I first realized I needed to improve my credit score when trying to take advantage of the 20% off discount I could get by opening a GAP credit card. I thought “sure, I want these jeans and I would like them to be cheaper.” Turns out credit cards don’t totally work that way, because you can only get a credit card if you have a credit history, and you can only have a credit history if you get a credit card (among other ways, but that’s the easiest). It’s kind of like how you need job experience to get a job, but nobody will hire you without experience. For the record, at age 19 I had no credit history and no chance of getting a discount on those jeans.
I’ve come a long way since then, and I have learned quite a bit on my journey from credit-less to Credit Karma user to about-to-get-some-free-shit-from-magical-rewards-points. First of which being: don’t waste a credit check on a pair of mediocre jeans from the GAP. I’m not saying I’m an expert, and this is Betches not like, the Financial Times, but I do hope that I can share some relatable wisdom for those of you that don’t know what a credit score is, still use your parents’ credit card, or didn’t realize you can literally get paid to shop (see cash back card below). Because building credit and then deciding which cards to get once you’ve built that shit is harder than finding a quality photo of Kylie Jenner’s baby bump.
Step 1: Build Some Credit
It’s hard af to get your first credit card (see GAP story above), but it’s not impossible. Unfortunately, most starter credit cards require a deposit, will have a low credit limit, and will give you absolutely no rewards. But life is rough and we all gotta start somewhere. So if you are a total credit newbie, or have to crawl yourself back up from a shitty credit score due to overdue student loans, here are some decent options:
Capital One Platinum Card: No annual fee, and you can get an increased credit limit if you behave (read: pay that shit on time) during your first five months.
Discover it Secured Card: This ish requires a deposit, but you can get cash back on purchases and it helps you build your credit as long as you are responsible (again, pay that shit on time).
P.S. When I say “pay that shit on time” I mean ALL that shit. None of this “minimum payment due” crap—it’s is a trap. Pay your full balance whenever it is due or you will buried in interest, debt, and shitty credit for the rest of your life.
Step 2: Get Some Rewards
Turns out the benefits of credit cards extend far beyond the ability to spend more money than you have in the bank (I am by no means encouraging this behavior—seriously, don’t do it. But it is a thing). You can get free flights, hotel rooms, and free money (sorta) just by buying things with your credit card and paying it back on time. So once you have built up some credit, you should throw your debit card away, shred your cash, and get in on one of the rewards cards below, because it’s basically like getting paid for your responsible shopping habit.
Straight-Up Cash Back Rewards
Chase Freedom: You get $150 cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months. It’s basically like a buy 2 get 1 free situation.
Bank of America Cash Rewards: This card has no annual fees, you get 1% cash back on all purchases plus 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for your first $2,500 in purchases each quarter. And if you deposit your cash back into a Bank of America account, you get a 10% bonus. That’s right—literally free money.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Get 50,000 points to redeem on travel when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. So like, buy an expensive plane ticket, and then get some points to help make your next plane ticket less expensive.
Airline Specific Cards: If you fly the same airline on a regular basis, you should probably be working those mileage points. Southwest, Alaska, and United all have credit card options, and if you have United’s rewards credit card, maybe they will let you keep your dog alive.
Amex Starwood Preferred Guest: Earn enough points and you can get free nights at fancy-ass Starwood hotels (The W, St. Regis, etc.). Plus, this one is a pretty purple color and I always felt like having an American Express card means you made it in life.
Step 3: Swipe Responsibly
Whatever card you end up getting, even if it’s not one of the above credit cards, fucking pay your bill on time. Because none of the rewards from credit cards are worth it once you start getting charged interest. Set up auto pays, write it in your calendar, do whatever you need to do to pay off your balance IN FULL each month. And remember that every time you apply for a card, your credit score takes a hit (it’s a vicious cycle, I know. Life, again, is unfair). So please don’t go apply for every card on this last and say Betches told you to, because we sure as hell didn’t (and the credit bureaus aren’t gonna care).
Images: Giphy (3)