Options and myths.
There are two common blockers that hold people back from utilizing credit cards to their fullest benefit. Let’s take them one at a time.
With so many credit cards available, the question “where do I start” may be holding you back. Paralysis by analysis. Keep it simple! If you are just getting started with a credit card, your options may be more limited than you think, anyway.
I remember the frustration I felt when American Express rejected my first credit card application. I’m making good money, I’ve never been late on any payment, what gives? Don’t be too hard on yourself. Lack of credit history presents a problem for most of us submitting our first application. A great, all purpose card to explore is the Discover It Card.
- Lenient on approval for people with low/no credit history
- Exceptional customer service
- Rotating 5% cash back categories that you will actually use
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Free Fico credit score updates
- No annual fee
- Still not accepted everywhere
Your credit history will develop with time and as your score improves, your options expand. This doesn’t mean you need a credit card for every situation. Take the time to determine the type of rewards that are most important and valuable to you. Travel remains high on my priority list due to business and having family and friends across the country. This made the Chase Sapphire Reserve the ideal second credit card for me.
- 3x points on travel and dining (two of my top personal expenses)
- 1x points on all other purchases
- 50% point bonus when redeemed for travel
- No blackout dates or restrictions (unlike most airline cards)
- $300 airfare credit (offsets most of the annual fee, see below)
- Priority Access Pass (provides perks at most major airports)
- TSA Pre-check credit
- Accepted virtually everywhere
- Annual fee – $450
After upgrading to your preferred card, you may be tempted to close the old one. It is critical that you don’t do this. Why? Because cancelling that old card will wipe out the credit history you’ve been working on building that is attached to the card. You will benefit from keeping that history and maintaining the card, especially since your old card doesn’t carry an annual fee.
Nerdwallet does a great job highlighting which cards will align with your priorities. You likely don’t need to have any more than three. I am comfortable with my two.
*Disclaimer: I am not compensated by Chase, Discover, nor Nerdwallet. These are the actual cards I use and I have had positive experiences with them. They may or may not be appropriate for you, based on your personal circumstances. Please reach out if you’d like to discuss your personal circumstances.
“I need to carry a balance in order to improve my credit score.”
I am not sure how this one got started, but I hear it frequently. Carrying a balance is NOT in your best interest! The interest rates associated with credit cards are astronomical relative to other rates. An important step in generating wealth is treating your credit card like cash. Only pay for what you can afford, and only use the card in order to obtain points. The card is not to serve as extra funds for that item you really want but can’t afford. Pay the balance off in full every month.
Even if you received a 0% teaser rate for a certain amount of months, at some point, that card company will come knocking. Stay diligent and work that balance down to zero each month.
My Fico shows what actually determines your credit score.
Developing a solid credit rating will be one of the best actions on your drive to financial freedom. Most of the big financial decisions in your life will involve this score – top of the list being your mortgage. The higher the credit rating you have, the more favorable terms lenders will offer. Setting the right foundation now could literally save you thousands of dollars over the course of your life. Get to action!