Saturday, April 6, 2013

Simple Credit Card Tips for Everyone

Credit card services are a multibillion dollar industry in the United States, attracting a variety of consumers who are looking for some extra spending money, emergency lines of cash, and even those in debt looking to consolidate their payments through one single credit line with a low interest rate. There are many pros and cons in signing up for a credit card, and many of these will affect you differently depending on your financial circumstances. 

Obtaining a line of credit often depends on your credit score. According to CreditScore.org, “760 and up is considered to be excellent and requires a long credit history with on-time payments and the right types of credit combined with low amounts of overall dept. 700-759 is considered very good, while 600-699 is considered good. 620-659 would be considered “not good,” 580-619 is “poor”, and 579 and below is “very poor.” The lowest credit scores on the scale go to people with major negative financial events like bankruptcy on their records.” Consider these few tips if you have no or low credit, bad credit, or are just starting out:

No Credit – If you have no credit score, you will be seen by many companies and banks who offer financing (for a car or home, for example) as non-satisfactory. The cards are already stacked against you—by having no substantial lines of credit since financial services have no idea about how trustworthy you if they were to loan you a specific sum of money. This is where singing up for a simple credit card with a low interest rate can come in handy. By singing up for a basic $5,000 line of credit and making double-payments on time over a long period of months, a consumer’s credit score will rise. But it is important to be careful here: do not sign up for an amount of credit you cannot pay back in the long term. If you are trying to enhance your credit score this way but lose your job in six months, you can easily fall behind on payments and ultimately hinder your credit score. As such, it is important to consider what you can afford and ensure you have enough in savings to pay off the card quickly in the event of such an emergency.

Bad Credit – Consumers with bad credit can have a harder time obtaining a credit card, and if they do, will often have a high interest rate attached to their monthly payment. If consumers have enough money saved up to incur a high interest rate, they can start to rebuild their credit score by simply following the tips mentioned in the previous section. If this is not an option, however, there are other methods that those with bad credit can use. Consider the following:

  • Get a secured credit card. Some credit card companies offer a secured line of the credit that requires a deposit, so that it will be easier for the consumer to obtain approval for a credit card. Deposits are usually given back to consumers who complete all payments on time and their credit card balance returns to $0 upon closing. 
  • Don’t sign up or go with “junk mail” credit card offers, since these are the leading ways to ruin a credit score for a long time. The fine print is often skipped on these, and massively high charges, fees, interest rates, and other hidden costs are associated with these cards. Make them all your personal-finance kryptonite. 
  • Explain your situation to a customer service representative. Sometimes credit card companies will allow you to call and explain why you incurred bad credit. Companies are more likely to allow a line of credit to someone who got laid off or incurred a large medical bill before someone who signed up for several cards and spent themselves into oblivion. In terms of the credit score, these two consumers look similar although their behavior is dramatically different. Trying to explain your financial circumstances might help you secure a line of credit from a company, but you have to take the time to call their customer service line and explain your debacle. 


Good Credit – People with good credit might be wondering why they should even consider a credit card. There are a variety of reasons.

English: First 4 digits of a credit card
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
First, keeping good credit steady and current is more advantageous than someone who has a high credit score, but has not had any credit activity for the last five years. Second, a high credit score will be attractive for services who want your business. As such, high credit score holders will be able to shop around for high lines of credit with amazingly low interest rates and other benefits and gifts offered by credit companies. Finally, having a high score will help you obtain high-cost items easier. Obtaining a home or automobile will be easier, and you will often be rewarded with low interest rates and monthly payments for items in which you finance.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with a World Market promo code.




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