Rebuilding Your Credit? Don’t Use First Premier!
It’s very rare that I would speak out against a company, but I know that some of our readers are actively working to rebuild their credit.
I wanted to take the time to share the experiences that I had with First Premier, and the lessons that I learned from working with them. That way, hopefully, you guys don’t have similar experiences as you work to raise your own credit scores!
I applied for, and was approved for my First Premier Gold card about a year and a half before my bankruptcy. At that time, I was still trying to avoid bankruptcy, paying off everything I could, and trying to rebuild my credit.
When I compared credit cards, I thought that secured cards were a raw deal – you have to have 100% of the money up front to open a secured credit card.
The First Premier card that I had was unsecured, but it came with heavy fees – all of which were conveniently charged to the card when the account was opened.
“Less money up front! That’s a good thing” or so I thought. My First Premier card had a high interest rate, but I didn’t plan to carry a balance, so I thought it would not matter.
Well, long story short, First Premier issued me a card with $250 in fees charged to the card, and a $300 limit. The first month I had the card I paid half of the fees, and the next month paid them off completely.
For a few months, this worked well. I would charge $20-$30 on the card, and pay it off. It was pretty smooth sailing, and I was glad to have the “security” of a credit card again.
After I’d had the card about six months, my husband ended up in the hospital. We used the credit card to pay the emergency room fees, and part of the bill. It didn’t remotely cover the cost of the hospital stay though, and we soon found that we had all sorts of bills rolling in.
At that point, I missed a payment with them, which is what started the whole decent into madness as far as I was concerned.
I called them to work out a payment plan, but they were unwilling to let me pay what I could afford over several months,(which admittedly wasn’t much!) and they closed the account. That would have been ok too, except for what happened next:
After one late payment, First Premier immediately:
- Closed my account
- Raised my interest rate on the remaining balance
- Attached fees that doubled the balance on the card – yeah, you read that right. A $300 balance became a $600 balance overnight.
- Began calling me at work daily despite being told that I was not allowed to have calls there
- Called my house after 9:00 at night, several nights a week
And sadly, that was just the start.
I spoke with them again, several times, trying to get them to remove the fees, and accept a settlement. They were completely unwilling to work with me.
Their collections representatives were, without doubt, the rudest reps I’ve ever spoken to, and it seemed like they had no desire to actually help me resolve my debt with them.
My First Premier credit card was the only credit card I took with me into my bankruptcy. After dealing with them for nearly a year, and watching the fees on the card rise every month, I simply had no way to pay them back.
It is my belief that they are the worst of the worst, and if you can, try to avoid them completely as you work to rebuild your credit. I’ve seen other horror stores online, other people that have had very similar experiences.
So, if I had it all to do over, (and thankfully I do!) I took the lessons below to heart:
- Secured credit cards are the best option – There are so many reasons for this. For one, they usually have lower interest rates. Also, the money that you send them gets put into savings, and you get it back when you close the account. That’s a far better deal than just paying a bunch of fees.
- If I couldn’t afford the $300 up front to get a secured credit card, I probably had no business trying to get a credit card in the first place.
- We should have had an emergency fund – That way when my husband went into the hospital, we would not have had to pay for it with a credit card.
- You just can’t make a late payment ever when you’re seriously trying to rebuild your credit – Companies like First Premier, they just make a bad situation worse. It was wrong of us to miss a payment, but it seriously felt like this company was just waiting for us to do it so they could leap on us and tack on fees for three times the amount we actually owed.
- No matter how bad your credit is, you still have options – There is no reason to let yourself be forced into taking on one of these high fee “credit builder” credit cards. I should have taken the time to read up on the card, and the company before I put my money and my trust in them.
And finally, the biggest lesson that I took from the whole First Premier experience was this: Not every company will be willing to work with you to settle your account. So, as you rebuild your credit, choose carefully. You may want to Google the company, visit the forums here on Ask Mr. Credit Card, and just generally see if other people have ever had drastic problems with a card before you sign on the dotted line.
Obviously, if all goes well, you may never have to see the dark side of your credit card company! Still, it never hurts to know what kind of customer service you can expect if you were to have a problem.
I wish you much luck and persistence as you go about rebuilding your credit. If you’re reading this because you’ve been nailed by First Premier, you have my total understanding. If you’re working to rebuild your credit, and you are exploring your options, skip First Premier – check out Orchard Bank’s line of cards instead. They aren’t the “perfect” company, but they’ve treated me far better than First Premier did, and I am still very happy to have a credit account with them.
As always, I love your questions and comments! Please feel free to get in touch with me by using the comment box below. Thanks!