What happens when you need to buy something, but don't have the funds on hand to make a purchase?
Paying for gifts around the holidays or unexpected issues like a broken air conditioner or cell phone can quickly drain your bank account and max out your credit cards.
But if you already lack the cash or are dangerously close to your credit card limits, you may be struggling to afford the items you and your family need most.
Fingerhut, the online and catalog retailer that lets you pay for your purchases over time, claims to limit this kind of financial stress.
Today we'll be diving into everything you need to know about what Fingerhut actually offers, including their credit card and installment loan programs, so you have all the facts before creating an account.
So let's start with a general overview of what Fingerhut really is.
What is Fingerhut Anyway?
Since opening its doors in 1948, Fingerhut has evolved into a giant online retail store and catalog offering over 700,000 products in a variety of departments.
Fingerhut lets you buy the products you need when you need them.
But unlike other online retailers, Fingerhut will let you pay off your purchases in monthly installments instead of paying for everything upfront.
Browse over 700,000 products and you'll find both an estimated monthly payment and the normal retail price of every item listed.
You'll need to enroll in the Fingerhut FreshStart program before making a purchase.
Fingerhut FreshStart® Program
There are two options for purchasing items from Fingerhut: you can either use your Fingerhut FreshStart credit card or the Fingerhut FreshStart installment loan program.
Put in an application and Fingerhut will tell you which one you've been approved for.
If you're approved for the Fingerhut FreshStart Credit Account, you'll be able to make purchases with a Fingerhut credit card and pay them off with low monthly payments.
Pay your monthly bills on time and in-full and Fingerhut will reward you with:
- A higher credit limit
- No down payments on purchases
Fingerhut doesn't charge their customers any fees to shop, including annual, membership, and overlimit fees.
Plus, your Fingerhut credit card payment history will be reported to all three major credit bureaus so you'll also have the chance to build and improve your credit.
If you're not approved for the Fingerhut credit card, you'll be directed to the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan.
Consider the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan like a stepping stone towards getting a Fingerhut credit card.
You'll be able to buy items from Fingerhut and pay them off over time, which will prove your creditworthiness in action.
Graduating from this step is easy.
As long as you pay off your first purchase within 6-8 payments (or sooner) and you don't have any late payments, you'll automatically upgrade to their credit card.
Here's a breakdown of the steps you'll need to take when you make a purchase using the Fingerhut installment loans:
- A $30 down payment is required to initiate the transaction
- Your first purchase must be at least $50 and can be as high as your approved credit limit
- Depending on the price tag of your item, 6-8 payments are required thereafter
- A small interest charge will be added to your monthly payment
If you don't make your down payment on time, your order will be cancelled instead of fulfilled.
You can make your down payment using one of the following payment methods:
- Debit card
- Money order
- ACH or paper check
- MoneyGram payment
It's important to note, you cannot make a Fingerhut payment with a credit card.
But you can schedule your down payment for a future date to make paying more convenient. To do this, you must choose a date within 25 days of your initial purchase.
At this point, you may be wondering if Fingerhut's programs are right for you. Luckily, this next section should help you decide.
Signs Fingerhut May Be Right for You
If you've ever been turned down for loans or denied for credit cards, Fingerhut may be your second chance to prove your creditworthiness.
Their programs are designed specifically for people with zero or bad credit.
On top of that, monthly payments can be as low as $6.99, which is perfect for anyone going through a tough financial situation. Managing low payments like this will help you improve your credit score and qualify for additional credit cards in the future.
Unless you're in this situation, you may not like the restriction of only being able to use your Fingerhut credit card to buy items from their website or catalog and their rotating list of partners.
The Fingerhut credit card operates more like a typical store credit card in this respect. You can only use it for purchases made at Fingerhut, unlike a credit card you can use anywhere it's accepted (like the gas station or grocery store).
Though it does help rebuild low or bad credit, if your credit is higher than average, you'll probably have better luck applying for a credit card with a lower interest rate, as you'll see next.
Fingerhut FreshStart Program Terms, Conditions, and Application Process
Fingerhut encourages everyone who wants to shop at their store to apply for their credit card — even if you have bad credit or have been denied for credit cards in the past.
Simply fill out a Fingerhut application online and you'll have instant approval.
You can also download, print, fill out, and mail your application to:
Fingerhut 6250 Ridgewood Rd. St. Cloud, MN 56303
Since the approval process is immediate, we recommend applying online. That way you'll know right away if you can shop using your Fingerhut credit card or need to complete the process for the Fingerhut Installment Loan program instead.
Once approved, you can start shopping immediately.
Just be aware of the Fingerhut FreshStart program rates and fees.
Fingerhut FreshStart Credit Card
Current rates and fees for the Fingerhut credit card include:
- Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 25.90%
- Late fees will cost you up to $38.00 each time
- Returned fees are also $38.00 (max)
As you can see, the APR for this credit card is almost 26%!
That's 10 points higher than the national average APR for credit cards (16.14%), rewards cards (16.23%), and even higher than credit cards for those with bad credit (23.46% APR).
This means if you're going to use the Fingerhut credit card, you'll need to pay off your balance in full every month or you'll be racking up tons of interest charges.
Adding interest fees will make your purchases cost more overall (and they may be overpriced to begin with, as we'll talk about later).
Let's check out the rates for the installment loans.
Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan Terms & Conditions
As we discussed earlier, if your application for a Fingerhut credit card is declined, you can still apply for a FreshStart Installment Loan.
This program is broken up into three steps.
Once approved, you must make a 1-time purchase and a $30 down payment before your order can be shipped.
The remaining balance can then be paid off between six and eight months.
Unlike shoppers using the Fingerhut credit card, the minimum payment amount for items is calculated at the time of your purchase. So the price you see listed next to the item online or in-catalog is only for Fingerhut credit cardholders.
The rates and fees for the Fingerhut installment loans are also different from the credit card:
- Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 24.90%
- Late fees: $4.90 if your balance is between $15-$50; and $14.90 if it's higher than $50.
- Returned payment fee: $25.00
As long as you make your payments on time each month (and in full), you'll eventually be upgraded to the Fingerhut credit card.
Up next, we'll show you how to get started with Fingerhut.
How to Start Shopping at Fingerhut
To get started with Fingerhut, you must first complete an application online or by mail.
You may also receive an invitation to apply in your mailbox. Keep this handy as you'll need to add your unique code from that mailer to your application.
Once you're approved, you can start shopping at Fingerhut right away.
Browse online or flip through a catalog they'll mail to you soon after you're approved.
You don't need an online account to start shopping with Fingerhut, but the perks of having one may sway you to sign up, such as being able to:
- View your credit availability
- Track orders
- Sign up for online statements
- Pay your bill electronically
- Update your account information (address or email changes, etc.)
- Create wish lists
- Update your contact preferences
Plus, you'll also receive special offers as a registered customer others won't receive.
Now that you know all the ins and outs of using Fingerhut, let's highlight some of the benefits.
The Benefits of Using Fingerhut
The biggest advantage of using Fingerhut is the ability to purchase the items you need now and pay for them over time.
You'll find low and affordable monthly payments ($6.99/month on certain items in many cases) despite high interest rates.
You won't incur any annual or membership fees and it doesn't cost a thing to shop with Fingerhut, unlike other credit cards.
People looking to rebuild their credit may find Fingerhut's FreshStart program the perfect solution when they're unable to get approved elsewhere. Keep your account in good standing and your credit score may improve.
While this all sounds good, are there any downsides to consider? We'll tackle those next.
Downsides to Consider with Fingerhut
Unlike a traditional credit card, your Fingerhut credit card cannot be used at other retailers. As long as you're okay only using your card for Fingerhut purchases, this isn't a major con.
Fingerhut will still report your credit card payment history to the major credit bureaus. This does not guarantee a credit score increase, but it will help you start proving your creditworthiness again.
However, if you're on the installment loan program, you're not building traditional credit at all; you're only building store credit with Fingerhut. You may see credit line increases in your Fingerhut account, but this won't necessarily translate to increased credit limits for your other credit cards.
Next, to graduate from the FreshStart Loan program to the Fingerhut credit card, you must pay off all your purchases in full. So as long as you're still making payments, you won't be eligible for the credit card upgrade.
The last downside to consider is the prices for the products listed on Fingerhut.
Take a look at this example below of a popular blender:
The monthly payments are not much at $14.99 per month, but the total price comes in at $114.99 after interest is added in.
When we compare that to the same blender on Amazon, we see a huge price difference:
The same blender is selling for almost half of what Fingerhut is offering it for.
You could buy the blender outright at $79.99 on Amazon, or pay in installments and end up with a final price tag of $114.99 if you go through Fingerhut.
While this shouldn't completely deter you from using Fingerhut, it is something to consider.
If it's an item you need immediately (i.e., a new phone, school supplies for your kids, etc.) and you don't have the money to buy it outright, Fingerhut might be a good option.
As long as you're willing to pay a little extra to space out smaller payments, Fingerhut will work for you. Just don't let the high interest rates pile up or you'll get crushed by the fees.
Now that we know the pros and cons of using Fingerhut, let's see what their customers have to say.
Here's What Customers are Saying About Fingerhut
Unfortunately, Fingerhut's rating is pretty low according to the Consumer Affairs site.
Out of 753 reviews, Fingerhut only has a 1-star overall rating.
And the breakdown of those reviews gets even worse:
Over 100 people have given Fingerhut a 1-star rating; only six people feel Fingerhut deserves a 4- or 5-star review.
After digging through the most recent reviews, the complaints about Fingerhut were all over the place. From customer service to pricing, lots of customers seem upset.
Here are a handful of reviews to consider:
In this first one, the reviewer received "horrible" customer service all because an item was never shipped. When she tried to track it down, she was given the runaround and not much help after that.
This next complaint has an interesting twist.
"After paying off my items with every payment being 10 days early they closed my account and reopen[ed] a new FreshStart account," according to this reviewer.
This may not seem like a big deal, but as the reviewer explains, this hurt her credit score because the longer you have an account in good standing, the better.
One of the factors used to determine your credit score is the length of time you keep your accounts open. Closing an account negatively affected her credit score through no fault of her own and all of her hard work rebuilding her credit was lost.
Another common complaint from customers seems to be that prices quickly become "outdated".
In more than one case, we read about customers trying to order from the most recently-delivered catalog and being charged a significantly higher price than what was listed.
Several customers said they were told their last catalog was already outdated.
As you can see in this review, one customer was calling to order during the same time the seasonal catalog came out and was told her catalog was already "old":
This customer also experienced rude customer support. The agent actually hung up on the customer, which combined with the conflicting prices, caused them to close their Fingerhut account altogether.
We also found that missed payments trigger a series of calls from Fingerhut agents looking for their money.
This reviewer mentioned that they've been on time with payments for 2-3 years and missed one payment by one day and received 6 phone calls one day and 9 the next.
They also brought up the fact that the product markups are extremely high, which is another common complaint we came across, as you'll see next.
This person acknowledges that they didn't pay enough attention to the price tags initially and wound up paying $1,105 over the retail value of the product they purchased.
After sifting through several 1-star reviews, we did find a mostly-positive 4-star review, but even that hides a small complaint too:
The reviewer mentions how great Fingerhut is and that his credit has improved since using it. His only complaint is that the items take too long to ship.
And, finally, this next 4-star review is both honest and fair.
This reviewer admits that the shipping is overpriced and the product price tags aren't the cheapest in town, but the financing option outweighs these minor inconveniences for him.
He affirms that Fingerhut is a good way to build credit but it needs time to do so.
Taking all the pros and cons and actual customer reviews into consideration, let's talk about our overall verdict about Fingerhut next.
Is Fingerhut Safe and Trustworthy?
Should you use Fingerhut? Is it a legitimate and safe company that you can trust?
The answer is two-fold.
Yes, Fingerhut is a legitimate and safe company from what we can see.
Does that mean you should apply for a Fingerhut credit card right now?
Fingerhut isn't the best option for people with average or higher credit scores. You're better off with a low-interest credit card or one that offers rewards like cash back for making purchases at a wide variety of retailers.
But if you've been turned down by other credit card companies, or have been denied from store credit cards, Fingerhut may be your best option for getting approval and starting to build your credit back up.
In exchange for giving you a second chance, you'll pay slightly higher prices and interest fees on the items you do purchase.
Fingerhut is also ideal for anyone with low or no credit who needs to make a purchase right away, but can't afford to buy the item outright. With low monthly payments, you can have what you need when you need it without placing a larger financial burden in your lap.
If you're just shopping around for items you want versus need, Fingerhut is not your best option since you'll end up paying 2-3x the original price.
Overall verdict: Use Fingerhut if you've been denied from other credit card approvals or if you need something now but can't afford the whole price tag and you have little to no credit.
Up next, we'll tackle some of the most common questions about Fingerhut.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers to these questions should solve any concerns you have about using Fingerhut:
Is Fingerhut a good way to build credit?
If you've had trouble getting approved for other credit cards, Fingerhut may be a good option for you. It can help you slowly start to build your credit.
However, it isn't necessarily your best way to do this.
If you can get approved for a secured credit card, that's a better way to start rebuilding your credit. Plus, with this type of card, you can make purchases on similar items to what Fingerhut sells at a fraction of the cost.
What credit score is needed for a Fingerhut credit card?
Fingerhut's site does not list a minimum credit score for approval. They encourage you to apply even if you've been turned down for other cards or accounts before.
Even if you're denied for the Fingerhut credit card, you can start with their installment loans first. This increases your chances of getting approved for their credit card later if you display creditworthy behavior.
How do I increase my credit with Fingerhut?
As with any credit card, making on-time payments in full each month will help increase your creditworthiness, which ultimately leads to increases in your credit limit.
Making payments above the minimum required will also help you pay down your bill sooner so you have more unused credit, which also increases your credit score.
You can find more information about this by skipping to question #5.
Does Fingerhut help your credit score?
If you're a credit cardholder, Fingerhut reports your payment history to the three major credit bureaus. But if you're in the installment loan program, you're really only building store credit with Fingerhut.
That doesn't mean all hope is lost.
If you're not getting approval for other credit cards, having a Fingerhut account in good standing will eventually help you and your credit score.
When lenders see that you're making your payments on time and in full (or more) to Fingerhut, they'll see you as less risky. This helps your chances of getting approval in the future.
When does Fingerhut raise your credit limit?
The good news is Fingerhut regularly (and frequently) audits their customers' accounts to see who qualifies for a credit increase, according to their site.
However, you cannot request a credit limit increase on your own.
As we mentioned in question #3, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of a credit line increase.
How often does Fingerhut increase your credit?
Fingerhut doesn't list a specific timeframe for how often they increase credit limits, but their website mentions that the audit process routinely happens several times throughout the year.
Can you link your Fingerhut to Credit Karma?
As of publishing this guide, you cannot link your Fingerhut account to your Credit Karma account.
From what we can see, this is done as a security measure to protect both company's customers.
When and where can I use my Fingerhut credit card?
Once approved, you can start making purchases using your Fingerhut credit card immediately.
You can shop online or order over the phone using their mail catalog.
If you decide to shop via catalog, be aware that prices are subject to change as we saw in the customer reviews earlier.
Similar to other retail credit cards, you can only use your Fingerhut credit card to make purchases from their site or catalog, or from one of their participating partners.
Fingerhut does not list their partners as these change often. But you'll start receiving promotional offers and partnership information in the mail as soon as you're approved.
Can you get a Fingerhut card with bad credit?
Fingerhut encourages everyone to apply for a card even if they have bad credit.
It costs nothing to apply for the card and if you're not approved, you may be given a second chance with their installment loans program.
The only way to know if you'll be approved is to submit an application.
Once you do this, you'll receive an approval or denial for the credit card in less than a minute if you're submitting the application online.
If you're denied, Fingerhut will automatically send you information about the next step of applying for their FreshStart Installment Loan program.
Can I pay my Fingerhut bill with a credit card?
You cannot pay your Fingerhut bill using a credit card.
However, you can use any of the following payment methods to pay your Fingerhut credit card bill:
- Debit cards
- Money orders
- ACH or paper checks
- MoneyGram payments
Does Fingerhut report to the credit bureaus?
Fingerhut will report your payment history to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
This includes whether you made your payment on time, if your payment was made in full or just the minimum, and if you missed a payment.
How long does it take to find out if I am approved for the Fingerhut credit card?
You'll know right away if you've been approved for the Fingerhut credit card as long as you apply online.
If you decide to mail in your application, it could take several days to ship and process so you'll have to wait longer. Fingerhut doesn't give a timeframe for mail-in applications.
What kinds of products does Fingerhut sell?
Fingerhut sells over 700,000 household products. They don't sell everything, but there's a pretty decent selection of most things.
Check out the major departments or categories of items they sell:
- Home, furniture, and patio
- Clothing, shoes, and jewelry
- Health and beauty
- Sports, fitness, outdoors
- Tools and home improvement
- Baby and kids
- Toys and video games
- Electronics and office
- Gifts, crafts, and holidays
Fingerhut also sells name brand products that a majority of people would recognize.
What is the return policy like?
Fingerhut's return policy is simple: You can only return items if they are within 30 days of your purchase. After that, the item is yours to keep and you're responsible for paying it off in full.
To process a return, you'll need to fill out a return form and shipping label. PS: You have to pay for the shipping.
Here's a breakdown of what it would cost you to return something to Fingerhut:
How does depositing work with Fingerhut?
Before an item ships, you must fork over a down payment, or deposit.
Once you do, this initiates the rest of the transaction and your order will be processed as normal.
Over to you. Do you think you'll give Fingerhut a try after reading this guide?