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Raising Your FICO Score With Secured Credit Cards

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When you are working to raise your FICO score, is one secured credit card enough? A reader, Robert, had this question:

I just recently went bankrupt, Chapter 7. I am trying to re-build my credit. I have a Orchard Bank Credit Card. I have a line of credit of $500.00, and I have been making full payments on a timely basis. Here’s the question. To better my FICO score should I apply for a second credit card? Please advise.

Robert

Robert,

FICO suggests having at least three different revolving credit accounts if you want to maximize your score. However, you probably don’t want to get all three cards at once.

How long have you had your Orchard Bank credit card? If it’s been a few months, it is ok to go ahead and apply for another secured credit card. You will want to wait a further three to six months before trying to open another credit account. Having too many inquiries (when companies check your credit report because you applied for credit it creates an “inquiry”) will lower your credit score – especially after a bankruptcy.

Space out your credit card applications to prevent damage to your credit score. Also, there are a couple of other things you will want to keep in mind as you rebuild your credit.

Keep your balances low

You stated that you had been paying your credit card off in full each month, and on time. That is the very best thing you can do for your credit score. The second best thing you can do for your credit score is to never charge very much on your credit card. If possible, keep your credit use to 10% of your available credit, or less. That means that you should never charge more than $50 on a credit card with a $500 limit.

I know it sounds wacky, but it matters tremendously. Your credit card company reports the amount that you charge to the credit bureaus each month. Even if you pay the balance in full, they still record the amount that you charged.

How much of your credit limits you use is responsible for 30% of your credit score, so keep that number as small as possible. Make sure you do use your cards though, otherwise you won’t get the benefit of them reporting positive payment.

Your third credit account:

Your third credit account will probably be a little different. If you wait 4-6 months to apply for your third line of credit, it’s possible that you may be able to get a normal unsecured credit card instead of a secured or sub prime,”bad credit credit card” that is full of fees. Just be sure to check your credit score before you apply for an unsecured credit card. Make sure that you have well over a 600 credit score, or it won’t matter.

Have you cleaned up your credit report?

The next step in repairing your credit score is to clean up your credit reports as much as possible. Challenge any incorrect information on your credit score. Every single negative account that you can remove will raise your score.

For a complete guide to removing negative items form your credit reports, you can view this article:

  • How to Dispute An Item On Your Credit Report
  • Thanks for your question!

    We had another, related question from a reader named Ayesha:

    I am trying to build credit. Will I be able to get a credit card?

    Ayesha

    Ayesha,

    Yes, you can definitely get credit, but it is unlikely that you will qualify for top of the line credit cards. If you have no previous credit history, you can try applying for these starter credit cards:

  • Credit Cards for People with No Credit History
  • If you have a past negative credit history, your best bet is to apply for a single secured credit card to start. That means that you will have to deposit money with the issuing bank in order to get credit. If you fail to make the payments on your account, they will take your deposit and use it to pay the bill. As long as you do make payments, the secured card will convert to an unsecured credit card in about a year. You will get your deposit back at that point.

    If you have a past negative credit history, you should avoid unsecured credit cards that target people with bad credit – they charge far too many fees, and you will never get your money back.

    You might also want to consider looking into pre-paid credit cards. It usually costs $10-$15 a month for those cards to report to the credit bureaus, but people are rarely turned down when they apply for them. (Again because your own money is financing the line of credit.)

    It’s not hard to build credit. If you use these types of accounts, and you make your payments on time each month, your credit score should go up pretty quickly. Just make sure you do not charge very much money on your cards. Make sure you never even come close to your limits if you are trying to build credit.

    Thanks for your question!

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    5 Responses to “Raising Your FICO Score With Secured Credit Cards”

    1. Lisa Says:

      I recently closed a secured credit card with Applied Bank because I did not want to pay fees for making on-line payments. I only used the card for a few months, had low balances, made payments on time and closed the card with a zero balance. They said my $200 deposit would be returned in 30 days. It has been 60 days and still no money. I filed bankruptcy in February and it was discharged last month. Can Applied Bank keep my money even if I did not owe them anything? Is there a law about returning the deposit in a timely fashion, if at all?

    2. Russ Says:

      I recently applied for a BofA card and was offered a fully secured credit card. I have until April 16 to accept the offer. I got approved thru Orchard Bank yesterday and am waiting on the card. Should I get the secured credit card from BofA too? I’m trying to buy a house in a few months and need to raise my score asap. Does it matter if BofA reports to the credit bureaus as “secured”? I intend to pay off my balances in full every month. Thank you.

    3. Kathryn Says:

      When I asked the holder of one of my credit card companies to increase my limit on the card, they refused and then promptly decreased the limit.

      When I asked why they said that an inquiry showed that I owed a $93.OO a month charge on a home equity line which indicated a large amount borrowed.

      I explained that the $93.00 was a one time amount, only charged in case I decided to close the account which I have not. I keep it open. They refused to reconsider.

      When I then contacted the bank with the equity line and asked them to show the amount as a one time charge which is what it really is, they also refused to do so.

      Now what recourse do I have? My FICO score went down, and it seems that there is no remedy…

      Kathryn

    4. James peterson Says:

      I have a secured credit card with bank of America for 10 grande, never late paid bill off everymonth! After 4 yrs compas bank gives me a credit line of 15 grand! American express 9 grand! I just got off the phone with boa and they rule my request to change my card to a unsecured card…. With a credit line of 8 grand! Not 10! Agin I have perfect credit! What gives??????

    5. ned Says:

      James peterson your a [***edited]. The credit line only goes up to 4995.00 for a secured boa card. Stop trying to be a big shot you lying piece of sh*t!!! See.. now I’m gonna [***edited]

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