Ask Money

Boosting Credit Score

Chris Farrell Mar 25, 2008

Question: I am looking for a way to boost my credit score. My fiancé and I plan on buying a house in about a year. My credit score is considered poor or medium-high risk. I had tried to get a credit card a few months ago and I was turned down.

My bills are all current and I’ve paid off any old debt I had accrued. But I do not have any credit cards right now- only a car loan and a student loan. Would you recommend getting a credit card and staying current and keeping a low balance for better credit? If so, is there a certain type of credit card that’s more “forgiving” of a lower credit score? If not, are there any other ways? Could I pay one of those people who “repair” credit? I would really appreciate any advice. Thank you very much. Michelle, San Diego CA

Answer: Time is on your side. You’ve paid off your old debts, and you’re current on your car loan and student loan. The longer you make your loan payments on time the better your credit score will become.

That said, it can make sense for you to get a credit card, assuming you use it and pay off the bill in full at the end of the billing period. (Technically, it doesn’t matter if you carry a balance so long as you pay the bill on time. Your credit score will improve whether or not you’re carrying a balance. I just don’t want you to take on any credit card debt.)

One common maneuver for getting a credit card is to apply for a retailer’s card. Retail credit cards aren’t that attractive since they usually come with high rates. But if you use it and build a good credit history with it you can always get rid of it later on and apply for a better card. (And this time you’ll qualify.) Another option is a “secured” credit card. With secured plastic, you open up a savings account with a bank that issues you a card that looks like any other credit card. Your credit is equal to or somewhat less than the amount you deposit. Eventually, after showing a pattern of paying off your bills on time, you can usually switch to a traditional “unsecured” credit card.

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