Poor Credit Score? No Credit History? Want To Fix It? Here’s The Answer.

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Updated 21 July 2019

Banks use your credit score to, essentially, assess how “trust worthy” you are to pay off your credit card debt. However, the only way to GET CREDIT is to ALREADY HAVE credit. 

As you can imagine, this creates a never-ending cycle for individuals that don’t have credit. For example, when I applied for my first credit card (and perhaps 2ndand 3rd), I was denied. The reason the bank told me I was denied was because I hadn’t “established any credit.” 

Translation = You don’t have another credit card (or own a house or car) so we’re not going to give you a credit card because we don’t know how “trustworthy” you are to pay us back.

My response: You’re right, I don’t have a credit card. But, how am I supposed to get a credit card (and improve my credit score) if you don’t approve me for one? *shrug* 

You may be in the same position as me but there’s no reason to worry. I have a simple solution and you’ll be on your way to an excellent score in no-time-flat.

SECURED CREDIT CARDS

Secured credit cards are a great way for people with poor or no credit history to, either, repair or build their credit history.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Secured credit cards work by taking an initial deposit (or collateral) and then allow the consumer to charge up to that amount. For example, a secured credit card may require a minimum $600 deposit to open the card. The amount that you deposit will act as your “credit line.” In this case, if you deposit $600, you (the card holder) can charge up to $600 worth of purchases on the card.

The step-by-step process explained…
1) You apply for the card and give the bank $XXX upfront (you can increase the amount at any time)
2) The bank will send you a card and you can charge up to $XXX on that card
3) At the end of the month, the bank/secured card will send a report to the credit bureaus saying that you have paid your bills, thus, building your credit

There’s no exact timeline of how soon your credit score will improve but in my personal experience, it was only a matter of months before my score significantly improved.

Important Note: You’re attempting to show the bank that you’re “trustworthy.” If you charge $350 on the card and don’t pay your bill at the end of the month, remember the bank doesn’t lose any money because they still have the deposit that you gave them on Day 1.

Unfortunately, a lot of secure credit card issuers try to take advantage of the fact that consumers have few options when they have poor or no credit history and these cards often have high annual fees and large APRs.

FOCUS ON THIS…

There are four things that are important to look at when shopping for a secured card.

Credit Bureaus Reported To: There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion & Experian. Consumers should look for a credit card issuer that reports information to all three of these bureaus to make sure their credit history shows up on all three of their credit reports.

Annual Fee (AF): The lower the AF, the better. The combination of a low AF and a card that is improving your credit score sounds like a win to me. You may be keeping this card for a long time so by having a card with a low or no annual fee, you’re more likely to keep it open and help your age of account (which makes up 10% of your credit score.

Minimum security deposit: Nobody wants their money to be tied up in an account that isn’t accessible. That’s why it’s important to see what the minimum security deposit is, in most cases the lower the better. The only exception is when a consumer wants to make a large purchase (e.g a flight) and need a bigger credit limit, in this case they’ll want to look for an account with a high maximum credit limit/security deposit.

Rewards program: Just because a consumer may have a poor credit history (or no history at all) doesn’t mean they should miss out on all of the fun of a good rewards program. Most secured cards don’t offer these rewards, but there a few that do.

DO NOT FOCUS ON THIS…

I’ve listed two factors below that shouldn’t be important when looking for secured cards. I’ve also added why I think they’re not important.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): APR is a fancy word that, simply, means there will be a “fee” for not paying your bill on-time. You should be paying your balance in full every month! This is your chance to build (or rebuild) your credit. Purchases should only be charged to the card if there is money for those purchases to be paid off. Repeat after me…”Because I AM paying my card off at the end of EVERY month, I won’t be paying interest so APR doesn’t matter.”

Late Fees: Making a late credit card payment negatively affects your credit score. The whole point of these cards is to improve your score not damage.

There are a ton of secure cards on the market and I’ve given you a framework for picking the best one. However, if you don’t want to search and compare a million different cards, here are my personal “TOP 5.”

NOTE: The information is current as of the writing of this article (01/17/19) but may have changed so do your research…

TOP 5 SECURED CREDIT CARDS

#5 – Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Pros:
– Low(er) Security Deposit
– Reports to all three credit bureaus

Cons:
– No rewards program
– Annual fee: $29

Quick Thoughts – Again, there are a million secured cards out there and this one is a good card but this one requires a low security deposit so if you’re tight on funds this could be a good option. However, the downside is there is an annual fee of $29 that’s not waived and there is no rewards program associated with this card.

#4 – Aeromexico Visa® Secured Card

Pros:
– No annual fee for the 1styear
– Reports to all three credit bureaus
– Bonus points (5000 – 10,000 depending on the card) for first purchase

Cons:
– Annual fee is $29 after the 1st year

Quick Thoughts – This card is a solid option. However, as I noted above, an annual fee applies after the 1styear. Coincidentally, most people will likely close this account when the annual fee hits. However, closing this card could hurt the average age of accounts (15% of your credit score) and the age of the oldest account. If this is your first entry into credit, you could see your score drop significantly when you close this card. Personally, I’d recommend going with a card with no annual fee to avoid this.

#3 – Navy Federal nRewards Secured Card®

Pros:
– No annual fee
– Good rewards program and the points can be redeemed for up to 1¢ a point in prepaid Visa cards once you hit 7,500 points (starts at 0.5¢/point)
– Reports to all three bureaus
– Earn interest on security deposit

Cons:
– Only available to active or ex-military members
– $500 security deposit needed

Quick Thoughts – This is easily the best card on the market. There are no annual fees and it has a great rewards program? Sounds like a winner to me. If you are in the military or are ex-military this is your #1 card. For everyone else…scroll down to card #2.

#2 – Harley-Davidson® Visa® Secured Card

Pros:
– No annual fee
– Reports to all three credit bureaus
– Earn interest on security deposit

Cons:
This is a great card but unless you’re a Harley Davidson enthusiast, this isn’t going to be an exciting card for you. This is how their rewards program works…$1 spent = 1 point. The points can only be redeemed for Harley Chrome Cash which can only be used to purchase Harley Davidson products and accessories.

Quick Thoughts – The “Pro’s” (listed above) speak for themselves, however, if you’re not a fan of the brand I would consider some other options.

And our #1 card….drum roll please….

#1 – Discover It® Secured

Pros:
No annual fees
Rewards program that earns cash back < —who doesn’t want cash back!?
Sign up bonus of double rewards for first year
You are able to upgrade from secured to unsecured in as little as 6 months

Cons:
Reports as a secured card < –not a huge deal. This card doesn’t have an annual fee so you can keep it longterm.

Quick Thoughts – I wish this card would’ve been available when I was trying to get my stuff together! This card is simply way better than all of the other secured cards.

FINAL STAMP

Be encouraged that wherever you find yourself on the credit score scale, you probably have a score higher than I did when I started researching this.

I created a chart (below) to help to establish where you are (and where you are going). I started my journey with a score in the early 500’s. I’m not quite sure why it was so low but whatever. The chart below isn’t a concrete scale but I broke down, approximately, where I felt like things started to change and I grew into a different “tier.” I hope this helps.

  • Tier 1: 300-649 Poor – Secure Card Range
  • Tier 2: 650-680 Fair – 50/50 if you will be approved for a card
  • Tier 3: 681-720 Good – Will be approved for some cards. This is where the average consumer will find themselves.
  • Tier 4: 720-799 Very Good – Will be approved for most cards range. Obviously, the higher, the better your approval odds
  • Tier 5: 800-850 Excellent – Expect the lowest possible interest rates and best terms

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, let me hear from you in the comments section.

Once you build your credit, this should be your NEXT STEP –>>

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