Let Focus Federal Credit Union walk you through the process to help you build a strong credit score and credit history that will serve you well throughout your life.

Choosing a credit card

The way people typically build a credit history is by opening a credit card. But ironically, many credit cards won’t accept your application because you don’t yet have that credit history!

You’ll need to build your credit history from the ground up, starting with cards that offer a very low limit but will accept almost any applicants. That’s why a secured credit card is the best way to start building your credit history.

Secured credit cards require a deposit to open the card, but the benefit is that there is no credit check. This type of card is a great option for your first card because you don’t risk an inquiry on your credit report for a possible denial. Secured credit cards can be opened with as little as $250 and you can receive your card in as little as 7-10 business days. Secured credit cards get reported to the credit bureaus exactly like a traditional credit card, so you can work on building your credit immediately.

Don’t apply to just any card that’ll have you. Look for these features when making your choice:

No annual fees. You shouldn’t have to pay money to use your card. Sometime in the future, you may want to open up a high-perk card with an annual fee to match, but for now, just concentrate on building your credit score.

A low-interest rate. For your first credit card, you likely won’t be offered a really low-interest rate, but that doesn’t mean you should be taken for a ride. Shop around for a card offering a reasonable rate, maybe only slightly higher than the average rate.

Incentives for good behavior. Why not earn brownie points for playing by the rules? Look for a card that offers incentives, such as a bonus each month when the bill is paid on time, a waived first late-payment fee or no foreign transaction fees.

Credit card dos and don’ts

Once you’ve opened your first credit card or cards, make sure you use them to build and maintain that excellent score. Follow these guidelines and you won’t go wrong:

Do …

  • Pay your bill on time each month.
  • Check your credit score monthly.
  • Review your statements for suspicious activity.
  • Keep your cards in a safe place.
  • Accept offers of a higher line of credit.

Don’t …

  • Pay just the minimum balance due each billing cycle.
  • Open new cards just before taking out a large loan, like a mortgage or auto loan.
  • Use all of your available credit.
  • Allow unsecured websites to save your card information.
  • Share your card information with anyone

If you’re unsure how to build or rebuild your credit history, we can help! Contact us for tips and financial coaching so you can be on your way to a great credit score!