Rather than apply for a traditional unsecured credit card with low spending limits and high APR interest charges, Aven is pitching a different approach: Tapping into the equity you have on the value of your home could provide you better interest rates and a higher spending limit.
Oh, and they’re offering a 2% cash back rewards program on spending, too.
But is that a good idea? Money expert Clark Howard doesn’t think so.
“I hate the idea,” Clark said bluntly when I asked him about this card. “Lifestyle credit [from a regular credit card] is bad, but you don’t lose your home. Lifestyle credit that goes against your home is a terrible, terrible risk to be bringing into your life.”
Even if Clark hates it, you may still want to know more about it.
In this article, I’ll fill you in on the five things you need to know before applying for this card and we’ll also explain in more detail why Clark thinks you should avoid it.
This article was updated in June 2023 and I review it every six months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.
Table of Contents
Aven HELOC Card: The Basics
Aven is a Fintech-backed alternative to the traditional credit card and home equity line of credit processes.
Traditional credit cards are unsecured debt, meaning that there is nothing used as collateral to back your spending. That makes it a high-risk form of lending. Card issuers account for this risk by asking you to pay high interest rates on the balances you accrue with your card.
Aven partnered with Coastal Community Bank, member FDIC, to produce a Visa-labeled rewards credit card that uses the equity in your home as collateral. As a result, they can offer a variable APR that is lower than the average credit card.
You can swipe this credit card anywhere Visa is accepted to make purchases, and you’ll be able to earn 2% cash back in the process.
But by using your equity in your home as collateral, you’re actually morphing the credit card into a secured line of credit.
This makes it part credit card, part HELOC.
If you’re not familiar: A HELOC (home equity line of credit) is when a lender extends a line of credit to a homeowner based on the value of the home in comparison to what is owed on the mortgage(s) for the home. Typically, you are able to access these funds via checks, a debit card or electronic transfers. As you draw money from the line of credit, you are responsible for paying back a portion of the amount of money you’ve borrowed each month.
Replacing this process with a credit card is an interesting concept, but one with potential pitfalls. Let’s investigate more.
5 Things To Know About the Aven HELOC Card
As you consider whether this card is right for you, here are five things I think are important for you to know.
1. Is This a Credit Card or a HELOC?
Both, but your perspective is important.
Aven describes its product as “a credit card that lets you use your home equity to get really low rates.”
This is a marketing angle to encourage you to spend with the card for everyday purchases without fear of the higher interest rates you might encounter with an unsecured credit card.
I’d encourage you to view it the other way: It is a home equity line of credit that spends like a credit card.
Keeping the latter definition in mind should help you be mindful of your spending habits with a card like this. Anything you purchase and subsequently fail to pay off has a direct impact on the net value of your home upon sale.
2. The Big HELOC Selling Point: No Origination Fee
If you’re viewing Aven through the lens of a HELOC, you’ll likely be pleased to find out that it does not require an origination fee or many of the other fees that you could encounter with a traditional HELOC.
An origination fee is one of the typical upfront cost that either has to be paid upon opening the line or credit or is rolled into the balance. This is usually a hurdle borrowers face when applying for a traditional HELOC.
Aven also touts that it does not charge many of the other common fees associated with this type of line of credit:
According to data collected by Value Penguin, traditional HELOC fees could add up to thousands of dollars, depending on the lender. So, this lack of fees is significant.
And since Aven skips many of these processes, it says a decision on your line of credit can come as quickly as 15 minutes into the application process.
Aven requests that you submit your mobile number on its website to get the evaluation process started. Note that it will require a hard pull on your credit report once you accept their proposal.
3. The Big Credit Card Selling Point: Unlimited 2% Cash Back
If you’re viewing Aven through the lens of a credit card, you’ll also be pleased to find out that it has a very solid rewards program.
It offers an unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases made with the card. There are no annual fees associated with the credit card, either.
Some fine print details on the 2% cash back worth noting:
- You must be enrolled in Aven’s autopay program to be eligible for these rewards.
- You will receive the cash back in the form of rewards points that can be converted to statement credits.
4. The Interest Fee Really Is Lower Than a Credit Card, But What About Other HELOCs?
Sticking with our theme of viewing this credit card through different lens, let’s look at just how good of a deal the interest rate could be with Aven.
Aven markets that it is able to keep its variable APR well below most rewards credit cards because it is secured debt. The range that was being marketed in June 2023 was 7.99% to 14.99%, based on creditworthiness.
According to data collected by CreditCards.com on June 14, 2023, the national average on credit card APRs was 20.77%.
However, the national average for HELOC interest rates was 8.49% as of June 14, 2023, according to data from BankRate.
So while Aven’s advertised variable APR is much lower than the average credit card, it could actually be a higher rate than you could lock in with a more traditional HELOC. (Remember, though, that those HELOCs could charge upfront fees that Aven is forgoing.)
5. You Can Access The Associated Funds As Cash, but It Will Cost You
If you need to use the line of credit for something that a credit card can’t pay for, Aven provides the opportunity to direct deposit funds into a bank account.
However, you’ll be subject to a one-time 2.5% fee on the amount that is being converted to cash.
It’s also worth noting that Aven charges a 2.5% fee on balance transfers.
Why Clark Is Against This Type of Credit Card
Money expert Clark Howard has long recommended getting a cash back credit card that pays 2% back on all purchases, so this card checks that box.
But what he has never endorsed is using equity in your home as a means for purchasing things that you’d typically buy with a credit card.
“I don’t ever want anyone to borrow against their home for lifestyle,” Clark says. “Not ever. The only purpose of a HELOC should be to improve the value of your home.”
While it’s true that you could use this card to make purchases that improve the value of your home, you’re also exposing yourself to variable APR interest rates. That leaves some cost uncertainty.
Ultimately, Clark wants you to protect the investment that you’ve made in your home. For many people, it’s the most valuable asset they have.
“People have been so into extracting home equity because of how quickly home values escalated over a short number of years,” Clark says. “They’re saying ‘Hey! Look at this, I’ve got all of this money suddenly!’ But they’re actually mortgaging their future when they do it.”
You may also be wondering: What if I have an emergency and need quick access to the funds a credit card could offer?
Clark says you should STILL avoid this type of credit card, even if it offers a better interest rate than others on the market.
“If you qualify for unsecured debt and you’ve had an emergency that has caused you to pull out a credit card because that was your only way to pay for the emergency, I’d rather it be a regular credit card and not one that erodes the equity of your home,” Clark says.
Aven HELOC Card: Pros and Cons
Are you considering adding the Aven HELOC Card to your wallet? Let’s review some of the major pros and cons of the card before you make your final decision:
|Can potentially provide access to higher credit limits and lower APR than standard unsecured credit cards||Potentially erodes equity in your home|
|Helps avoid origination fee and other fees usually associated with traditional HELOC||2.5% fee if you want to transfer the money to your bank account|
|Unlimited 2% cash back on spending||Variable APR may be higher than what you could get with a traditional HELOC|
Bottom Line: The viability of Aven in your life may depend on your reason for considering it.
If you’re in the market for a HELOC, you’ll want to compare its rates and fees against traditional lending offers.
If you’re in the market for a rewards credit card, you may be best served sticking with unsecured credit cards.
While the concept is intriguingly different than your typical credit card offer, Clark Howard strongly advises against exposing the equity in your home for access to it.
If you are looking for a cash back credit card that rewards all types of spending with 2% cash back, the Citi® Double Cash card – 18 month BT offer may be a good alternative. It is a card that Clark has recommended for years, and it’s going to give you the same rewards upside as Aven without having to put your home equity on the line.
Are you considering trying this home equity-based credit card or do you agree with Clark? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this card in the Clark.com community.
- June 2023: Article was created. I spoke with money expert Clark Howard to seek his opinion and advice on the credit card.