Talking about credit scores is a taboo subject…but it should NOT be if you have less than ideal or no credit history.
The truth is, life will be A LOT more expensive if you do not take the steps needed to improve your credit.
- Poor credit makes it harder to qualify for a credit card account
- Poor credit makes it harder to obtain a car loan
- Poor credit makes it harder to obtain a home loan
And even if you are offered a loan, you may want to look at your interest rate because it’s probably astronomically high.
If you have poor credit, you will pay more for auto, renters and homeowner’s insurance. That’s right…you’re penalized from all sides.
If you have poor credit, it’s time to do something about it and a secured card is what you need.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
A secured credit card is a great way for individuals with poor or no credit history to, either, repair or build their credit history as they continue to make every day purchases. But here is the catch… YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR BILL EVERY MONTH ON TIME!
Unlike traditional credit cards, a secured credit card requires a security deposit. The initial deposit serves as collateral and allows the consumer to charge up to that amount. Don’t let this scare you off as secured cards will establish a healthy foundation for when you obtain a consumer credit card.
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.
Here is the step-by-step process…
- You apply for the card and give the bank $XXX upfront (you can increase the amount at any time)
- The bank will send you a card and you can charge up to $XXX on that card
- 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 your initial deposit.
Here are 3 secured cards that I think are worth putting in your wallet if you are seeking to improve your credit.
- Low(er) Security Deposit
- Reports to all three credit bureaus
- Annual Fee: $0
- No rewards program
- Required security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 depending on your creditworthiness
Quick Thoughts – There are a million secured cards out there and this one is a good card. It requires a low security deposit so if you’re tight on funds this could be a good option. The downside, however, is there is no rewards program associated with this card.
- No annual fees
- No balance transfer fees
- No foreign transaction fees
- No cash advance fees
- Good rewards program and the points can be redeemed for up to 1 cent per 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
- Only available to active or ex-military members
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 #1.
#1 – Discover It Secured
- No annual fees
- Rewards program that earns cash back < —who doesn’t want cash back!?
- Sign up bonus of double rewards for first year
- Discover will automatically begin reviewing your account starting around 8 months to see if they can transition you to an unsecured line of credit but you are able to upgrade from secured to unsecured in as little as 6 months.
- Reports as a secured card < –not a huge deal. This card doesn’t have an annual fee so you can keep it long-term.
Quick Thoughts – The reason I rank this card as my #1 is that it’s the only secured card (at least that I know of) that allows you to earn rewards. 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.
Failing to pay your credit card can be life altering so take the time to establish health financial habits now.
Be encouraged that wherever you find yourself on the credit score scale, you probably have a score higher than I did when I started my journey to improve my credit score and applying for credit cards.
I created a chart (below) to help to establish where you are (and where you are going). If it makes you feel better, I started my journey with a score in the early 500’s so I highly doubt you can be lower than me.
Regardless, 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. 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, do not hesitate to contact me in the comments, social media, or my CONTACT ME page.
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