Switching from retail credit cards to general-purpose accounts isn't just good for your credit score, it's good for your overall financial future. Sure, you can save lots of money with the special deals stores offer when you sign up for their cards. Because those cards usually only work with one specific company, the banks that underwrite them see applicants as less risky. That's why they're relatively easy to get, especially when you're building credit for the first time.

While retail credit cards can help you establish the first few line items on your credit history, they often carry relatively low lines of credit. That means, if you're maxing out on a low introductory rate offer, you could end up reporting a high credit utilization rate to the credit bureaus. In turn, that could keep your credit score from climbing as fast as it could if you had a zero balance.

If you've been making on-time payments toward those cards, you might start to see some pre-qualified credit card offers in your mailbox. Search for credit card deals online, and you'll discover some balance transfer offers that can save you even more money.

Some popular entry-level cards include:

  • Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®. For years, this bank managed private credit cards on behalf of large American retailers. To extend its own brand, the U.S. arm of the major British lender has created a rewards credit card with no annual fee for those with average credit.

If you get a card with a balance transfer offer try to arrange your balance transfers in such a way that you can keep at least 70 percent of your credit limit free on any particular card, especially the card with the largest credit limit. Even if you can't do that right away, you can still improve your credit profile by paying down your debt quickly with help from a zero introductory APR credit card.

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