MetaFilter's Credit Wizards: How should I go about acquiring a credit card ASAP when I'm 38-years-old and *possibly* have no credit history?
posted by armoir from antproof case to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My aim is threefold; in summary:
1. get a credit card as soon as possible
2. [re]build my credit most advantageously
3. take full/best advantage of work opportunities that are driving #1 and which could aid #2
Reason for the urgency: my employer is sending me on an international trip in mid January. I'll soon need to buy plane tickets, etc. So I figure I need to acquire a credit card by Dec 15th with which to make this happen. At my company, everyone who travels uses their own cards then submits expenses which are reimbursed promptly. There *may* be an option for the company pay up-front for airfare and hotel, but my thinking is that if I get a credit card, then rack up several thousand in charges and pay them off quickly, it's a big win for building my credit. (Other folks on my team travel frequently so I've no concerns about prompt re-imbursement.). Plus, if I pay using my own card (as opposed to an AMEX Corporate Card, which I've been told I can get), I'll get "the miles".
As for my concerns about getting a sufficient amount (~$5k - $7k) of credit, quickly, here's the context:
- I haven't had a line of credit in about 7 or 8 years. I'd gotten a huge amount of unsecured credit (from Citibank) early on in life (probably a "student" card, initially, in 1992-1994, but frankly I don't remember); but over time I didn't manage it well. I paid the minimum balance *for years* yet repeatedly received unsolicited extensions to my credit line until finally in 2004 or 2005 I made a couple late payments, then missed payments, on a ~$20k balance I'd been carrying for a couple years. This led to Collections. I eventually paid this off by writing a ~$20k check to the collections agency (and have the records to show it, FWIW), but subsequently my credit history still showed this as a write-down for Citibank, so, no win there. Sigh. Anyway, I have been living without use of any credit for 7 years & feel I'm ready to give it another go.
- I don't know my current credit score; I haven't run a credit report in years. But a few months ago (mid-2012) while shopping for a new car, my wife and I both had credit checks run by a would-be car seller (Toyota). Hers is stellar, but when the guy came out of the back office to tell us what he'd found about mine, he was flabbergasted. He literally said, "I've never seen this before. You're, like, totally off the grid. There's NOTHING on you." There wasn't even a score for me (?). Anyway, between her sterling credit and my monthly income (about $5700) we had no problem getting a loan (from BofA - see below) for the car.
- I'm able to apply for an Amex Corp Card through my employer, but I'm unsure of the implications in terms of:
(a) the extent to which my own credit history (or lack thereof) might complicate this;
(b) is this a non-starter if my aim is to [re]build, to the greatest extent possible, my own credit standing?;
(c) at about the same time (in '04, '05) as I'd fell behind on the Citibank payments, I had an ~$1800 on a personal Amex card, which was sent to collections and which I completely ignored/avoided. I've not seen an attempt from the collections agency in a few years. So I can understand why the credit check performed by the car dealer may not have detected this, but I'm certainly concerned that AMEX may delve a little deeper into their own records to see if a miscreant such as myself may be asking them for a card, again, just a few years later....
- My personal bank accounts are with Bank of America, as are my wife's ; and together we have a couple shared checking and savings accounts. So one option of course is to apply for a card through BofA, and they know how much I make ($2800 paycheck is direct-deposited every two weeks); however, earlier this year there were a couple overdrafts on our shared checking accounts so I'm not sure how much that might deter them from extending credit to me. On the flip side: the car loan mentioned above, which is in my wife's name, is currently being paid every month by Yours Truly, via a transfer from my personal BofA checking account, to the loaner (which is also BofA).
SO, my dear, patient, and much appreciated (!) reader, we are finally at some specific questions:
(1) Is there (a) even a decent possibility that I might obtain an unsecured line of credit (~$5k to $7k) within the next two weeks, or (b) does my credit history (or potentially the lack thereof) suggest that my only (or best) option is to pursue a secured credit card?
(2) If 1(a) then: Should I go for the Corp AMEX, or eschew it altogether? Would my faithful repayment of charges positively affect my own credit standing?
(3) Should I bother to run a credit check myself prior to applying for a card, or would the record of my having just done that instead "count against me" in the eyes of the would-be credit application reviewer?
(4) Should I go for a card from my own bank (Bank of America) or would it be better to apply to another company (INSERT_YOUR_RECOMMENDATION_HERE)? Another option is USAA - my wife has a card through them.
Thanks very much for your help, hivemind!