24th March 2022
If you have other forms of credit, such as a student loan or a car loan, you already have a credit report. You can pull it for free from AnnualCreditReport to make sure everything is correct. Unfortunately, identity theft can happen, and if somebody opened an account in your name, it will show up on your credit report.
The financial data on your credit report will be factored into your credit scores, of which the most ubiquitous is the FICO score. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, with a poor credit score being 579 or lower, 580 to 669 considered fair, 670 to 739 being a good score, very good ranging from 740 to 799, and anything 800 or higher being an excellent score.
With so many cards on the market, how do you determine the right one for you? The key is to identify the one you most likely will qualify for and that has the most practical features for your situation.
- Student credit cards. “Young adults in college should definitely look at student cards,” Robinson-Jones says. “These cards don't usually demand established credit, and some even have rewards programs.” In fact, you may be able find student cards that offer bonus categories for everyday expenses, like gas, dining or groceries.
- Secured credit cards. These cards require the cardholder to pay a deposit equal to the card's credit line. Matthew Goldman, credit card expert and chief product officer for the card issuance platform Apto Payments, suggests secured cards for credit novices. “Eligibility is easier than it is for unsecured credit cards,” he says. “They're a great way to start.” Many secured cards come with rewards programs and no annual fee, such as the Discover it Secured Credit Card. This card earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1% on all other purchases. The issuer will start reviewing your account after seven months to determine whether to transfer your account to an unsecured card. That means you'll get your deposit back if you treat the card responsibly.
- click to investigate “Starter” credit cards. If your FICO score is in the fair to good range (580 to 739), you may qualify for an unsecured card such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. It has a $39 annual fee, but it earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, so cardholders don't have to keep up with rewards categories.
Your cash deposit guarantees the credit line, so the issuer takes on less risk
- Retail card. Big box and department stores sometimes offer retail credit cards, which tend to have forgiving qualification requirements. A store card might be beneficial if you regularly spend money with a retailer and can take advantage of card discounts and perks, but beware: These types of cards often have high APRs and low credit limits.
Don't despair if an issuer rejects your application. The issuer will send you an adverse action notice with a brief explanation about why you were denied and the credit reporting agency it used to make its decision. If you want to contest the decision, call the issuer and ask for the reconsideration line.
Payment history and credit utilization are the weightiest factors in determining this score, followed by the length of your credit history, the mix of credit in use and new credit
- Add noncredit data to your credit reports. The credit reporting agency Experian offers Boost, a free program that allows you to add cellphone and utility bills to your report. Paying those accounts on time can increase your score.