Bad credit can feel like the end of the world. Whether you experienced identity fraud, have a spending habit, or just don’t have enough credit history to make big purchases, the idea of an easy get credit card can sound good.
Fortiva claims to be an ideal credit card for people with less-than-perfect credit. According to their website, their Mastercard is a great way to build your credit back up after damage or when there’s not enough to get a good credit card from a more well-known company. But how much of this marketing is hip and how much is hype? Read on for our Budget Diet Fortiva credit card review!
What is the Fortiva Credit Card?
Fortiva bills itself as a less-than-prime card, meaning that its intent is to provide credit cards for people with low credit scores. It’s a product of Atlanticus, a holding company that invests in financial services, but the Bank of Missouri issues Fortiva credit cards. What this means is that the Bank of Missouri hands out the cards, but Atlanticus is the company that you’ll have to work with to manage your card. They support the Fortiva website and other product services.
The Fortiva credit card is a Mastercard. It’s one of three products that Fortiva offers. The other two are retail credit lines and personal financing loans. We’re not going to cover those in this article.
Who Is The Fortiva Card For?
The Fortiva Mastercard is most ideal for people who have experienced credit damage. The concept behind the card is that even people with very low credit can qualify for this card. Then, they can get to work repairing their credit. Even people with a FICO score of 400 or lower can conceivably repair their credit this way.
Fortiva is not a good option for people with no credit history. Most 18-year-olds start with credit in the mid-700s, which is a high enough score to qualify them for a regular credit card. As we’ll see, there are some significant downsides to the Fortiva credit card. It may be a good option of last resort, but if there are other options, it’s probably best to investigate those first.
No Security Deposit Needed
If you’re already familiar with the concept of secured credit cards, then you might be wondering why you’d use Fortiva. A secured line of credit is a card upon which the user places a down payment. This protects the credit issuer in case the credit user defaults. Usually, secured credit has a low limit, and the user pays the equivalent of the entire credit limit up front.
For example, if you were to get a secured credit card, you might pay $400 when you sign up. Then, your credit limit on that card would be $400. If you were to charge $20 to the card and fail to pay, the issuer could just take that from your deposit. Eventually, if you upgrade to a nonsecured card or close your secured account, you’d get your security deposit back.
Fortiva doesn’t require a security deposit. This means that if collections companies are taking every cent that doesn’t go to food and living expenses, you can still get a Fortiva credit card.
You probably already know what to look for in a credit card, but in case you’re not, please head over to NerdWallet, which has a great explanation. (If you don’t understand annual percentage rates, then it’s a good idea to head over there first and learn. Then, come back here to see how that applies to the Fortiva credit card.)
The reason it’s important to understand APR for this article is that the Fortiva Mastercard has a high one. If your credit is okay, you might get away with an APR of 21.99%. However, the APR can also be as high as 36%! Repayment terms that include such a high APR can’t be said to be serving the customer. Missing just one monthly payment can become very expensive, very fast. If you carry a balance, you’ll quickly regret taking out a Fortiva credit card.
|Purchases:||21.99% – 36%|
|Balance Transfers:||24.99% – 36%|
|Cash Advances:||24.99% – 36%|
The Fortiva credit card boasts $0 fraud liability. This means that if you can prove that there’s been fraudulent activity on your Fortiva card, then you won’t be responsible for paying any of those fraudulent charges.
As impressive as this sounds, it’s not all that unusual. The Fair Credit Billing Act protects consumers from fraud quite thoroughly. Credit issuers can only hold you responsible for $50 of fraudulent charges anyway, and that’s assuming that your physical card is stolen. If someone uses only your numbers, you’re not supposed to be responsible for any of the scammer’s charges.
The fact that Fortiva offers to save you $50 in the event of fraud is very nice, but nothing to write home about. Every other major credit card issuer offers at least one card with $0 fraud liability. If you’re not sure about yours, call the number on the back of your credit card.
It’s important to take out a Fortiva credit card with your eyes wide open. There are fees hidden everywhere in the user agreement, and not all of them are easy to spot.
First of all, Fortiva charges an annual fee of up to $175 for the first year, and then up to $49 for subsequent years. On top of that, there are maintenance fees, transaction fees, program fees, fees for withdrawing money, and balance transfer fees. If you’re not careful, you could find you’ve paid $200 in fees alone on the first year of using your Fortiva credit card. If cardholders’ payments are late or bounce, they can expect to pay another fee of $38 per incident. Using automatic debit to pay your Fortiva card from your checking account can reduce the likelihood that you’ll be charged for late payments.
That’s just if you use Fortiva for credit. Getting cash advances will result in – you guessed it! – more fees. This would be bad enough for a regular card, but Fortiva is expressly marketed as a credit repair card for people who don’t have enough money for a deposit on a secured card. If you’re considering Fortiva, the odds are good that you don’t have a checking account that’s ready to absorb hidden gotchas.
Credit card costs can be confusing at the best of times. Here’s a chart showing all of Fortiva’s annual percentage rates and fees.
|One-Time Program Fee:||$25|
|First Year’s Annual Fee:||$49 – $175|
|Annual Fees After First Year:||$0 – $49|
|Maintenance Fees After First Year:||$60 – $159 ($5 – $12.50 billed monthly)|
|Late Payment Fee:||$38|
|Returned Payment Fee:||$38|
|Balance Transfer Fee:||3%|
|Cash Advance Fee:||$5 or 5% (whichever is the larger amount)|
|Foreign Transaction Fee:||3%|
|Authorized User Fee:||$25|
Pros and Cons
So far, you may already have noticed some significant pros and cons of having a Fortiva credit card. Here is what we’ve been able to determine about this possibly too-good-to-be-true credit card.
Pro: Almost Everyone Who Applies Is Approved
It doesn’t seem to matter how low your credit score is. According to customer reports, Fortiva approves almost everybody who asks for a card. There’s no need to have money, credit, or history. If you’re picking yourself up off of rock bottom, this can be an attractive idea.
Pro: Free VantageScore 3.0
Since you’re supposed to be in credit rehabilitation with this card, it’s useful that it gives you a way to see how your score is doing. The VantageScore 3.0 is roughly what other credit issuers will see when they look at your credit report. You get to see it for free with a Fortiva card.
That said, it’s not unusual for credit cards to help monitor your credit score. If you’ve ever had a Discover card, for example, you’ll know that you can access a free credit score in your online dashboard. Even if your card doesn’t offer free credit scores, there are other free services, like Mint, that do. Signing up for a Mint account not only gives you a better idea of how you’re spending money, but it shows you how your credit score changes in real time.
Pro: Fortiva Reports To The Three Credit Bureaus
Just like other credit cards, Fortiva reports on how you use your credit to Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. This is why using a Fortiva credit card and paying down your balance consistently can improve your credit score. Bills like laundry, utilities, and rent don’t build your credit. If you don’t have a mortgage, a car loan, a student loan, or another credit card, then Fortiva could be a good credit line of last resort.
If you do have any of those kinds of credit accounts, then getting a Fortiva card may not be necessary. Lenders also report to the credit bureaus. You could improve your credit just by focusing on your current accounts and making sure to pay them consistently. Opening a new credit card of any type won’t necessarily solve the problem of a low credit score.
Pro/Con: No Rewards
Most credit cards have a rewards system. When you spend with your card, you get a certain amount of money back, usually 1% or 2%. That value can help pay your bill, buy airplane miles, or even come back to you in the form of a check. It’s also a double-edged sword. We’ve talked before about how questing after your credit card’s rewards can be misleading and psychologically dangerous. That’s why you might like the fact that Fortiva doesn’t use a rewards system.
On the other hand, you might not. Credit card rewards can be a useful way to stretch your budget if managed correctly. For example, if you travel a lot, you might use a favorable credit card just to gas up your car. This would let you accumulate travel rewards without incentivizing yourself to overspend. As long as your rewards don’t require a minimum purchase, there’s no reason that you can’t use them responsibly.
Con: High Fees
The $38 late fee for Fortiva payments isn’t typical of most credit cards. In fact, some credit issuers, like Discover, offer a grace period, allowing you to miss one payment without incurring consequences. The size of the late fees for a Chase credit card depends on the size of the balance in question. For a balance of less than $100, fees can be up to $15. Even if the balance is $250 or more, the late fees for this company top out at $35. Capital One charges late fees as low as $25.
That doesn’t even begin to address annual fees. Many major credit card issuers have done away with these altogether. The point is simply this: Fortiva’s fees are quite high and appear to be inflexible compared to other credit card options. This alone is a major reason to avoid Fortiva.
Con: No Credit Limit Increases, No Card Upgrades
You read that right. Fortiva’s cardholder agreement explicitly states that you’ll never get a credit line increase, no matter how much your credit improves. This is a distinct disadvantage over other consumer credit cards, particularly secured credit cards. If you get a secured card from a major company and use it to improve your credit, you might be able to upgrade to a card with a higher limit and get your security deposit back in good time. That option doesn’t exist with Fortiva. This service offers exactly one card. If you sign up for a Fortiva Mastercard, you will never get a higher credit limit on that account.
The catch is that Fortiva gives you a higher credit limit than most secured credit cards. A secured credit card might give you a credit limit of $200 to start. Fortiva gives you $1000. This might be enough for you even after your credit improves, but that doesn’t change the fact that it can never change.
Con: Customer Experiences Are Extremely Bad
This is Fortiva’s primary negative point. Encyclopedias can be written with the negative reviews, official complaints, and disputes that customers have filed over this company. The customer service problems with Fortiva are so significant that we’re going to devote an entire section to discussing them.
It’s worthwhile to note that Fortiva is on top of its own Google game. If you type “Fortiva credit card reviews” into your search bar, the first result is Fortiva’s web page, which hosts glowing reviews about the Fortiva credit card. Supposedly, these are from actual happy customers. However, suspiciously, this is the only place on the Internet where good reviews of Fortiva abound. Every other review site we were able to find trended overwhelmingly negative about this infamous credit card.
Overwhelmingly Negative Reviews
Experiences ranged from rude customer service to failure to report to the credit bureaus. Even customers who hadn’t had terrible experiences reported that they were obligated to pay much more in fees than they wanted. There are droves of official complaints on the Better Business Bureau page of Atlanticus, which works with the Bank of Missouri to offer Fortiva to the public.
Less official resources online also support the idea that Fortiva is bilking customers. Where most companies might field a mixture of positive and negative reviews, entire forum topics exist to warn people away from this credit card. From Credit Karma to Yelp, every informal consumer report about Fortiva warns of unaccepted advance payments, incorrectly charged late fees, and difficult account closures.
The fact that Fortiva charges such outrageous fees should make it a no-go automatically. Their card is marketed toward people with bad credit, but overtly takes advantage of them once they sign up. If you’re considering Fortiva, think about whether you might be vulnerable to accepting bad terms. If you’re short on money, suffering from bad credit, and feel like you’re in a corner, you’re exactly the kind of person that this company is looking for. Judging by their fee setup, they’re not looking to do you any favors, either.
On top of that, getting out of a Fortiva credit account appears to be more than just a little hassle. The company appears to be notorious for poor customer service. If anything, this is a more serious issue than the fees. If you’re already experiencing financial problems, you don’t need this on top of your other headaches. Your credit score is about more than just having a credit card; it’s about how you use it. If you get a Fortiva card and continue to maintain a poor credit utilization ratio, for example, then it won’t matter that you went to all this trouble to get a credit card.
In summary, don’t use Fortiva unless you have no other option. As we’ve covered before on The Budget Diet, you should have a good relationship with your credit card. Keep reading to learn about better strategies for rescuing your credit.
Final Pros and Cons of the Fortiva Mastercard
|Easy approval||High fees|
|Free VantageScore||No upgrades|
|Reports to the credit bureaus||Increases not allowed|
|No rewards program||No rewards program|
|Poor customer service|
Alternatives To Fortiva
Secured Credit Cards
Our credit card guide covers secured credit cards, so you should head over to our ultimate credit card post and read what we have to say. Our post will give you the basic information on secured and unsecured credit cards, as well as other aspects of credit cards that you might not already be aware of.
It’s also worthwhile to look at ratings for secured credit cards. Some will address your needs better than others. For that, take a look at some of the best options listed for 2019 at CreditCard.com.
If you’re afraid that you don’t have the money for a security deposit, then consider how much money you’ll pay to Fortiva if you get their expensive card. Even if you can only put aside a little money, it’s worth your while to save up for a secured card. The minimum security deposit on secured cards is $200. At $25 a month, you’d be able to afford that in a less than a year. If you got a Fortiva card, you might end up paying it anyway. The difference is that your $200 security deposit can come back to you someday. Whatever you pay to Fortiva in fees is gone forever.
Did you know that credit counseling is generally free? It’s true! Most credit counseling is offered by nonprofits and educational institutions. The point is to tell you about all of your options. A credit counselor will look at your finances and give you an unbiased assessment of your credit problem. Then, they’ll use their years of training and experience to help you map your path out of debt.
Even if you think there’s nothing new that can be learned about your credit situation, you’ll be surprised at what an expert can see. You may have options that you don’t know about. Besides, it’s free! Consider making an appointment with an NFCC-certified counselor.
We at The Budget Diet hope this Fortiva credit card review helps you make the right decision when it comes to managing your debt.