Merrick Bank Review

FT Contributor  | 

For some consumers, qualifying for a credit card or loan is difficult due to a low credit score or lack of credit history. While most consumers are aware of how missed payments and bad financial decisions can affect credit, a lack of credit history is harder to figure out.

Some examples of people with no credit history include students and young adults just starting out on their financial journey. There are times when consumers with no credit history may have more difficulty in qualifying for a loan or a credit card than someone with a low credit score. Merrick Bank specializes in helping its customers rebuild or establish credit history by offering products that support their goals.

What Is Merrick Bank?

Merrick Bank has been around since 1997. Your money is secure — the bank is an FDIC-insured financial institution. The bank offers a small selection of consumer products, including credit cards, certificates of deposit (CDs), personal loans as well as RV, boat and horse financing. Merrick Bank is most known for issuing credit cards to customers wishing to establish or rebuild their credit. The bank claims to be “a top-20 issuer of VISA cards,” serving almost three million cardholders to date.

How Does Merrick Bank Work?

Merrick Bank focuses on helping consumers who are looking to strengthen their credit standing. Many of their banking services revolve around credit monitoring. Merrick Bank’s goMobile banking app allows you to monitor your account and review your FICO score for free every month. Besides the mobile banking app, bank customers have access to a library of educational information to help understand and improve the key factors impacting their FICO scores.

Merrick Bank Credit Card Options and Reviews

Merrick Bank’s two credit cards are the strongest financial products the bank offers.  Both cards come with free monthly credit score monitoring, automatic credit line reviews and increases for accounts in good standing, and $0 fraud liability.

Double Your Line Visa Credit Cards

Both of the bank’s credit card products help you improve your credit score over time by doubling your credit limit. You’ll start with a modest credit line. When you make on-time minimum payments in the first seven months after being approved, Merrick Bank will double your credit line.

There’s a reason why Merrick offers to double your credit line if your account history is in good standing. Credit bureaus base part of your FICO score on the amount of credit you have available versus your balance. The larger your credit limit, the better your credit utilization score looks (as long as you don’t max out your card limit). Keep your balance low and continue to make payments on time, and soon enough, your FICO score will help you qualify for higher-tier credit cards.

Secured Visa Card

Merrick Bank’s Secured Visa card is ideal for consumers who lack a credit history or have a low FICO score. Nearly everyone could be approved as long as they meet certain conditions. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security number, and have no pending bankruptcies or outstanding tax obligations.

A secured credit card works differently than a standard credit card. Most credit card providers use your FICO score to determine if you’re eligible for a credit card. To qualify for a secured credit card, you’ll need a different guarantee since your credit score is limited. Secured credit card providers will ask you to deposit a certain amount of money to serve as collateral for a credit line.

For example, you may be eligible for a secured credit card with a $500 credit line after you provide a $500 deposit to the card issuer. If you don’t pay your card back, the card provider will keep the money you deposited as collateral to repay your outstanding credit card obligation. Merrick Bank will give you an initial credit line of $200 to $3,000 to match the deposit amount you’re willing to provide.

Platinum Visa Card

The Platinum Visa card is an invite-only credit card for customers matching the bank’s higher-credit profile. Merrick Bank will double your credit line if you make your minimum payments on time for the first seven months, but the card doesn’t offer any special card perks, such as a low introductory interest rate or rewards program.

Should I Open an Account With Merrick Bank?

Choosing the right bank isn’t always easy due to the variety of services banks offer. Merrick Bank doesn’t provide many traditional banking features, such as a checking account. The bank works like a savings and loan institution. You’ll have access to CDs (with a minimum deposit amount of $25,000), credit cards, and loan products.

Pros of Merrick Bank

  • Easy to qualify for a credit card: Customers with bad credit or no previous banking history can qualify for a credit card. 
  • Free access to FICO score: You’ll be able to review your monthly credit score for free and access credit education resources to learn more about how you can improve your FICO.
  • High credit limit: Even the Secured Visa has a credit line as high as $3,000; you must deposit the same amount to serve as collateral.

Cons of Merrick Bank

  • High annual fees: Merrick Bank charges higher-than-normal fees when you qualify for a Visa. There’s a one-time setup fee of $75, and an annual fee as high as $96.
  • High annual percentage rate (APR): If you’re planning on using a Merrick Bank Visa to build credit, be wary of carrying a balance higher than a couple of hundred dollars. The bank will charge you a high variable interest rate between 20.45% and 29.95% — one of the highest card APRs around.
  • No rewards: You won’t have access to cashback rewards or earning points for free travel. But at least you’ll have the opportunity to build your credit history.

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