Saturday, June 2, 2007

Building a Strong Credit History

Secured, co-signed and pre-paid credit cards offer viable options. But you should start building a strong credit history, so you can obtain a regular credit card on your own in the future.
First, you need to understand how credit card issuers determine credit worthiness. The approval criteria varies from among issuing banks, but generally relates to what's often called the three C's of credit: capacity, character and collateral. Capacity refers to your ability to pay based on your income and existing debt. Collateral refers to any assets you have that can secure payment, such as bank accounts or home ownership. Character refers to factors like your payment history, length of employment, etc.
To get a good idea about how your application will fare with credit card companies, check your credit history with one of the major credit reporting agencies: Experian (, Equifax ( and TransUnion ( These agencies access your payment information directly from the companies you have credit with, as well as from government agencies such as the legal court system.
Credit reporting agencies use the information in your credit history to determine your credit rating or credit score. Credit scores, also known as FICA or Beacon scores depending on the CRA, generally range from 350 to 850. Most banks will approve you for credit if your score is at least 620. If your rating is 720 or higher, banks will offer you their lowest interest rate.
Generally, y our credit score is determined by your payment history for the last two years. T echnically, CRAs calculate your score using a closely-guarded formula. TransUnion, for example, determines credit scores using a variety of factors, including: how you pay your accounts, how much you owe and how often you've applied for credit.

Finding the right card for your score is easy at

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