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The BBVA Optimizer Credit Card is a secured credit card with a $40 annual fee. Like other secured credit cards, it’s designed for people with poor to below average credit, including those who’ve recently experienced serious financial shocks – though people with very recent bankruptcies may not qualify right away.
With responsible credit use and timely payments, the BBVA Optimizer Credit Card is a potentially powerful credit rebuilding tool that can pave the way toward more generous credit cards with higher spending limits – including popular BBVA products such as BBVA Select Credit Card. However, BBVA Optimizer requires an in-person application, so make sure you live close to a BBVA branch before you apply. BBVA’s trade area is generally limited to the southern half of the United States, from California to Florida.
To get started with BBVA Optimizer, you first need to open BBVA savings account and deposit an amount equal to your approved credit limit. You can’t withdraw that balance as long as your credit card account remains open, but it does have a nominal yield that pays you to wait, and you’re free to withdraw your funds once you pay off your credit card account in full and close it down.
If you want (and can afford) to raise your credit limit, you can make additional deposits in $100 increments. If your account becomes delinquent, BBVA may use your collateral account funds to pay down your outstanding balances, as per your cardholder and security agreements.
Here’s a comprehensive overview of BBVA Optimizer Credit Card.
Initial Deposit Requirement and Refund
BBVA Optimizer Credit Card has no minimum or maximum security deposit requirement. However, when you open your account, BBVA sets your initial credit limit, and you’re required to deposit that amount into your collateral account before you can begin using your card. (If you can’t afford your credit limit, you can request a lower threshold, but the starting limit is usually fairly modest – in the neighborhood of $300 to $1,000.)
Your deposit is held in an FDIC-insured savings account that earns interest at a nominal annual yield. BBVA does not automatically review your account to determine whether you qualify for an upgrade to a unsecured card. However, you can apply for an unsecured card from BBVA (or any other issuer) at any time. If your application is approved, you can close your BBVA Optimizer Credit Card account to receive a full refund of your deposit.
Credit Limits and Limit Increases
To increase your credit limit, you can make additional deposits in $100 increments. Your credit limit rises by 90% of the total deposit amount – for instance, if you deposit $500, your credit limit increases by $450.
Credit Bureau Reporting
Every billing cycle, BBVA reports your credit utilization and payment patterns (including nonpayments) to all three major credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. If you use your credit responsibly and pay your bills on time, your credit score will improve gradually.
The card’s annual fee is $40. The foreign transaction fee is 3% of the total transaction amount. Balance transfers and cash advances both cost the greater of 4% or $10. The late payment fee is $37, and the returned payment fee is $27.
This card is designed for people with poor to below-average credit who are looking to rebuild their credit. A very low credit score will not necessarily disqualify your application, though a recent bankruptcy could create problems.
- Decent APR. The BBVA Optimizer Credit Card has a fairly decent APR for a secured product, though it’s apt to vary with prevailing interest rates. That’s significantly lower than many competing secured cards.
- Collateral Account Balances Earn Interest. Deposits held in this card’s collateral account earn interest. Sure, the rate is low, but it’s better than nothing. But few other secured cards bother to pay interest at all, so this still counts as a win.
- Builds Credit With Responsible Use. If you use your BBVA Optimizer Credit Card responsibly and make timely payments on your account, you’ll build credit over time. This is a major advantage over non-credit products for people with less-than-perfect credit, including reloadable prepaid debit cards such as BBVA ClearSpend Prepaid Visa.
- Has an Annual Fee. The BBVA Optimizer Credit Card charges a $40 annual fee. Among secured credit cards, that’s on the high side. Some competing cards charge $25 to $35 per year – a difference that can add up over the course of a few years. Several secured cards, including the Discover product, waive annual fees altogether.
- No Rewards. This card doesn’t have a rewards program. Though cash back rewards aren’t super common in the secured space, some cards buck the trend – for example, Navy Federal Credit Union’s nRewards Secured Credit Card’s rewards program offers a roughly 1% return on spending, which isn’t bad for an entry-level card.
- Additional Deposits Increase Credit Limit By Only 90%. One of the most frustrating drawbacks to this credit card is the mismatch between collateral account deposits and the total credit limit. Deposits made subsequent to your initial deposit only increase your credit limit by 90% of the deposit amount. In other words, a $1,000 deposit increases the limit by just $900. You don’t lose the extra funds, but you can’t put them to use either – at least, not until you pay down your balance and close your account for good, at which point you’ll receive a refund.
- No Sign-up Bonus. This card has no sign-up bonus. That’s a bummer for prospective cardholders looking for an incentive to open a new account.
- Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. This card’s 3% foreign transaction fee is problematic for international travelers, including those who routinely hop over the border into Canada or Mexico. Some competing cards, including Discover it Secured, waive foreign transaction fees.
- No Automatic Upgrade Consideration. Unlike most secured credit card issuers, BBVA doesn’t automatically evaluate accounts for upgrades. You can certainly apply for a non-secured card at any time, but approval is not guaranteed. Plus, this requires an affirmative step on your part – one that you might not have the time, inclination, or organization to pursue. If you’re looking for a card that puts you on the path toward more generous credit products, look to the Capital One Secured MasterCard.
- Requires an In-Person Application. BBVA requires prospective cardholders to apply for Optimizer in person at a BBVA branch. That’s easy enough for people who live within easy reach of a branch, but not so great for the millions – in fact, the majority of U.S. consumers – who do not. BBVA’s footprint is mostly limited to larger cities within the United States’ southern tier, so if you live somewhere like Chicago or Seattle, it’s probably best to keep looking for the right secured card.
The BBVA Optimizer Credit Card is one of many secured credit cards designed for people with below-average credit. Credit woes can have any number of chronic and proximate causes, from years of spending beyond one’s means and ignoring the bills as they pile up, to uncontrollable life event, such as a major medical expense or an unexpected job loss that turns into an extended period of unemployment.
For those affected, the causes of credit problems are less important than their solutions. Following foreclosure, personal bankruptcy, and other jarring financial events, cards like BBVA Optimizer help reset resilient consumers’ financial lives – provided they make responsible spending decisions, use their credit allowances responsibly, and pay their bills on time.