lower your credit limit to $250 from the starting amount of $1,000. It doesn’t come with an APR, but you have to pay numerous fees every month, which cancels out the perk of not having to pay any interest. The monthly membership fee is expensive and may not be worth the cost if you’re trying to rebuild your credit.
3. Horizon Outlet
Horizon Outlet offers its very own catalog credit card, the Horizon Gold card. It’s a store-only card that targets consumers with poor credit history. It offers a $500 credit limit and unlike a regular credit card, the purchases you make using the card don’t have an APR.
It doesn’t come with a welcome offer, but if you’re looking for a choose and charge catalogs with no credit check, then this card is definitely an option. It doesn’t require any credit check, which means it’s a type of card that features a “buy now pay later no credit check instant approval” feature.
As a Horizon Gold cardholder, you’ll enjoy the store’s membership benefits plan. It includes getting unlimited access to your credit report through http://www.memberbenefitsacces.com, up to 40% discount on prescription medications purchased at participating outlets, and a one-time consultation with a legal professional for 30 minutes in legal cases, excluding criminal cases.
Even though the Horizon Gold card purchases incur no APR, this type of catalog credit card comes with several hefty fees. You need to pay a one-time activation fee of $5, $20 late payment fees, NSF (not sufficient fund) check fees of $25, $2 shipping fee on all products, $3.50 for delivery signature verification, and a $24.95 monthly membership fee.
Is this catalog credit card worth it? Not really. Although it works like catalog credit cards with guaranteed approval and even if it doesn’t have an APR, you need to pay a total of almost $300 annually for your monthly membership fee. Plus, it only reports your transactions to Equifax. The Horizon Gold card should not be your first and only choice if you want to rebuild your credit.
What are the PROS of Using a Catalog Credit Card?
Consumers with bad, limited, or no credit history at all will find it hard to secure a regular credit card. Why should you apply for a catalog credit card instead of alternatives, such as a secured credit card?
- Limit Rejections – If you have bad credit, you probably know how hard it is to secure approval when you’re applying for new credit. In many instances, your application gets rejected. Even when it’s approved, you’re expected to pay high-interest rates and down payments. Not to mention, submitting multiple applications can drag your credit score down. You can limit the rejections with a catalog credit card. You have higher chances of getting approved regardless of your credit score.
- Easier Qualification Process – It’s easier to qualify for a catalog credit card than a traditional credit card. This is especially helpful if you have bad credit.
- Good Credit Building Tool – Your catalog credit card payments are reported to the major credit bureaus. Provided that you pay on time and you pay off your balances as agreed upon, you’ll eventually see improvements in your credit score.
What are the CONS of Using a Catalog Credit Card?
Catalog credit cards may boast of several consumer benefits but they also come with a set of disadvantages.
- High APRs – Catalog credit cards come with high APRs, at 21% on average. It means you’ll pay more interest on the purchases you make using the credit card.
- Lower Credit Limits – Catalog credit cards have lower credit limits than regular credit cards, usually below $1,000.
- Limited Use – Unlike traditional credit cards, catalog credit cards can only be used on the store or website that issued them. Your catalog credit card will be rendered useless if you need to make emergency purchases or payments for products or services that are not offered by the website or store that issued it.
When Should You Sign Up for a Catalog Credit Card?
Despite the drawbacks listed above, there are instances when you can apply for a catalog credit card. This type of credit card can be used as a short-term credit-building tool. It may also work in your favor if you regularly purchase items from the store or website offering the catalog credit card. Just be sure to keep your balances low and pay off your debt full every month.
If you’re the type of person who can’t stay within your budget or if you’re currently struggling with debt, you should avoid catalog credit cards. You’ll just end up with late or missed payments, which also means hefty interest charges every time you carry a balance.
If you can afford to purchase the items you need in full and without using the catalog credit card, then that’s a better option. It’s also wiser to purchase common items that you can find in regular stores at lower prices. Don’t forget that catalog credit cards come with high APRs. It’ll be very easy to fall into a debt spiral if you fail to use this card responsibly.
What are the Factors to Consider When Applying for a Catalog Credit Card?
- Choose a card that suits your needs and budget. Do your research well and make sure to compare catalog credit cards including their credit limits, interest rates, payment terms, etc.
- Find out if your catalog credit card payments will be reported to the major credit bureaus. If you’re looking to establish or rebuild your credit, you must choose a catalog credit card that will help improve your credit score.
- Make sure that can keep your spending low or below the credit limit to avoid declined transaction fees and overdraft charges.
- Always read and understand the fine print of the catalog credit card program you choose.
What are the Alternatives to Catalog Credit Cards?
There are better options for you if you have limited or bad credit.
1. Apply For A Secured Credit Card
Secured credit cards require you to pay a security deposit, hence the name, which starts at $200. The amount of your security deposit also serves as your credit limit. It’s a good option if you’re rebuilding your credit. Some secured credit cards that are worth considering include Citi Secured Mastercard, Self Visa Credit Card, and OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card. Once you have a good credit score, you can try applying for an unsecured credit card with better payment terms, and lower interest rates.
2. Become An Authorized User
Ask a family member or a close friend with good payment history if you can become an authorized user of their credit card. You’ll get your own credit card under the primary owner’s account, which you can use to make purchases. Plus, the transactions will appear on your credit report. Of course, make sure to pay the primary cardholder for all the charges you made. Keep in mind that they will be responsible for paying for debt. You wouldn’t want to ruin your relationship because of that.
Catalog credit cards exist for consumers with bad or limited credit history. They feature easy application methods, instant approval, and sometimes require no credit check, which makes them a tempting option for people with bad credit. However, catalog credit cards, such as those offered by Fingerhut, come with high APRs. Likewise, even though Horizon Outlet and My Unique Outlet offer in-store credit cards with no APRS, they’re filled with expensive monthly fees, which could easily push you into a debt spiral. If you’re looking to rebuild your credit, catalog credit cards are not worth the cost. Find other options like a secured credit card or become an authorized user, instead.