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A bare bones way to build credit: A review of the Indigo Platinum Mastercard

May 13, 2020
9 min read
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Indigo Platinum Mastercard Overview

If you have poor credit and are in extreme need of a credit boost, the Indigo card is worth a look. However, you'd likely be better served by other non-secured and secured card options. A potential annual fee and low credit limit hamper the usefulness of this card as a way to build creditworthiness. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

This page includes information about the Discover it Secured that is not currently available on The Points Guy and may be out of date.

If you're looking to get on more solid ground when it comes to your financial standing, applying for certain credit cards to build or repair credit can make a lot of sense. However, it's prudent to be knowledgable about what all of those card options are.

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard, issued by Utah-based Celtic Bank, is one such card that can help in rebuilding credit -- but it comes at a cost. Even for those with poor credit, better options exist.

Let's dig into the details on the Indigo card to see if it could make sense for you.

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The information for the Indigo Platinum Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Who is this card for?

The Indigo Platinum Mastercard is meant for individuals who have bad to fair credit and are eager to improve it. The Indigo card has fairly high approval odds, and can even be a card candidate for someone that has had a previous bankruptcy. All in all, this is a basic, no-frills unsecured credit card with the sole intention of increasing your credit score.

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It should be noted that the Indigo card is actually three separate cards, each with its own annual fee, depending on your finances.

  • $75 first year annual fee, $99 thereafter
  • $50 annual fee
  • $0 annual fee

Now, you might be thinking, "A bare-bones card with no perks and one that comes with an annual fee?" There's a method behind the madness. Since it's reasonably easy to be approved, Indigo imposes these fees so that you're essentially paying to improve your credit without needing to put down a security deposit. If you're anxious enough to tidy up your credit, this card could, therefore, be an option. (We'll get to other -- and in most cases, better -- possibilities soon.)

Pre-qualifying for the Indigo card

One unique aspect of the Indigo card is that you could pre-qualify for the card without needing a hard credit pull. Hard credit inquiries are an aspect of your overall credit score and could negatively affect it temporarily. However, keep in mind that prequalifying doesn’t necessarily mean you are guaranteed approval for the card.

Once you fill out the pre-qualification form, you'll be given one of three card options: a no-annual-fee card, a $50 annual-fee card, or a $75 first-year-annual-fee card. This is based on your financial standing -- the better your position is, the more likely you'll be pre-qualified for the card with no annual fee.

Also, unlike most traditional cards, a credit score isn’t necessarily the biggest consideration, since many applicants for the card may not even have the credit history necessary to create a score. A comprehensive financial review of your debt and income is also taken into account.

Related reading: How to check your credit score absolutely free

How the card works

Unlike a secured card, the Indigo card provides a revolving line of credit without the need to pay a security deposit. If your credit history doesn’t qualify you for a card without an annual fee, the amount of your annual fee is deducted from your overall credit line.

As mentioned, the biggest draw for the Indigo Platinum is the ability to improve your credit score. Since the card reports to the major credit card bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian), this allows you to build a credit history that eventually can help you be approved for future financial products.

Low credit limit

The Indigo card has a very low credit limit of $300, and as mentioned, your annual fee is deducted from this amount. For instance, if your annual fee is $59, you'll only actually get $241 before maxing out and being assessed fees.

This doesn't give you very much to work with, and this also can create high credit utilization, which may hurt your credit even as you’re fighting to improve it. Your credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your credit limits that you are using and is one of the more important factors that determine your credit score.

Additionally, unlike some other cards, there are no clear ways to increase your credit limit over time, even if you use the card responsibly.

The factors that make up your FICO score. (Image source: FICO)
The factors that make up your FICO score. (Image source: FICO)

How you'll want to use the card

It may sound counterintuitive, but to really make the most of this card (and any card where you're trying to improve credit), you shouldn't spend much at all on it. Make small purchases and pay them off in full to build up a positive payment history. This last point is key, as your payment history also makes up a sizable portion of your credit score.

Perks and benefits

It shouldn't come as a surprise that with a no-annual-fee card there aren't any notable perks. However, the Indigo card does come with a few generic Mastercard core benefits. These include:

  • Mastercard ID Theft Protection
  • Mastercard Global Service, including lost and stolen card reporting, emergency card replacement and emergency cash advance

You also can monitor your account with online tools and via a customer service toll-free number.

Related reading: The top credit cards with 0% intro APR

Other cards to consider

Unlike the Indigo card, most unsecured cards require at least average credit, since issuers want to avoid the risk posed by consumers with poor credit. However, it's worth taking a look at some of the secured cards that are on the market.

With secured cards, you'll need to provide your bank account and routing number, since the amount of your credit line is tied to the amount you provide as a security deposit.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best for card perks

With no annual fee, the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is one of the few secured credit cards that may extend you a credit line that’s greater than your security deposit. The card also can be a good choice since it has many perks, including no foreign transaction fees, auto rental collision damage insurance, travel accident insurance and extended warranty protection.

Discover it Secured: Best for earning rewards

The Discover it Secured is one of the few secured credit cards that earns rewards. You can earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter you enroll and 1% cash back on everything else. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. Also, Discover monitors your payments to help determine if you can upgrade to an unsecured card and get your security deposit returned.

This means you can earn rewards while you work to build your credit by using your card responsibly and paying your bill each month.

The information for the Discover it Secured has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card: Best for no credit check

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

While the OpenSky Secured Visa has a $35 annual fee, the card may be a solid option for some consumers because there’s no credit check when you apply. The minimum security deposit is $200 for a $200 credit limit. Like the Indigo card, this card lacks any perks or rewards.

Related reading: Building credit for beginners: OpenSky Secured Visa Card review


Is there a welcome bonus on the Indigo card?

Unfortunately, the Indigo Platinum Mastercard has no welcome bonus or introductory APR available for new cardholders.

What are the fees on the Indigo card?

Besides a potential annual fee, the Indigo Platinum Mastercard has several other fees to be aware of. The APR is a fixed 24.90%, there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%, a late payment fee up to $39 and a returned payment fee of up to $39.

Related reading: How to earn points and miles with fair to poor credit

Bottom line

Unless you qualify for the no-annual-fee version of the Indigo Platinum Mastercard, it may be worth it to save up for a deposit and apply for a secured card instead. This would allow you to build credit -- as well as get that deposit back eventually -- as long as you make on-time payments. With the Indigo card, you won't be able to get your annual fee back. With no path to increasing your credit limit, think carefully if this card is right for you.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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