Applying for and Managing a Credit Card

 

As young adults venture out into the “real world”, it is important to establish a credit history. Now, since you are young, that means you have little to no credit history. This is where the need for a credit card comes in. You may be unsure or feel confused about the process of obtaining and managing one, but credit cards are not as stressful as they seem to be.

How Do I Get a Credit Card?

To apply for a credit card, you must be at least 21 years old. Many people at this age have no credit and are often the ones who struggle to get approved for a credit card the most. This is because institutions need to look at your credit score to issue a credit card but to have a credit score, you’ll need to have an active credit card account on your credit report for six months.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be.

This is where that part time job you’ve been working at while going to school finally pays off. Credit card issuers need to see that you have a sufficient income to pay off your credit card balance. Keep in mind, it must be money earned by you. That excludes your parent’s, spouse’s, or other members of your household’s income. The higher this amount is, the better your chances are of being approved for a credit card without a credit score.

Note: If you are unemployed or earn a small salary, you can include money you get from scholarships and grants

If you are a student, I highly recommend applying for a student credit card. Specifically, the Discover it for Students Card. I use it and it’s made it easy for me to build my credit since it has no annual fee and I can earn cashback rewards for getting good grades and from qualifying purchases. It also offers cashback match, which matches the amount you’ve earned in rewards at the end of the year (The Cashback MatchTM is a promotional offer and therefore may not be available in the future). You can use the cashback rewards to pay off your minimum balance, redeem it as a gift card, or have it electronically deposited to your bank account. Student credit cards are tailored to college students who don’t have a large income or credit history. To qualify for a student credit card, you must provide proof that you are enrolled in an accredited college or university.

I’ve Been Approved. Now What?

Congratulations, you’ve been approved for a credit card!

Here comes the managing part. Being a credit card holder comes with a lot of responsibility. There are a lot of things to keep an eye on, such as an annual fee (if applicable), late fees, annual percentage rate (APR), your credit line, and minimum balance. Let’s go through each of them.

Annual Fee: An annual fee is separate from the interest rate fee. It is charged by credit card companies each year for using a credit card. Remember, not all credit cards have this. When looking for a credit card, avoid ones with an annual fee to dodge this extra cost.

Late Fee: A late fee is applied when you fail to pay the minimum balance. To avoid this, make sure to pay the minimum balance by the due date specified. To further avoid this, make sure you charge amounts to your credit card that you are confident you can pay back.

Minimum Balance: The minimum balance is the amount owed monthly. If it is not paid in full, it will be carried over to the next billing period. This will incur late fees and interest rate fees. Once again, to avoid this make sure you charge amounts to your credit card that you are confident you can pay back.

APR: The APR, or annual percentage rate, is the interest rate charged each month when there is an outstanding balance present. Again, you can avoid this by charging amounts to your credit card that you are confident you can pay back. The APR depends on what the issuer is offering and can be variable.

Credit Line: This is also known as a credit limit. It is the maximum amount that can be charged to a credit card. This amount, and how much has been borrowed from this amount, affects your credit score. So, a credit line that doesn’t have much borrowed from it can result in a high credit score.

Credit Can be Dangerous

Misusing a credit card can create long term financial problems. Be sure to use credit cards wisely, as they can tempt people to overspend, result in bankruptcy, and loss of creditworthiness.

 

Getting approved for a credit card gives you financial freedom, but be sure to use your credit responsibly. Keep balances low and pay the full amount each month. Implementing these practices can qualify you for more credit cards and even loans in the future.

The Significance of a Credit Score

What’s a Credit Score?

Ultimately, a credit score reveals the information in your credit report. This number is an overview of your credit history. A credit score allows creditors to determine how likely it is that you will make on time payments. Creditors also use a credit score to grant you credit, to decide what terms to offer you, and to determine the interest rate you pay.

What is Involved When Calculating Your Credit Score?

There are a number of factors that are taken into account when calculating your credit score such as, the amount of accounts you have, the type of account it is (credit cards, mortgages, auto loans), whether or not you make on time payments, how much outstanding debt you have, how old your accounts are, and how much of your available credit you are using.

Is There a Difference Between a FICO Score and a VantageScore?

Yes. Your FICO score is a result of the information in your credit report. This number, usually between 350-850, measures how risky a borrower is. So, the higher your FICO score is, the less of a risk you are to creditors. A VantageScore is developed by the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. This creates a better forecast of your credit, even if you have little credit history. It also eliminates the need for creditors to manually review your credit information. VantageScores range from 501-990, and again, the higher your score, the less of a risk you are to creditors. A pro of a VantageScore is as long as the three credit bureaus have the same credit information, then all three scores will be the same. If the credit bureaus have different scores, then that is an indication of discrepancies in your report.

How do You Maintain a Good Credit Score?

There are a number of things you must do to maintain a good credit score:

  1. Peruse your credit report to make sure that it is accurate. There are many websites that claim they will give you your credit report for free, but then end up asking you for payment information. To avoid scams like this, go to annualcreditreport.com. This website is the only one that has the authority to give you your credit report for free.

 

  1. Pay all of your bills on time. This is the most important step to take to make sure you have a good credit score.

 

  1. Be familiar with the factors that determine your credit score such as, paying bills on time, having outstanding debt, the length of your credit history, if you’ve applied for a new line of credit, and the type of credit accounts you have and how many there are.

 

  1. Be informed about the legal steps you can take to fix errors in your report. A good source is The Federal Trade Commission’s Building a Better Credit Report

 

  1. Be mindful of credit repair scams. You can use The Federal Trade Commission’s Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself to maintain and improve creditworthiness. It’s like they always say, “When you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.”

 

Your creditworthiness solely depends on your credit score. Not maintaining a good credit score can make you vulnerable to high interest rates and disqualify you from getting a new loan. It can also ruin your chances of getting that new job or apartment. Always remember that the higher your credit score, the less risky you will look to creditors.