Top 12 "Ask the Expert" credit card questions
Written by Curtis Arnold
Posted On: May 8, 2012
Every day at CardRatings.com, readers just like you submit questions about credit cards to our "Ask the Expert" columnists. We try to pull the most compelling questions from your submissions, so readers in similar situations can also take advantage of what we've all learned.
However, we can't answer every question, so here's a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help you find what you're looking for on our site:
1. What's the best credit card?
That answer's different for everyone. On any given day, we may feature a dozen or more "five star" editors' ratings from currently available credit card offers. That doesn't mean every one's right for you. Compare credit cards based on how you manage your money, not based on an abstract APR or on the short term value of a signup bonus. To get started, read our feature on choosing from the best credit cards.
2. My credit score is X, will I be approved for Card Y?
It's tough to guess clear credit score thresholds for individual accounts. Banks usually won't divulge that information either. Barclaycard broke that trend by posting a minimum credit score of 680 on applications for its new "Ring" account. Beyond that, you're better off asking fellow readers to share their experiences in our credit card forum.
3. My credit score is Z, is that considered good?
The credit crunch of 2008 tore apart our old definitions of "good" credit scores. You could have a credit score in the high 700s, yet a rogue collections item on your credit report could kill your chances of qualifying for an elite credit card. Likewise, a score in the 600s showing signs of improvement could help you get approved for a rewards credit card that can further build your credit history. Even the statisticians who designed FICO and VantageScore will tell you that banks don't (and shouldn't) base their underwriting decisions on scores alone.
4. I really need a credit card, can you help?
Although we catalog some of the best credit card deals in the market, we don't have any sway with banks when it comes to getting applications approved. Instead, we focus on bringing you news and guidance that can help you manage your financial life effectively, so you can earn that approval on your own.
5. I have a problem with my credit card company.
Start by calling the number on the back of your card. If you can't find your card, or if you're not getting the help you need, try looking up the customer serve number on their website. If you're having severe issues, consider contacting your lender's Office of the President, or take it all the way to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Then share your story on our credit card forum.
6. Tell me more about ...
We recently reorganized CardRatings.com to help you find answers to your questions more easily. If you start with our "compare credit cards" tab, the pages listed on the left each contain an overview of each credit card type. Use the site search bar in the upper right corner of any page to see if we've already answered the question you're thinking about.
7. How much will it improve/hurt my credit score if I ...
You'll drive yourself a special kind of crazy if you try to goose your credit score. FICO officials have revealed that micromanaging your credit report rarely works. In general, you'll do best if you simply review your credit report regularly, dispute inaccurate information, keep your balances as low as possible, and do everything you can to keep your accounts current.
8. I have no income and no credit, can I get a credit card?
No. Right now, a credit card isn't what you need to build a strong financial future. Be wary of any so-called lender that tries to sell you on a high-fee, high-interest credit card at this stage of your life. They just want to set you up for ballooning finance charges that will shackle you to debt for years, in exchange for a few hundred dollars right now.
9. I'm in the middle of a bankruptcy, can I get a credit card?
No. You could damage goodwill with any lenders who aren't already part of restructuring. A no-monthly-fee prepaid debit card from a reliable issuer like American Express can give you access to online shopping and purchase protection until your judge discharges your debts.
10. I am completely new to credit cards, can you help me?
We're here for you. We believe that using credit cards responsibly can save you money in other areas of your life, while helping you build a sound credit history. Before venturing into the credit card marketplace, take a look at our frequently asked questions, our credit card glossary, and the archives from our "Ask the Expert" columns.
11. I don't have a credit card, should I get one?
If you've got a stable income and you're capable of paying your monthly bills on time, a credit card can help you manage your finances more effectively. Start with a "plain-vanilla" low interest credit card. Try to make a game of using it just once per month for a small-ticket item like a pack of gum or a candy bar. Before long, you'll qualify for rewards credit card offers that can save you money on gas, groceries and travel expenses.
12. How can I get off your mailing list?
We send out an occasional newsletter with links to the best deals and the most informative articles on our site. If you no longer want this information in your inbox, just click the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of any issue.
Keep those letters coming
Keep sending us your questions about credit cards! We post answers in our Ask the Experts column regularly. If you need a more immediate response, use our moderated credit card forum where CardRatings.com experts and fellow community members share their real-world knowledge of credit cards.
Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. New! Curtis is the author of 'How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line' (FT Press, 2008). He is also the co-author of the upcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending (Alpha Books/Pengiun Group USA, April 2009), a contribitor to The Ultimate Allowance (InnerWealth Publishing, 2008) and is extensively featured in 42 RulesTM for Driving Success With Books (Super Star Press, January 2009).