I have some medical bills that have been turned over to a credit collector and my credit score is 640. Am I eligible for a credit card for travel?

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Q: I need a credit card with a low interest rate, no annual fee, and a credit limit of $3,000. I am paying off my NFCU, but due to a lot of medical bills, I have some bills that have been turned over to a credit collector. I can get by without the credit card, but I would like to have one that I could use if I travel. Am I eligible for a credit card? My credit score is 640.

A: You're just on the bubble of being eligible for some travel rewards credit cards, but you may need to put some of your own cash on the line first.

Though I've seen applicants get approved with credit scores worse than yours, that collection activity on your medical bills may prevent you from taking advantage of most instant decision credit card offers. Even though you're making regular payments on your other debts, try to find a way to knock that collection off your credit report.

In the meantime, you'll want a basic credit card that can help you with routine travel expenses. I always prefer to travel with a credit card rather than a debit card, since debit cards allow hotels and car rental agencies to place significant holds on the funds in your account. On a recent weekend trip, my rental car authorized an overage of $500, while my hotel wanted to reserve $700 above my room rate. I'm not sure all the minibar peanuts on the whole property were worth that much.

Therefore, I'll suggest a credit cards for fair credit that may help you get through your next road trip.

If you can't qualify for a unsecured credit card, you may want to apply for a secured credit card. If you can afford to stash some extra cash in a linked savings account, a secured card can help absorb those extra travel authorizations without putting your checking account balance at risk.

In addition, check out offers from institutions you may have other business with, such as:

  • Bank of America
  • Wells Fargo
  • U.S. Bank
  • Your local credit union

I don't know that you'll find a no-annual-fee credit card until you get the collection activity removed from your credit report. However, if you stick to this list and avoid the crummy offers showing up in your mailbox, you'll be able to spend the least amount of money possible to get a Visa or MasterCard.


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