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No Credit? Bad Credit?
You CAN Get a Card

by Marc Eisenson

      Even though thousands of issuers are heavily competing for a spot in most people's wallet, getting that first card (or trying to re-establish credit after serious money troubles) can seem like an impossible task.

      Even if you have a good job, a mortgage, and a car loan, you could still be turned down for a bankcard ... because of an "insufficient credit history." If you've never had a credit card before, lenders have no way of knowing how responsible you'll be should times get tough. They reason that most people would pay their mortgages and car loans first, letting credit card bills slide. The last thing card issuers want to do is take a chance. Hence a good old fashioned Catch 22: How do you get experience if no one will give you that first card?

      Or perhaps your credit applications keep being denied because you had some hard times a while ago, although you eventually paid the bills.

      You may be tempted to sign on with an outfit that promises to erase your bad credit history. Don't! For a good healthy fee, these scam artists will keep disputing negative information that's on your credit report, even though it may be accurate. Their hope is that some of it won't be verified and will therefore have to be removed.

      Unfortunately, once the credit bureaus suspect that a "credit repair clinic" is involved, they can refuse to even investigate the disputed information. In the end your wallet will be lighter, but your bad credit rating will be intact.

Discouraged? Don't be.

      Almost anyone can get a "secured card." These Visas and MasterCards look and act exactly like the unsecured piece of plastic in your neighbor's pocket. The only difference is an interest earning security deposit that you have to leave in the issuer's bank.

      The credit line on your secured card will be 100% to 150% of the amount you deposit as collateral. The more cash you can tie up, the more you can charge. The less you can put aside, the less you'll be able to spend.

      From our point of view, being limited to charge only what you can afford is an obvious advantage ... you won't get in over your head. There's another secured card advantage that's often overlooked ... you'll probably earn more interest on the security deposit than you would at a local bank.

      On the downside, secured cards usually come with a high interest rate. Which won't affect you in the slightest if you only charge what you can really afford, then pay the bill off every month.

      When you can't pay in full, pay as much as you can. By always paying more than the minimum, you'll save a fortune in interest. In any event, NEVER be late with a payment, even if all you're sending in is the minimum.

      Remember, even if you eventually pay what you owe, late payments will show on your credit report for 7 years, and make it hard for you to get other credit, or to "graduate" to an unsecured card.

      Your aim is to show a pattern of timely payments. You don't have to charge big purchases or string out your payments over many months. Just use your card occasionally for an item you would have bought anyway.

      Always make sure to pay at least the required minimum, on time. You'll soon be on your way to getting a less costly "regular" card, followed by an avalanche of pre-approved offers for yet other cards.

      Important: Unless the bank that issues your secured card reports to the major credit bureaus (Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax), your timely payments will not help you build or re-establish your credit. For an up-to-date list of secured cards, visit CardRatings.com

The Pocket Change Investor
The Secrets to Getting Ahead -- Even If You Have a Pile of Credit Card Bills, Hefty Mortgage Payments,
Loans Out on a Clunker or Two, & a Bad Case of the "I'm Tired of Living Payday to Payday" Blues.

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Sound Mind Investing

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Reprinted from The Pocket Change Investor, Issue #13"
© 1995, Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman
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