Introduction and Credit Scores

I created this site since friends kept asking for my advice on which credit card to get. It seemed easier to just write it all down!

Unless otherwise stated, my advice is for people with good credit that are able to pay off their entire credit card balance each month. For those that are looking to improve their credit, consider the Orchard Bank Secured Mastercard.

You also accept that my advice is provided as a courtesy and you agree to do your own research. Applying for credit can have a negative effect on your credit score (see below). Also, credit card bonus offers change rapidly — while I try to keep this site up to date, you must check the credit card company’s website for the latest rules before you apply.

When you apply for a credit card, the credit card companies will notify the credit card agencies (even if you are rejected). When applying for credit in the future, the fact that you applied for credit in the past can effect your credit score. The most important credit score is performed by Fair Isaac and called the “FICO”. The best theoretical credit score is an 850. Basically anything 760 or over is ideal. The median score in Massachusetts, for example, is around 730.

Generally to get the best score, you should:

  • Always pay your bills on time – this is the most important thing by far
  • Use less than 10% of your available credit, certainly less than 50%
  • If you have had a credit card for a very long time, don’t close it, convert it to one with no annual fee and lock it in the safe if you don’t want to use it.
  • Be judicious on how many new credit cards you open. If you have a long history and always pay your bills on time, you can probably afford to “churn” a few credit cards a year. However, someone with some blemishes, who is getting a mortgage this year or who is just starting out their first job needs to be more careful.

Please see Score Info for more information about credit scores from Fair Isaac.

If you want additional comfort, you can get and monitor your score through Equifax for apx. $13/month. Checking your own score does not affect your credit.

Edit 8/1/11:

My wife and I were just approved to refinance our condo. In the process they ran our credit scores. While the score reports did note that we recently opened a lot of accounts, it certainly wasn’t a big negative as my scores were 763/810/763 and my wife’s were 751/763/741 (hers are a bit lower since she has a much shorter credit history — I believe she got her first credit card in 2009 or 2010). See our redacted score reports here. Note that some banks may say something like, so why have you opened 7 credit cards in the past 2 months. Worst case should be that you send them a letter saying it was for bonus points and maybe some screen grabs showing low balances. You may annoy your processor if you order too many cards between your loan application date and loan approval date since they may have to check up on each of them. Again, all of this changes if you have any negative info on your report. Clean up any problems before getting into the game.

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