How to Use Your Wanderlust to Build Credit

June 15, 2016 &• min read by Jill Krasny Comments 0 Comments

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Love to travel? Good news: There are ways to put that wanderlust to use with a travel rewards credit card.

Though travel rewards cards aren’t the easiest to get approved for as they require an excellent or good credit score, those who are able to snag one can use it to build better credit. (Just remember, before you apply it’s important to know where you stand so you don’t get turned down only to see your score suffer as a result of the inquiry.)

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Travel Rewards Cards & Credit

A travel rewards credit card lets accountholders earn points or miles that can be put towards hotel stays, airfare and other travel expenses. These rewards can help travelers lower the cost of vacations, and the card itself can be a good tool for building credit.

If you make payments on time, eventually your score will begin to rise because this behavior creates a positive payment history, an important factor in credit scoring models. The card’s credit limit will also count toward your credit utilization rate, which is another big factor in scoring models. Your credit utilization rate is how much debt you carry versus your total available credit. For best credit scoring results, it’s recommended that you keep your debt below 10% and at least 30% of your credit limit(s). So if you charge a vacation and then pay most or all of the purchases off right away, your score could benefit.

You can keep track of how your usage and payments are affecting your credit by signing up for Credit.com’s free credit report summary. Beyond seeing your credit scores, you’ll be able to check how you’re doing in five key areas of your credit report that determine your credit score, including payment history, debt usage, inquiries, credit age and account mix.

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Since interest rates for travel rewards cards tend to vary depending on creditworthiness, you’ll want to be mindful about carrying a balance. Doing so could hamper your credit goals, and the interest you pay could exceed whatever you’ve managed to glean from rewards. Many travel rewards cards carry annual fees, too, so you’ll want to make sure your spending habits justify the potential cost. (You can read about the best travel credit cards in America here.) Of course, making purchases on your card and paying them off quickly (and on time) will generally boost your credit.

Remember, if your credit is looking a little lackluster and you’re having a hard time qualifying for any type of credit card, you may be able to improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit report, paying down high credit card balances and limiting new credit inquiries until your score bounces back.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Geber86

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Source: credit.com

How to Start Building Credit Once You Turn 18

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Good credit is crucial to unlocking many financial opportunities in life. When you have a great credit score, you can get lower interest rates on car loans, credit cards and mortgages. Some employers and landlords even check credit reports before they make a job offer or approve a resident application. While developing a solid credit history takes time, follow some of these tips on how to establish credit once you turn 18 to get started as soon as possible.

1. Understand the Basics of Credit

Make sure you understand the basics of how credit works. Your credit reports are maintained by three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. It contains data on your current and past debts, payment history, residential history and other facts. This data is supplied by lenders, creditors and businesses where you have accounts.

The information contained in your credit report determines your credit score. Higher credit scores are more attractive to lenders and creditors. The factors that influence your score include:

As a new adult, some of these factors may not currently apply to you. However, they can all negatively or positively affect your score, depending on your behavior as a consumer. Educating yourself on credit now helps you avoid costly mistakes in the future.

2. Monitor Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Now that you understand the basics of building credit, you need to start monitoring your report and credit score. Monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to learn what will positively or negatively impact your scores. It also helps you catch inaccuracies or signs of identity theft sooner.

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You can check your credit report for free annually with each major credit bureau. As you review your report, look for any negative or inaccurate information that could be screwing up your credit. You can also check your credit score, updated every 14 days, for free at Credit.com.

If you’re really serious about understanding your credit reports and scores, sign up for ExtraCredit. With Track It, you can see 28 of your FICO scores and credit reports from all three credit bureaus.

3. Sign Up for ExtraCredit

ExtraCredit does more than just show you your credit scores. Have you recently started paying rent or utilities? BuildIt will add them as new tradelines with all three credit bureaus. That means you’ll get credit for bills you’re already paying—building your credit profile each month.

4. Become an Authorized User

If you have a friend or family member willing to add you as an authorized user on their credit card, you can piggyback off their credit card activity to help establish your credit. Even if you don’t use the card, the account can still land on your credit report and potentially positively impact your score.

This method poses some risks to the primary cardholder and you, the authorized user. If you or the primary cardholder rack up too much debt or miss payments, that activity could end up damaging the credit of both parties.

You should also verify that the credit card company in question reports card activity to the credit file of authorized users. If they don’t, your credit won’t see any benefit.

5. Get a Starter Credit Card

Credit cards are one of the best tools around for building credit, but you might have trouble qualifying for one when you have no credit history. Luckily, there are a few credit card options for young people with little or no credit.

Unsecured Credit Cards: If you don’t have the money to make a security deposit, consider an unsecured credit card such as the Avant Credit Card. This card offers a process that presents you with a credit line based on your creditworthiness before you apply. It also has no penalty or hidden fees—a perfect fit for any young adult’s starter card. You do need at least some fair credit history to be approved, though.

Avant Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:

Ongoing Apr:
25.99% (variable)

Balance Transfer:

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:

Snapshot of Card Features
  • No deposit required
  • No penalty APR
  • No hidden fees
  • Fast and easy application process
  • Help strengthen your credit history with responsible use
  • Disclosure: If you are charged interest, the charge will be no less than $1.00. Cash Advance Fee: The greater of $10 or 3% of the amount of the cash advance
  • Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC

Card Details +

Secured Credit Cards: A secured credit card requires an upfront security deposit to open. Your deposit will typically equal your initial credit limit. For example, a $500 security deposit would get you a $500 credit limit. These cards are easier to qualify for, and you can use them to make purchases, just like traditional credit cards, while also establishing some credit history.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:

Ongoing Apr:
17.39% (variable)

Balance Transfer:

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Fair-Poor-Bad-No Credit

Snapshot of Card Features
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
  • *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card

Card Details +

6. Make Payments on Time

Making timely payments is the most important thing you can do to build credit, as payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. This applies to credit cards, loans, utilities such as cell phone services and any other account that requires a monthly payment. No matter the account type, a late or missed payment that lands on your credit report can do significant damage to your credit score.

7. Maintain a Low Credit Card Balance

Your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of available credit you have tied up in debt, is another major contributor to your credit score. Most experts recommend keeping your credit card balances below 30% of the available credit limit. Ideally, you should pay your balance off in full each month to avoid interest and keep your utilization low.

8. Get a Loan

Getting a loan just to build credit is generally not a good idea, as you shouldn’t take on debt only for the sake of your credit score. But if you have a valid reason, such as needing a car or money for college, a small loan in your name can help you build credit.

As with credit cards, loans only build a good credit history if you pay them on time every month. You also want to ensure your creditor reports payments to the credit bureau. If you also have a credit card, getting a loan can help improve your account mix, which makes up around 10% of your credit score.

9. Keep It Simple for Now

The more credit cards and loans you open, the higher your chances are of falling into debt. When you’re just starting out, you should probably play it safe and manage one basic credit card and/or small loan until you get the hang of things. Trying to manage too many debts at once could get you in over your head.

Over time, you can start to add other credit cards or loans to the mix, diversifying your credit profile and adding more opportunities to build credit. And because the age of your accounts affects your credit score, just keeping accounts open will help you build credit history in the long run. When you’re starting to figure out how to build your credit, do it slowly, carefully and with a constant eye on your statements and credit reports.

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Source: credit.com

The Smart Way to Rebuild Credit

April 1, 2014 &• min read by Christine DiGangi Comments 0 Comments

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Even if you’re not the most organized person, you should have a plan for building a good credit score.  The good news is building credit isn’t complicated — you just need to know a few things to get started.

Know What You’re Dealing With

If you don’t know what’s broken, you’re going to struggle to fix it. If you want to improve your credit score, the first thing you need to do is look at your credit reports. You’re entitled to a free annual copy from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, and your scores will be based on the information in these reports.

Your credit report lists all sorts of information about you, from loans and credit accounts to report inquiries (when a third party requests your report) and collections accounts. It will show how much debt you have, your overall credit limit, the dates you opened accounts and if you’ve paid your bills on time — it’s a lot of information, which can be overwhelming, but everything is labeled pretty clearly.

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Identify Problems

Once you have your credit reports in hand, look for anything you don’t recognize. If you see an account listed that doesn’t belong to you, it could be a mix-up or a sign that someone is fraudulently using your personal information. Make sure your name is spelled correctly, that your address is right and all your payment history looks accurate. You should dispute anything that is incorrect by following the dispute directions on Experian, Equifax and TransUnion’s websites.

Assuming everything is accurate, look at what may be having a negative impact on your credit standing: Do you have late payments? Do you use a lot of your available credit? Did you apply for a lot of credit cards or loans within a 12-month period? These are all things that could lower your credit score. Your score may also be suffering if the average age of your credit accounts is less than seven years or if you only have one type of credit in your name, as opposed to a mix of loans and credit cards.

Set Goals and Track Progress

Once you’ve identified the issues, the path forward can be pretty simple: If you’re late on making payments, do whatever you can to set a streak of on-time ones. Automatic payments and calendar reminders are really helpful for that. If you notice you’re carrying a lot of debt in comparison to your available credit, try to pay it down and reduce your spending — keeping your credit utilization rate below 30% (or better yet, below 10%), will help raise your score.

The most effective strategy for improving your credit score is to watch it change over time. There are dozens of credit scoring models out there — some are used by lenders and others are educational — but they all give you an idea of where you stand. There are also tools available with a free Credit.com account that allow you to gauge your credit weaknesses in addition to comparing your score from month to month.

You’ll never know which score a lender will use to assess your credit risk ahead of when you apply, so the best thing you can do is pick a score or two that you can access regularly (ideally for free), and compare the same score periodically. Your Credit.com account will show you why your score improved or fell, but you can also get a pretty good idea of that by thinking back on what you’ve done since the last time you’ve checked your score.

Awareness makes a big difference in financial behavior. Watching your score drop if you’re late on a payment or seeing it spike after cutting your debt can be a great source of motivation as you go forward, and figuring it out requires minimal effort on your part, as long as you make a habit of checking your score.

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Source: credit.com

How to Use Your Shopping Addiction to Build Credit

June 8, 2016 &• min read by Jill Krasny Comments 0 Comments

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If you love to shop, you can use your fashion sense to build or even rebuild your credit.

Store-branded credit cards are some of the easiest cards to qualify for and are often extended to those who have bad credit because they have lower criteria than traditional credit cards. Using them, especially if you’re loyal to a particular store, can bring card rewards, discounts and, if you pay your balance off every month, better credit.

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Immediate Savings

In most cases, when you apply for a card, the retailer will offer a discount on that day’s purchase. Sometimes the discount will be extended to purchases made within a short time frame (24 hours, for example), as an incentive to spend more. The risk is that instead of saving money, you end up spending more than planned, so it’s wise to be wary.

Watch Your Credit Scores

When you open your new credit card, you may see a dip in your credit scores for two reasons: one, the inquiry created when the issuer checks your credit score, which may cause your scores to drop, though usually not more than a few points. Second, a new account with a balance is often seen as a risk factor. As long as you pay on time and keep your balances below 30% of your credit line, or ideally 10%, you could eventually see a slight rise because you’ll have a positive new credit reference, which is beneficial if you are trying to build or rebuild credit.

As you use your new card, you can track how your usage and payments are affecting your credit by signing up for Credit.com’s free credit report summary. In addition to getting two free credit scores, you’ll get your own credit report card that shows how you’re doing in five key areas on your credit report that also determine your credit score — payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix and inquiries.

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Know the APR

Interest rates for department store credit cards are almost always high, often between 19% and 22%, or more. If you carry a balance, the interest you pay will likely exceed the amount you saved with the discount. This means carrying a balance could hamper your goals, especially if you fail to make on-time payments.

Given store credit cards’ high APRs, you won’t want to go on a shopping spree with them, nor will you want to put more purchases on the card than your budget can handle. (For tips on cutting back without feeling deprived, you can go here.) That said, making a couple of small purchases a month, say, on home essentials or groceries, and paying them off quickly (and on time) will likely beef up your credit.

Before You Apply 

Before you fill out an application, you’ll want to know where your credit stands so you have a good sense of what type of card you might qualify for. Knowing your score will also inform your decision to apply for a card in general, as inquiries on your credit report can cause your score to take an unnecessary hit.

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Source: credit.com