Q: I have a credit score of 635, and I'm self-employed. Does this hurt my ability to get a credit card?
With a little research and some flexibility, you should be able to find an account that can help you improve your credit score.
Because your question didn't reveal specifics about how your credit score got to be 635 and what you're intending to do with a new line of credit, I'll make some assumptions. Entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals tolerate a far higher level of risk than most people. Depending on your level of success, you could either earn a larger income than a typical worker in your industry, or you could end up broke.
Before proceeding, ensure you've split your personal and business finances into separate accounts. If you're operating as a sole proprietor under your own name, you can use your business checking account statement to prove a consistent income to lenders. If you've established a corporation or an LLC, you'll want to establish a credit history under your company's name. As you proceed, consider these tactics:
- Open a secured credit card. If you can afford to park a few hundred dollars in a linked savings account for a year or two, banks such as Capital One, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo all offer affordable secured credit cards that, with responsible credit card use on your side, may help you build trust with lenders.
- Open a prepaid debit card with American Express. AmEx operates sophisticated prepaid cards under the Serve, BlueBird, and American Express brands, all with slightly different features. Under most conditions, you won't have to pay to use these cards. Better still, American Express monitors prepaid debit card usage to determine whether you might qualify for a traditional charge card.
- Open a small business credit card. Some lenders tolerate a little more risk from applicants for small business and professional credit cards. However, since these commercial accounts fall outside the scope of many consumer banking regulations, you may not get the same personal protections against changes in rates and fees. You'll also still be personally liable for any balance if your business folds.
As you make more payments on time and keep your credit utilization ratio low, you'll qualify for more small business credit card offers with better terms.