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10 Unsecured Credit Cards After Bankruptcy (2020)

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Bankruptcy is a fact of life in today’s economy — but there’s life after bankruptcy — as witnessed by this review of 10 unsecured credit cards after bankruptcy for consumers who lack good credit.

All these cards accept applicants with a low credit rating and do not require you to put down a security deposit to open a credit card account.

All of the cards below are an acceptable choice for folks who once experienced bankruptcy and now seek new credit. All offer modest credit limits but differ in the fees they charge.

Pay close attention to one-time and recurring fees as well as the interest rate and other APRs. Unless you see a unique feature that you need, we recommend you choose the card that costs the least to get and to own.

  • Pre-qualifying today will not affect your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit histories can qualify, even with prior bankruptcy!
  • Mobile friendly online access from anywhere
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

N/A

N/A

24.9%

$0 – $99

Fair/Good

The Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard® – Prior Bankruptcy is Okay markets to consumers who want to rebuild their credit, even after a prior bankruptcy. You can prequalify for this card without hurting your credit score.

You must be at least 18 years old, with a physical and U.S. IP address, a valid Social Security number, and no history of owning an Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard that was charged off because of delinquency. You also must meet additional underwriting criteria, including a review of your debt and income.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★

4.8

  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7

See website for Details

N/A

25.90% – 29.99%

See website for Details

Bad, Poor Credit

The Surge Mastercard® invites consumers with previous credit problems to apply. You can prequalify by submitting information about your checking account, monthly income, and whether you foresee taking cash advances. You’ll also have to supply your Social Security number.

Fees are about average for this type of card and consist of an annual fee and fees for cash advances, foreign transactions, and additional cards. A monthly maintenance fee is waived during the first year. You can get a higher credit limit by paying your bill on time for the first six months. The card provides $0 fraud liability.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★

4.5

  • Prequalify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Protection from fraud if your card is stolen
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

  • *Dependent on credit worthiness

N/A

N/A

24.9%

$35 – $99

Bad, Poor Credit

When you attempt to prequalify for a Milestone® Mastercard® – Less Than Perfect Credit Considered, you’ll actually be considered for several variations of the card that differ in certain fee amounts. With a prior bankruptcy, you’ll probably be considered for the “Gold-X” variety, which packs the highest annual fee.

You’ll also face fees for cash advances, foreign transactions, late payments, over-limit spending, and returned payments. However, there are no application fees nor monthly maintenance charges. You cannot qualify if you’ve ever had a Milestone® Mastercard® charged off due to delinquency.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★

4.5

  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa credit card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus

N/A

N/A

See Terms

See Terms

Fair, Bad Credit

On the plus side, the Total Visa® Card welcomes folks with bad credit. Moreover, you can choose a card design from a set of six.

However, you’ll have to pay a one-time program fee, a yearly fee, and starting in year two, a monthly servicing fee and a cash advance fee. There are also fees for late or returned payments, the credit limit is low, and the APR is higher than average for this group.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.4

  • Pre-qualify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

N/A

N/A

24.9%

$0 – $99

Bad, Poor Credit

The Indigo® Mastercard® for Less than Perfect Credit is part of a trio of platinum cards from Celtic Bank. Folks with prior bankruptcies or very poor credit will probably be offered the Plat-18 version, which has the highest yearly fee and charges several penalty fees, foreign transaction fees, and a cash advance fee that is waived for the first year.

The APR is about average for this group and the initial credit limit is low, especially after you net out the annual fee that is assessed before you begin using the card.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • Checking Account Required
  • Reporting monthly to all three major credit reporting agencies
  • Perfect credit not required for approval; we may approve you when others won’t
  • Easy and secure online application
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • The First Access Visa Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

N/A

N/A

See Terms

See Terms

Bad Credit

The First Access Visa® Card is available in six designs. The card charges the typical fees for this category, including an initial program fee, penalty fees, and an annual fee. Starting in the second year are fees for credit line increases, cash advances, and monthly servicing.

The APR is on the high side, but the card is easier to get than are some of the other cards in this group.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Not an access card

N/A

N/A

See Issuers Website

$0

Poor Credit

The Fingerhut Credit Account lets you charge purchases when you shop at the Fingerhut online store or at one of its affiliates. This card charges no annual fee and will occasionally offer special repayment terms.

As with most store cards, this one is easy to obtain. If you don’t qualify, you may be offered Fingerhut’s Fresh Start Installment Loan. Once repaid, Fingerhut may then offer you the credit account.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • Seeing if you Pre-Qualify is fast, easy, and secure
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply
  • Rewards post automatically to your account each month
  • Automatic reviews for credit line increase opportunities
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Pick a card that fits your style. Multiple card designs are available, a fee may apply

N/A

N/A

17.99% to 23.99% Variable

$0 – $99

Poor

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards lets you earn cash back rewards on eligible gas and grocery purchases as well as on internet, phone, satellite TV, and cable services. Better yet, you’ll earn extra rewards when you purchase from a participating merchant.

The APR is relatively low for this group, and the annual fee is modest. Other fees are assessed for cash advances, foreign transactions, returned payments, and late payments.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.3

  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds—without affecting your credit score. It’s fast, easy, and secure.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV. Terms apply.
  • This is a fully functional, unsecured credit card—not a debit card, prepaid card, or secured credit card with deposit requirements.
  • Credit One Bank evaluates every account for credit line increase opportunities. We’ll let you know as soon as you’re eligible for a higher credit line.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Zero Fraud Liability protects you if your card is ever lost or stolen. Rest easy knowing you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges.

N/A

N/A

17.99% to 23.99% Variable

$0 – $99

Poor Credit

The Credit One Bank® Visa® with Free Credit Score Access is a good choice if you want to monitor your Experian score. Note that this is a ScoreX score, rather than the industry-standard FICO score. Therefore, you should use the score for your own non-commercial, personal educational review.

You can conveniently manage your card account on your tablet or phone using the Credit One Bank mobile app. You can also customize your transaction notifications and fraud alerts delivered via email or text.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★

4.0

  • Find out if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score
  • Eligible purchases earn 1% cash back rewards automatically, terms apply
  • Get a credit line between $300 and $3,000 based on your credit history
  • Accounts are automatically reviewed for credit line increase opportunities
  • Choose your monthly payment due date for added convenience, terms apply
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges

N/A

N/A

17.99% to 23.99% Variable

$0 – $99

Poor

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® for Rebuilding Credit welcomes consumers who have had credit trouble in the past. It offers cash back rewards for purchases at grocery stores and gas stations, as well as your phone, cable, internet, and satellite TV providers.

The annual fee varies with your creditworthiness, but the fees for cash advances, foreign transactions, late payments, and return payments are fixed. There is also a card fee if you add an authorized user.

Bankruptcy is a tool to protect your assets against creditors while you and the state court work out new arrangements. Depending on the type of bankruptcy, you may be relieved of your debts, or you may agree to a partial restitution plan.

Here are the answers to some questions regarding credit cards after bankruptcy.

What is an Unsecured Credit Card for After Bankruptcy?

An unsecured credit card, like an unsecured loan or personal loan, is backed by your general assets rather than a cash deposit. If you’ve experienced a bankruptcy in the past, you may find it difficult to obtain an unsecured credit card right away.

The cards in this review have been selected because they may approve your application even after a bankruptcy, but approval is by no means guaranteed.

However, time heals all wounds. While a bankruptcy will linger on your credit report for seven years or longer, its impact on your credit score will begin to diminish after the first couple of years. In other words, it pays to be patient when applying for a credit card after your bankruptcy, during which time you can improve your prospects by paying your bills on time and reducing your credit card debt.

The credit cards in this review share several characteristics. All may approve your request for a post-bankruptcy credit card, but it depends on the specific circumstances. Things these cards have in common include:

  • Relaxed standards: These cards are willing to approve applicants that others reject. They provide a valuable alternative to secured cards for those who have a poor credit history and prior bankruptcies. These issuers give consumers the opportunity to have Mastercard and Visa credit cards without having to put up collateral to secure the credit line.
  • Annual fees: While some of the cards show a range of annual charges as low as $0, consumers who have undergone bankruptcy will probably pay the maximum annual fees charged, which is typically around $99.
  • Plenty of fees: The issuers of these cards charge a myriad of fees. The reason is simple: You are considered a credit risk, and they would like to collect some money from you to reduce the impact of that risk. In addition to annual fees, some cards charge you an initial one-time program fee (typically less than $100). You can expect stiff penalties (typically $40) for misdemeanors such as late payments, returned payments, and spending over the credit limit. The least desirable cards also charge a monthly maintenance fee starting in the second year. All fees are included in each card’s standard credit card disclosure.
  • High APRs: The purchase annual percentage rates on these cards seldom fall below 20% and several exceed 30%. Cash advances, if available, may have a separate, higher interest rate.
  • Few benefits: Only a few of the cards in this review offer cash back rewards. Most of the cards offer paltry benefits, such as the choice of a card design. The better cards offer benefits that may include free credit scores, $0 balance transfers, customizable activity alerts, $0 fraud liability, and letting you choose the monthly payment due date.

All of these cards report your payments to at least one credit bureau — Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax — but most report to all three. This gives you the opportunity to raise your credit score by paying on time and keeping your credit card debt to a minimum.

How Do I Get an Unsecured Card After Bankruptcy?

Most of these cards offer a prequalification step before you formally apply for the card. The good thing is that it won’t hurt your credit score.

In a prequalification process, the credit card company makes a soft pull of your credit information from any of the three credit bureaus. A soft pull is an inquiry about your credit history that will not count against you.

When you apply for a card after passing the prequalification step, the credit card company does a hard pull, which can temporarily reduce your credit score. Too many hard pulls in a short time period can hurt your score further.

Hard Credit Inquiry vs. Soft Credit Inquiry

The prequalification step requires you submit basic information about yourself, your income, your Social Security number, and other data. You must be at least 18 years old and not have certain derogatory marks, such as previously defaulting on the card for which you are applying.

The card application will consist of further questions about your living arrangements, your job, existing unsecured debt, credit utilization, and other nosy items. Typically, the harder step is to prequalify, but not all prequalified applicants are approved.

While the cards in this review will not necessarily reject your application because of an old bankruptcy, they probably will say no if you are currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.

Many of the cards also limit how frequently you can apply. For example, some reject multiple applications within a set period, such as six months. Other reasons for rejection include having a delinquent credit account, being underage, and not being a U.S. citizen or resident.

What is the Difference Between an Unsecured and a Secured Credit Card?

A secured loan requires collateral. To obtain a secured credit card, you must make a cash deposit into an account controlled by the card issuer. The deposit covers the secured debt and is usually greater than or equal to a card’s credit limit.

Contrast this to unsecured credit cards, which require no upfront deposit and are considered lower-priority debt.

Secured credit cards can make a lot of sense for folks with poor credit and/or prior bankruptcies. While it’s true that you must secure your credit limit with a cash deposit, the credit limit is for a revolving account.

That means you can, over time, spend much more than the credit limit/security deposit because you have to make repayments to the card each month. In effect, you can use the same security deposit over time to secure purchases far in excess of the credit limit.

Unsecured vs. Secured Credit Cards

A secured credit card differs from its unsecured cousins in other ways as well. You’ll find most secured cards have lower APRs and fees than do similar unsecured cards. In fact, most secured cards charge no annual fee, which is remarkable for cards aimed at consumers with poor or no credit.

Also, some secured cards offer more generous benefits than do equivalent unsecured cards. A good example of a secured card with generous benefits is the Capital One® Secured Mastercard that’s aimed at consumers with bad credit.

Another alternative to an unsecured card is a credit builder loan for bad credit consumers, in which the loan proceeds are locked in an account until repaid. You build your credit rating by repaying on time.

One thing both card types offer is to report your payment activity to one major credit bureau or more. By doing so, the cards give you the opportunity to boost your credit score by making your payments on time.

A secured card may reward consistent on-time payment by eventually refunding your deposit, making the card unsecured. Unsecured cards may reward good financial behavior by offering higher credit limits, although some may charge a fee for doing so.

What Will My Credit Limit Be?

Typically, the credit line on these cards is well below $1,000 and often start at $300 (minus the annual fee). Some of the cards automatically offer you a higher limit after you’ve exhibited creditworthy behavior.

For example, you may have to make your first six payments on time to qualify for a higher limit. Some cards charge a fee for a limit boost, usually equal to a percentage of the increase.

Average Credit Card Limits by Score

Often, the annual fee is subtracted from the initial credit limit. For example, if your annual fee is $75 and your limit is $300, then your initial limit will be $225. Once you pay the fee, your available credit will resume at $300.

If it’s important to you to have a higher credit limit, consider getting a secured card instead. Many secured cards let you choose a higher limit, maybe as high as $2,500, by depositing a larger amount. Whatever your current limit, you will probably be able to raise it as you build credit through creditworthy behavior.

Can I Get an Unsecured Card for After Bankruptcy with No Annual Fee?

Some of the cards in this review offer a range of annual fees that start at $0. However, a past bankruptcy may put a no-annual-fee card out of reach. While it’s not impossible to get a no-annual-fee card despite a prior bankruptcy, unusual conditions would have to prevail.

Naturally, bankruptcies that are old enough to have been removed from your credit reports can no longer hurt your ability as a debtor to get a credit card without an annual fee. It takes seven years for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to roll off your credit report, but it takes a full 10 years before a Chapter 7 bankruptcy disappears.

Chart Showing Negative Account Credit Report Lifespan

This is due to the differences between the two bankruptcy chapters. Chapter 13 involves a structured repayment plan to pay back some debt to unsecured creditors, and therefore is considered less damaging than Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, where your debts are completely forgiven by each creditor.

If your bankruptcy is still on your credit report but is due to come down soon, you may be able to find an unsecured card that will give you a $0 annual fee. For this to happen, you would have had to work hard during the intervening period to improve your credit. In other words, by compiling a history of creditworthy behavior over the last five or more years, you may be deemed eligible for a no-annual-fee card, or at least a low-fee card, despite an old bankruptcy.

Will I Need a Checking or Savings Account to Open a Card?

In most cases, you will need a bank or credit union account to get a credit card. While some cards are marketed to unbanked individuals, you’ll get the most convenience from your credit card if you also have a checking or savings account. The chief benefit of a bank account is the ability to make credit card payments directly through transfers or checks, rather than paying in person at bank branches or other locations.

Bank accounts also come in handy when you need a cash advance from your credit card because you can have the advance deposited directly into your bank account. This avoids having to handle cash or using an ATM.

Fortunately, many banks offer low-cost checking accounts and free savings accounts. Some accounts waive monthly fees if you maintain a minimum balance.

Digital banks and credit unions are especially good venues for low-cost checking accounts. Moreover, a low credit score or a prior bankruptcy won’t interfere with your ability to open a checking or savings account.

Banks vs Credit Unions

It’s often convenient to open a checking or savings account at the bank issuing the credit card you own (or want to own). Banks may offer special deals when they bundle a credit card with a checking or savings account. Using the same bank or credit union for your card and your checking account may make it easier to set up automatic monthly credit card payments from your checking account to handle minimum amounts due.

If you choose to open just a savings account, be aware of certain limitations that may apply to the account, such as a maximum number of withdrawals per month. However, the Federal Reserve recently lifted the cap on withdrawals from savings accounts.

Before choosing a savings account, be sure to compare APRs that can vary widely. Some of the best savings rates are offered by virtual banks, such as Radius Bank, that have no brick-and-mortar branches. Look for a bank advertiser offering the highest national rates.

A good reason to own both a savings and checking account is that you can use the savings account as a backstop against overdrafts in the checking account. Just ask your bank to automatically transfer from savings to checking the funds necessary to cover an overdraft.

This timely payment will save you fees and embarrassment. You may also get an automatic sweep feature on your checking account that moves excess funds to the companion savings account.

Similarly, you can have the bank that issued your credit card and checking account use the account to cover overdrafts on your credit card. These occur when you attempt to spend beyond your card’s credit limit. In an overdraft agreement, money from your bank account will automatically pay down your card balance to avoid the overdraft.

The 10 unsecured credit cards after bankruptcy we reviewed here offer consumers with a sketchy credit history a chance to get a credit card without putting down a security deposit. These cards often have high fees and APRs, but they do give you the opportunity to raise your credit score when you pay your bills on time, helping you on your path to good credit.

Consider these cards as a step in your campaign to recover your credit score after the damage inflicted by a bankruptcy filing.

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CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.



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Bad Credit

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders

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Illustration by Sarah Maxwell, Folio Art

When Bridget Davis got started in the family’s payday lending business in 1996, there was just one Check ’n Go store in Cincinnati. She says she did it all: customer service, banking duties, even painting walls.

The company had been established two years earlier by her husband, Jared Davis, and was growing rapidly. There were 100 Check ’n Go locations by 1997, when Jared and Bridget (née Byrne) married and traveled the country together looking for more locations to open storefront outlets. They launched another 400 stores in 1998, mostly in strip malls and abandoned gas stations in low-income minority neighborhoods where the payday lending target market abounds. Bridget drove the supply truck and helped select locations and design the store layouts.

But Jared soon fired his wife for committing what may be the ultimate sin in the payday lending business: She forgave a customer’s debt. “A young woman came to pay her $20 interest payment,” Bridget wrote in court documents last year during divorce proceedings from Jared. “I pulled her file, calculated that she had already paid $320 to date on a principle [sic] loan of $100. I told her she was paid in full. [Jared] fired me, stating, ‘We are here to make money, not help customers manage theirs. If you can’t do that, you can’t work here.’ ”

Photograph by Brittany Dexter

It’s a business philosophy that pays well, especially if you’re charging fees and interest rates of 400 percent that can more than triple the amount of the loan in just five months—the typical time most payday borrowers need to repay their debt, says the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization focused on public policy. Cincinnati-based Check ’n Go now operates more than 1,100 locations in 25 states as well as an internet lending service with 24/7 access from the comfort of your own home, according to its website. Since its founding, the company has conducted more than 50 million transactions.

What the website doesn’t say is that many, if not most, of those transactions were for small loans of $50 to $500 to working people trying to scrape by and pay their bills. In most states—including Ohio, until it reformed its payday lending laws in 2019—borrowers typically fork over more than one-third of their paycheck to meet the deadline for repayment, usually in two weeks. To help guarantee repayment, borrowers turn over access to their checking account or deposit a check with the lender. In states that don’t offer protection, customers go back again and again to borrow more money from the same payday lender, typically up to 10 times, driving themselves into a debt trap that can lead to bankruptcy.

Jared and Bridget Davis are embroiled in a nasty court battle related to his 2019 divorce filing in Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court. Thousands of pages of filings and 433 docket entries by April 26 offer the public a rare glimpse into the business operations of Check ’n Go, one of Cincinnati’s largest privately-owned companies, as well as personal lifestyles funded by payday lending.

The company cleared $77 million in profit in 2018, a figure that dipped the following year to $55 million, according to an audit by Deloitte. That drop in revenue may have something to do with the payday lending reform laws and interest rate caps passed recently in Ohio as well as a growing number of other states.


The day-to-day business transactions that provide such profit are a depressing window into how those who live on the edge of financial security are often stuck with few options for improving their situations. If a borrower doesn’t repay or refinance his or her original loan, a lender like Check ’n Go deposits the guarantee check and lets it bounce, causing the borrower to incur charges for the bounced check and eventually lose his or her checking account, says Nick DiNardo, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. After two missed payments, payday lenders usually turn over the debt to a collection agency. If the collection agency fails to collect the full amount of the original loan as well as all fees and interest, it goes to court to garnish the borrower’s wages.

That devastating experience is all too familiar to Anthony Smith, a 60-year-old Wyoming resident who says he was laid off from several management positions over a 20-year period. He turned to payday lenders as his credit rating dropped and soon found himself caught in a debt trap that took him years to escape.

Two things happened in 2019, Smith says, that turned around his financial fortunes. First, he found a stable manufacturing job with the Formica Company locally, and then he took his mother’s advice and opened a credit union account. GE Credit Union not only gave him a reasonable loan to pay off his $2,500 debt but also issued him his first credit card in a decade. “I had been a member [of the credit union] for just two months, and I had a credit rating of 520. Can you imagine?” he says. Smith says he is now debt-free for the first time in 10 years.

Consumer advocates say Check ’n Go is one of the biggest payday lending operations in the nation. But knowing its exact ranking is difficult because most payday lending companies, including Check ’n Go and its parent company CNG Holdings, are privately held and reluctant to disclose their finances.

Brothers Jared and David Davis own the majority of the company’s privately held stock. David bought into the company in 1995, but CNG got its game-changing infusion of capital from the brothers’ father, Allen Davis, who retired as CEO of then-Provident Bank in 1998. Allen sold off $37 million in stock options and essentially became CNG’s bank and consultant.

By 2005, however, the sons were part of a public court battle against their father. Allen accused Jared and David of treating his millions in CNG stock as compensation instead of a transfer from his ex-wife (and the brothers’ mother), sticking him with a $13 million tax bill. In turn, the brothers accused Allen of putting his mistress and his yacht captain on the company payroll, taking $1.2 million in fees without board approval, and leading the company into ventures that lost Check ’n Go a lot of money. Several years of legal fighting later, the IRS was still demanding its $13 million. CNG officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Jared and David split $22 million in profit from CNG in 2018 and, according to the Deloitte audit, CNG’s balance sheet showed another $42 million that could be split between the two brothers in 2019. Jared, however, elected not to receive his $21 million distribution “in order to create this artificial financial crisis and shelter millions of dollars from an equitable split between us,” according to Bridget’s divorce filing.

Worse, she claims, Jared said they would be responsible for paying taxes out of their personal accounts rather than from CNG’s company earnings, making her personally responsible for half of the $5.5 million in taxes for 2019. She believes it wasn’t happenstance that $5.5 million was wired to Jared’s private bank account in December of that same year. Bridget has refused to sign the joint tax return, and Jared filed a complaint with the court saying a late tax filing would cost them $1 million in penalties and missed tax opportunities.

“For the duration of our marriage and to the present, Jared has full and complete control of all money paid to us from various investments we have made in addition to our main source of income, CNG,” Bridget wrote in her motion. She suspects that Jared, without her knowledge or consent, plowed the money for their taxes and from other sources of income into Black Diamond Group, the fund that invests in the Agave & Rye restaurant chain. Beyond the original restaurant opened in Covington in 2018, “they have opened four other locations in one year,” she wrote, including Louisville and Lexington. (The ninth location opened in Hamilton this spring.) Agave & Rye’s website touts its Mexican fare as “a chef-inspired take on the standard taco, elevating this simple food into something epic!”

In his response, Jared wrote, “We have very limited regular sources of income.” He says he isn’t receiving any additional distributions from CNG, the couple’s primary source of income, “and this is not within my control. The company has declared that we would not make any further distributions in 2020 given economic circumstances. This decision is based on a formula and is not discretionary.” Agave & Rye helped produce $645,000 in income for Black Diamond in 2020 but has paid out $890,000 in loans, he says. Through August 31, 2020, he wrote, the couple’s “expenses have exceeded income from all sources.”


The divorce case filings start slinging mud when the couple accuses each other of breaking up their 22-year marriage and finding new partners. Jared claims Bridget began an affair during their marriage with Brian Duncan, a contractor she employed through her house flipping business. Bridget, he says, paid Duncan’s company $75,000 in 2018 as well as giving him a personal gift of $70,000 that same year. Jared says she also bought Duncan at least one car and purchased a house for him near hers on Shawnee Run Road for $289,000, then loaned money to Duncan. Jared says Duncan has been late in repaying the note.

While Bridget says Duncan has been drug-free for several years, he has a rap sheet with Hamilton County courts from 2000 to 2017 that runs five pages long. It lists a half-dozen counts of drug abuse and drug possession, including heroin and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia; assaulting a police officer; stealing a Taser from a police officer; criminal damaging while being treated at UC Health; more than a dozen speeding and traffic violations; a half-dozen counts of driving with a suspended license; receiving stolen property; twice fleeing and resisting arrest; three counts of theft; two counts of forgery; and one count for passing bad checks.

Bridget has fired back that Jared not only is hiding his money from her but spending it lavishly on vacations, resorts, and high-end restaurants with his new girlfriend, Susanne Warner. Bridget says Jared gifted Warner with $40,000 without Bridget’s knowledge, then declared it on their joint tax return as a “contribution.” Bridget’s court filings include photocopies of social media posts of Jared and Warner globetrotting from summer 2019 to summer 2020: vacation at Beaver Creek Village in Avon, Colorado; cocktails at High Cotton in Charleston, South Carolina, and dinner at Melvyn’s Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs, California; getaways at resorts in Nashville and at a lakefront rental on Norris Lake ($600 per night); in the Bahamas at a Musha Cay private residence ($57,000 per night), at South Beach in Miami, and at a private beach at Fisher Island; in Mexico at Cabo San Lucas; in the U.S. Virgin Islands at Magen’s Bay and on a private yacht ($4,500 per night); in California at Desert Hot Springs, the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, and Montage at Laguna Beach; and in the Bahamas at South Cottage ($2,175 per night).

For her part, Bridget has gone through some of the top lawyers in town faster than President Trump during an impeachment—six in all, two of whom she’s sued for malpractice. She sent four binders of evidence to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking for the recusal of Hamilton County Judge Amy Searcy and claiming Searcy was biased because of campaign donations from Jared and his companies. Rather than deal with the list of questions sent to her by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Searcy stepped down. Two other judges have since stepped into the fray, and in March Bridget filed for a change of venue outside of Hamilton County, arguing she can’t get a fair trial in her hometown. At press time, a trial date had been set for June 28 in Hamilton County.

The poor-mouthing in the divorce case has reached heights of comic absurdity. Jared claims he’s “illiquid” because he didn’t get his distribution from CNG in 2019. Bridget has received debt collection notices for the nearly $21,000 owed on her American Express card and a $735 bill from Jewish Hospital. There’s no sign yet that anyone is coming to repossess her Porsche, which according to her filings has a $5,000 monthly payment. Each party has received $25,000 a month in living expenses, an amount later reduced to $15,000 under a temporary legal agreement while the divorce case is being sorted out. Court filings show that Jared’s net worth is almost $206 million and Bridget’s is $22.5 million.


In the early 1990s, Allen Davis was raising eyebrows at Provident Bank (later bought by National City), and not only because of his very unbanker-like look of beard, ponytail, and casual golf wear. He was leading the company into questionable subprime home loans for people with bad credit and a frequent-shopper program for merchants, though the bank’s charter barred him from getting involved in full-blown predatory lending practices. With guidance and funding from his father, Jared, at age 26, launched Check ’n Go in 1994 and became a pioneer in the payday lending industry. Jared and his family saw there were millions of Americans who didn’t have checking or savings accounts (“unbanked”) or an adequate credit rating (“underbanked”) but still needed loans to meet their everyday expenses. What those potential customers did have was a steady paycheck.

Conventional banks share a big part of the blame for the nation’s army of unbanked borrowers by imposing checking account fees and onerous penalties for bounced checks. In 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimated there were 7.1 million U.S. households without a checking or savings account.

The Davises launched Check ’n Go on the pretext that it would “fill the gap” for people who occasionally needed to borrow money in a hurry—a service for those who couldn’t get a loan any other way. But consumer advocates say the real business model for payday lending isn’t a service at all. The majority of the industry’s revenue comes from repeat business by customers trapped in debt, not from borrowers looking for a quick, one-time fix for their financial troubles.

Ohio’s payday lending lobbyists got a strong hold on the state legislature in the late 1990s, and by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray could rightfully claim in a campaign ad that “Ohio’s [payday lending] laws are now the worst in the nation. Things have gotten so bad that it is legal to charge 594 percent interest on loans.” His statement was based on a 2014 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The frustration for consumer advocates was that Ohioans had been trying to reform those laws since 2008, when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative placing a 28 percent cap on the interest of payday loans. But—surprise!—lenders simply registered as mortgage brokers, which enabled them to charge unlimited fees.

The Davis family and five other payday lending companies controlled 90 percent of the market back then, an express gravy train ripping through the poorest communities in Ohio. The predatory feeding frenzy, especially in Ohio’s hard-hit Rust Belt communities, prompted a 2017 column at The Daily Beast titled, “America’s Worst Subprime Lender: Jared Davis vs. Allan Jones?” (Jones is founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Check Into Cash.) In 2016 and 2017, consumer advocates mustered their forces again, and this time they weren’t allowing for loopholes. The Pew Charitable Trusts joined efforts with bipartisan lawmakers and Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a statewide coalition of faith, business, local government, and nonprofit organizations. Consumer advocates found a legislative champion in State Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Republican from Springfield.

It no doubt helped reform efforts that former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger resigned in spring 2018 amid an FBI investigation into his cozy relationship with payday lenders. Rosenberger had taken frequent overseas trips—to destinations including France, Italy, Israel, and China—in the company of payday lending lobbyists. In April 2019, Ohio’s new lending law took effect and, since then, has been called a national model for payday lending reform that balances protections for borrowers, profits for lenders, and access to credit for the poor, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. New prices in Ohio are three to four times lower for payday loans than before the law. Borrowers now have up to three months to repay their loans with no more than 6 percent of their paycheck. Pew estimates that the cost of borrowing $400 for three months dropped from $450 to $109, saving Ohioans at least $75 million a year. And despite claims that the reforms would eliminate access to credit, lenders currently operate in communities across the state and online. “The bipartisan success shows that if you set fair rules and enforce them, lenders play by them and there’s widespread access to credit,” says Gabe Kravitz, a consumer finance officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other states like Virginia, Kansas, and Michigan are following Ohio’s lead, Kravitz says. Some states, such as Nebraska, have even capped annual interest on payday loans. As a result, Pew researchers have seen a reduction in the number of storefront lending op­erations across the country. Even better, Kravitz says, there’s no evidence that borrowers are turning instead to online payday lending operations.

Cincinnati is one of five cities chosen for a grant to replicate the success of Boston Builds Credit, an ambitious effort that city launched in 2017 to provide credit counseling in poor and minority communities by training specialists at existing social service agencies. The program also encourages consumer partnerships with credit unions, banks, and insurance companies to offer small, manageable loans that can help the unbanked and underbanked improve their credit ratings. “Right now, local organizations are all kind of working in silos on the problem in Cincinnati,” says Todd Moore of the nonprofit credit counseling agency Trinity Debt Relief. Moore, who applied for the Boston grant, says he’s looking for an agency like United Way or Strive Cincinnati to lead the effort here.

Anthony Smith is thankful that he’s escaped the downward spiral of his payday loans, especially during the pandemic’s economic turmoil. “I’m blessed for every day I can get paid and have a job during these difficult times, just to be able to pay my bills and meet my responsibilities,” he says. “I’ve always kept a job, but until now I’ve had crappy credit. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy.”

Can others worth millions of dollars say the same?

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders Source link Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders



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What’s Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?

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Questionable’s definition means that something’s quality is up for debate. If a lender says that your credit score is questionable, it’s likely that they mean it’s poor, or at the very least, they’re hesitant to approve you for vehicle financing. Here’s what most lenders consider questionable credit, and what auto loan options you may have.

Questionable Credit and Auto Lenders

Many auto lenders may consider questionable credit as a borrower with a credit score below 660. The credit score tiers as sorted by Experian the national credit bureau, are:

  • Super prime: 850 to 781
  • Prime: 780 to 661
  • Nonprime: 660 to 601
  • Subprime: 600 to 501
  • Deep subprime: 500 to 300

The nonprime credit tiers and below is when you start to get into bad credit territory and may struggle to meet the credit score requirements of traditional auto lenders.

This is because lenders are looking at your creditworthiness – your perceived ability to repay loans based on the information in your credit reports. Besides your actual credit score, there may be situations where the items in your credit reports are what’s making a lender question whether you’re a good candidate for an auto loan. These can include:

  • A past or active bankruptcy
  • A past or recent vehicle repossession
  • Recent missed/late payments
  • High credit card balances
  • No credit history

There are ways to get into an auto loan with questionable credit. Your options can change depending on what’s making your credit history questionable, though.

Questionable Credit Auto Loans

If your credit score is less than stellar, it may be time to look at these two lending options:

  • What Is Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?Subprime financing – Done through special finance dealerships by third-party subprime lenders. These lenders can often assist with many unique credit situations, provided you can meet their requirements. A great option for new borrowers with thin files, situational bad credit, or consumers with older negative marks.
  • In-house financing – May not require a credit check, and is done through buy here pay here (BHPH) dealers. Typically, your income and down payment amount are the most important parts of eligibility. Auto loans without a credit check may not allow for credit repair and may come with a higher-than-average interest rate.

Both of these car loan options are typically available to borrowers with credit challenges. However, if you have more recent, serious delinquencies on your credit reports, a BHPH dealer may be for you. Most traditional and subprime lenders typically don’t approve financing for borrowers with a dismissed bankruptcy, a repossession less than a year old, or borrowers with multiple, recent missed/late payments.

Requirements of Bad Credit Car Loans

In many cases, your income and down payment size are the biggest factors in your overall eligibility for bad credit auto loans. Expect to need:

  • 30 days of recent computer-generated check stubs to prove you have around $1,500 to $2,500 of monthly gross income. Borrowers without W-2 income may need two to three years of professionally prepared tax returns.
  • A down payment of at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price. BHPH dealers may require up to 20% of the car’s selling price.
  • Proof of residency in the form of a recent utility bill in your name.
  • Proof of a working phone (no prepaid phones), proven with a recent phone bill in your name.
  • A list of five to eight personal references with name, phone number, and address.
  • Valid driver’s license with the correct address, can’t be revoked, expired, or suspended.

Depending on your individual situation, you may need fewer or more items to apply for a bad credit auto loan. However, preparing these documents before you head to a dealership can speed up the process!

Ready to Get on the Road?

With questionable credit, finding a dealership that’s able to assist you with an auto loan is easier said than done. Here at Auto Credit Express, we want to get that done for you with our coast-to-coast network of special finance dealerships.

Complete our free auto loan request form and we’ll get right to work looking for a dealer in your local area that can assist with many tough credit situations.

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Entrepreneur Tae Lee Finds Her Fortune

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By Jasmine Shaw
For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham native Tae Lee had plans last year to visit the continent of Africa, the South American country of Columbia, and the U.S. state of Texas.

“I was going to stay in each place for like four to six weeks, and then COVID-19 happened,” she said. “So, I just was like, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go to Mexico and stay for six months.’”

Once home from Playa Del Carmen, located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the 33-year-old entrepreneur put the final touches on “Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt,” a financial literacy card game for ages 10 and up.

“We created ‘Game of Fortune’ because we realized there was a gap in learning the fundamentals of money,” said Lee. “We go through life not knowing anything about money and then—‘Bam!’—real life hits. Credit, debt, and bills come at us quick!”

Lee believes the game “gives players a glimpse of real life” by using everyday scenarios to teach them how to make wiser financial decisions without having to waste their own money.

“I feel like [financial literacy] can be learned in ways other than somebody standing up and preaching it to you over and over again,” she said. “You can learn it in ways that are considered fun, as well.”

Which is why “we want the schools to buy it, so we can give students a fun way to learn about financial literacy,” she added.

Lee, also called the “Money Maximizer,” is an international best-selling financial author, speaker, coach, and trainer who is known for her financial literacy books, including “Never Go Broke (NGB): An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Money and Freedom” and the “NGB Money Success Planner High School Edition.” The Birmingham-based financial guru focuses on creating diverse streams of income in the tax, real estate, insurance, and finance industries.

For Lee, it’s about building generational wealth, not debt.

Indispensable Lessons

Lee got her first glance at entrepreneurial life as a child watching her mother, Valeria Robinson, run her commercial cleaning company, V’s Cleaning. Robinson retired in 2019.

“My grandmother had a cleaning service, too,” said Lee. “So, even though I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur, watching my mom and grandma do it taught me a lot.”

Lee grew up in Birmingham and attended Riley Elementary School, Midfield Middle School, and Huffman High School. She then went on to Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama, where she earned bachelor’s degree in physical education. She struggled to find a career in her field and became overwhelmed by student loans.

“My credit and stuff didn’t get bad until after college,” she said. “I was going through school and taking money, but nobody told me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have to pay all of this back.’”

Before embarking on her extensive career in money management, Lee had not learned the indispensable lessons that she now shares with clients.

“‘Don’t have bad credit.’ That’s all I learned,” she remembers. “Financial literacy just wasn’t taught much. I learned the majority of my lessons as I aged.”

In an effort to ward off collection calls and raise her credit score, Lee researched tactics to strategically eliminate her debt.

“I knew I had to pay bills on time, and I couldn’t be late with payments,” she said.

Lee eventually began helping friends revamp their finances and opened NGB Inc. in 2017 to share fun, educational methods to help her clients build solid financial foundations.

“People were always coming to me like, ‘How do I invest in this?’ and ‘How do I do that?’ So, I said to myself, ‘You know what, people should be paying to pick your brain.’”

Legacy Building

While Lee enjoyed watching her clients reach milestones, like buying a new car with cash or making their first stock market investment, she was also designing “Game of Fortune” to teach the value of legacy building.

“The game gives players the knowledge to build generational wealth, not generational debt,” she said. “It gives you a glimpse of life, money, and what can truly happen if you mismanage your coins.”

Using index cards to create her first “Game of Fortune” sample deck, Lee filled each card with pertinent terms related to debt elimination and credit and wealth building. She then called on a few friends to help her work through the kinks.

Three of her good friends—Barbara Bratton, Daña Brown, and Sha Cannon—were just a few of the people that gave feedback on the sample deck.

“From there I met with Brandon Brooks, [owner of the Birmingham-based Brooks Realty Investments LLC], and four other financial advisors to fine-tune the definitions and game logistics,” Lee said.

Though Lee was unable to land a job in physical education after graduating from college, she now sees her career with NGB Inc. as life’s unexpected opportunity to teach on her own terms.

“Bartending and waitressing taught me that working for someone else was not for me,” she replied. “In order to get the life I always wanted, I had to create my own business.”

In her entrepreneurial pursuits, Lee strives to be an open-minded leader who embraces the need for flexibility.

“COVID-19 has shown me that in entrepreneurship you have to maneuver,” she said. “When life changes, sometimes your business will, too. You may have to change the path, but your ending goal can be the same.”

“Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt” is available and sold only on the “Game of Fortune” website: gameoffortune.money. To learn more about Tae Lee and Never Go Broke Inc., visit taelee.money and nevergobroke.money or email tae@taelee.money; you also can follow her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nevergobrokeinc) and Instagram (@nevergobrokeinc).

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