How to know when it’s time to give up a startup credit card
As far as the first credit card relationships go, it’s been good. Your starter card taught you to be responsible and think differently about your financial priorities, and it taught you that time (and bills) wait for no one.
But ultimately, your first credit card relationship must evolve. Breaking the card and starting a new, more mature credit relationship doesn’t have to be scary.
Here’s how to know when it’s time to give up your starting credit card.
When your credit scores have been lifted
When you get started with credit, you quickly learn that it’s a Catch-22: Usually, you need credit to get credit. If you don’t have a credit history, it can be difficult to get approved for many credit cards.
As a result, most people take one of two starting credit card paths:
- Secured credit cards: For many newcomers to the credit arena, a secured credit card can be a great tool for building credit. You pay an initial deposit, typically $ 200 to $ 300, and get it back when you close the account in good standing. In turn, the credit limit on your secured credit card is usually equal to the amount of your deposit.
- Unsecured Credit Cards: There are cards specially designed for people with little or no credit. Since they don’t require a deposit, they can look more attractive. But these cards often come with high fees that can drastically cut your budget when trying to build credit, and they often have low limits as well.
Nerdy tip: Having a low credit limit doesn’t just hurt your ability to make a big purchase; it can also hurt your scores. The percentage of available credit you use is called credit utilization rate, and it’s a big factor in your credit scores. If you have a balance greater than 30% of your available credit, it can have a negative impact.
If you’ve used a starter credit card responsibly and paid the monthly bills as they come due, over time you’ll see a positive change in your credit scores. Once your FICO credit score slipped into the “fair” range, usually between 630 and 689, you will unlock the possibility of being considered for more attractive card options. Once you get into the “right” range, typically 690-719, the choices expand even more.
Financial coach and author Shanté Nicole Harris recommends that newbies “start with a secure card, but only use it as a stepping stone to eventually get the unsecured credit card you really want with no deposits or high fees.”
Some secure credit card issuers will automatically upgrade your card to an unsecured version and refund your deposit, but others will not. Contact your card issuer for your options.
If your departure card is not really yours
Become a Authorized user on someone else’s credit account is a great way to start building credit. When added as an authorized user, you take advantage of the other person’s good credit habits and your credit scores benefit.
This is a popular and effective strategy for those new to credit, so authorized user cards often function as starter credit cards.
But, the scoring modification powers of an authorized user’s credit card are limited. The primary cardholder, not the authorized user, is responsible for paying invoices. As such, being an authorized user of a credit card will likely give you a good kick, but it might not have a huge impact on your credit scores.
Once you’ve achieved better credit scores, it’s time to stop following yourself. Instead, open your own credit card account. You’ll help your credit scores even more with your own card, as long as you pay bills on time and keep balances low.
“When you’ve been added as an authorized user, it’s like getting training wheels on a credit card,” says Winnie Sun, managing director and founding partner of Sun Group Wealth Partners. “The primary cardholder can help you right now. Eventually, you’ll want to get your own credit card, and still be able to easily be removed as an authorized user from someone else’s card.
When your card isn’t as rewarding as it could be
When celebrity-strewn TV commercials tout credit card sign-up bonuses and luxurious perks, there’s something they don’t tell you: Unless you have good or great credit, you will probably not be approved. The reality is that the most rewarding credit cards are usually not designed for newbies.
Rewards are increasingly common for some starting cards, but not all cards offer them. Chances are your starting credit card isn’t earning any rewards, and if it does, there are probably better options.
If your starter card had high enough credit scores, usually at least 690, you could qualify for a more rewarding card that pays:
- Cash back: It’s not hard to find a card that earns at least 1.5% cash back on daily purchases, or up to 5% on rotating categories, with no annual fee.
- Travel rewards: A plethora of travel cards reserved for people with a higher credit rating can offer airline miles, hotel night certificates, travel credits and more.
- Cryptocurrency: A new generation of cards provides the opportunity to participate in the cryptocurrency craze with rewards.
Derrick Dye, who lives in Baltimore, went from a card that looked cool, with his favorite team logo on it, but didn’t win any notable awards, to a credit card with travel rewards.
“After seeing my credit scores go up, I decided to apply for a rewards credit card,” Dye said. “With my new travel rewards card, I quickly racked up enough points to take vacations that I probably couldn’t afford before. “
Sun notes that closing your departure card is not always the best solution. If you can keep the line of credit open but switch to a more rewarding card, it may be better for your credit history as it helps increase the average age of your accounts.
“If there’s no annual fee, keep it,” she says. “Take it out at least once a year, use the card, pay it off, and keep that credit history. This is an important part of maintaining a strong credit rating – a healthy, longer credit history.