[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]
Merrick Bank is a financial institution, lender and one of the top 20 Visa card issuers in the United States. Despite not having the huge name recognition of other American banks, Merrick counts over 2.4 million customers as its cardholders.
Merrick may fly under the radar because they serve a very specific niche of consumer — namely, someone who is trying to improve their bad credit or build credit for the first time. If that describes you, Merrick Bank may count you as a potential customer for their line of Visa cards. But many competing banks offer credit cards that fulfill that same need. How does Merrick Bank stack up?
Who They Serve
Merrick Bank’s focus is consumers who have suboptimal or nonexistent credit. Their credit cards are designed to be basic solutions for consumers grappling with their credit.
Credit requirements, therefore, may be a bit on the lax side. The approval process is quick, and applicants can easily check online for prequalification without damaging their credit score. Some Merrick cards require you receive an invitation for you to access the card.
It is still possible for your application to be rejected, so don’t assume you’re a shoo-in.
Features for All Cardholders
Features vary between cards, but some apply to all Merrick Bank cardholders.
Cardholders can use Merrick Bank cards to make purchases and access cash at ATMs. The first year’s annual fees are applied to the balance of the card, so the fee can cut into your available credit limit. And Merrick Bank reports card activity to all three major credit bureaus, which is great if you’re trying to build or rebuild your credit — as long as you make timely payments and don’t run up significant balances.
Cardholders get free online and mobile account access. They also have a $0 fraud liability for unauthorized charges.
Merrick Bank’s Card Options
Merrick Bank offers a few different card options to customers:
The Merrick Bank Double Your Own Line Visa Card
The Double Your Own Line Visa Card comes with one major hook for improving your credit. If you make your minimum payment on time for the first seven months of the card, they’ll automatically double your credit limit.
One drawback: Merrick Bank is not transparent on the annual percentage rate (APR) or annual fee associated with this card, which should raise healthy skepticism. Presumably, that information will be shared during the application process.
The good news is, if you find the APR to be reasonable (keep in mind that anything over 24% is very high) Merrick’s automatic doubling of your credit limit is very rare. Some card issuers may increase your limit by request, but few make it an automatic feature. By doubling the limit, Merrick Bank is giving you the opportunity to maintain a healthier credit utilization ratio, which is a major factor in calculating your credit score (most experts recommend keeping that ratio below 30%, though 10% is even better). In other words, doubling your credit limit won’t help your credit score if you double your balance as well.
Merrick Bank will not impose a penalty rate on this card in the event of a late payment.
The Merrick Bank Secured Visa Card
Secured credit cards require a security deposit, which sets a line of credit equal to your deposit. Just like any other credit card, you make monthly payments and your card activity is reported to the credit bureaus. In this way, secured credit cards reduce the risk to the card provider and can help you build or improve upon your credit.
For their secured card, Merrick Bank requires an initial security deposit of $200 – $3,000. The requirement for approval is pretty low for the secured card. As long as you can provide a security deposit, have no pending bankruptcies or outstanding tax obligations and meet a few other minimum qualifications, you can access this card.
The card has a purchase APR of 17.95%. There’s an annual fee of $36 up front the first year, with $3 charged per month in subsequent years.
The Classic Visa Card
Merrick Bank offers other cards as well, including the Merrick Bank Classic Visa Card – but these offers usually come by mail and potential applicants will have to enter a code online to get more details. Merrick Bank does not publicly list the APR on their website, and states that the APR is available in the mailed offer and will be displayed when you accept the offer online. There are no other significant details publicly listed by Merrick on their mail offer cards.
Merrick Bank cards appear to be simple, no-frills cards designed for consumers with poor credit or nonexistent credit. Their biggest “wow” factor is the automatically doubled credit line on the Double Your Own Line card.
That said, the fact that they don’t publicly list APR or annual fees for many of their cards sets off alarm bells. These offers come by the mail only – so if you’ve received an offer, you’ll be better poised to judge the cost of the card. Just remember you’d do best to pay off any balance in full each month. Also, remember that your initial annual fee can eat into your credit limit.
With little public information and no big features, we can only determine that Merrick Bank cards can help you improve or build your credit. But you may be better off hunting down some options that are more upfront, include better features and are overall better deals.
If you need an unsecured or secured card to help you build credit, there are a few great options on the market. Here are two of our favorites.
Discover it® Secured
- No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
- It’s a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
- Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit from $200-$2500 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
- Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
- 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
- We automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
Card Details +
Why We’re Mentioning It: There’s no annual fee and the card can be opened with as little as $200. Unlike many secured cards, Discover it Secured gets you 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations up to $1,000 quarterly, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, Discover will match all cash back earned the first year. Discover also provides email and text alerts and 24-hour customer service.
Purchase APR: 24.99% Variable on purchases & balance transfers
Annual Fee: $0
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®
- See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
- This unsecured card requires no deposit and can help build your credit
- Track your progress with free online access to your Experian credit score, terms apply
- Build your credit history—we report to the credit bureaus monthly
- Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities
- Enjoy the flexibility to choose your payment due date, terms apply
- Receive 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases, terms apply
- No need to fret—you’re covered by $0 Fraud Liability
Card Details +
Why We’re Mentioning It: This is a basic card with standard credit card features, including online access and email text alerts. The kicker is that it also gives you 1% cash back on gas and groceries.
Annual Fee: $0 - $99
APR: 19.99% - 25.99% Variable
At publishing time, the Discover it® Secured and Credit One Bank Unsecured Visa credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).