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December 11, 2012 11:26 PM   Subscribe

I need a credit card for my job. Considering my situation, what are some of the best options (in terms of credit limit and benefits) right now?

I recently graduated college. I will be starting a full time job in about a month that requires me to travel every few weeks. I need my own credit card for my expenses as my company doesn't supply one.
  • I don't have a credit history.
  • I don't have any debt either (student or otherwise).
  • I need a credit limit of at least $2000
  • I don't care about interest rate as I will not be carrying a balance I am fiscally responsible and can control my spending.
  • My salary is ~$50,000
  • I'll probably eventually get a second card for non-work use

So can I get a good credit card based on my salary instead of my non existent credit score? Is it true that spending more than 30% of your credit limit lowers your score? Even if I get a card with a limit of $2000, I'll definitely be spending more than 30% of that traveling and entertaining customers.

Of course these are questions I'll be asking my bank and employer, but I'm curious what my internets say.
posted by WhitenoisE to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've never heard the 30% thing. Paying your bill in full every month is probably the best you can do, no matter how much you spend. Trying to game the credit score isn't worth the effort.
posted by twblalock at 12:02 AM on December 12, 2012

Amazon couldn't wait to give me a credit card. Plus I got a $50 gift certificate for getting it and it gives me reward points.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:04 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Carrying more than about a third of your total lines of credit at the time a credit check is pulled can result in a lower score. How often do you anticipate your credit score being pulled in the near term? Are you planning on a car loan or mortgage soon? If not, don't worry too much about this because on the other hand successfully establishing your creditworthiness can improve your score.

By your definition, a 'good' credit card is only one that can meet your limit needs. Your salary alone will likely qualify you for that automatically. You should be able to get one that gives some cash back/rewards, though you may not yet qualify for the best deals on this.

If you aren't offered a high enough limit automatically, you can contact the credit company and negotiate. Inform them that the card will be used for business expenses (is the company reimbursing you?) and offer to provide proof of employment and/or secure at least part of line of credit through a deposit negotiable to become unsecured within a year (as an example). Shop around if need be. I'd try a credit union first.
posted by asciident at 12:20 AM on December 12, 2012

It may be difficult to get the credit limit you're looking for right off the bat, but it's not impossible. Amazon Visa is an excellent first card because of the rebates it offers for almost every purchase. You may want to try for a Target card too since it offers an instant 5% rebate on purchases made at Target stores -- you never know if that could come in handy some day while traveling. Stay away from any card that doesn't offer you some kind of rebate or has prohibitively high interest rates -- even if you are responsible it's good to have that safety net.

I wonder if you'll need someone to cosign for any card you get since you have no history to speak of. Something tells me you might.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:27 AM on December 12, 2012

If you're going to be using it regularly for business, I'd personally get a travel-related card, like one affiliated with whichever airline you use most often, to get the points or miles on it. Also, don't forget to sign up for every frequent flier and hotel loyalty program you can. Things add up and you may end up with elite status before you know it -- which not only makes extensive work travel less painful, it makes future personal travel a lot more enjoyable too.

If you call the credit card company and specifically explain that you want, say, the United Mileage Plus because you'll be traveling extensively on United for business, they may negotiate the limit you want even if your lack of credit history wouldn't normally allow it.
posted by olinerd at 1:36 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

A traditional Amex card is for you. Very common business travel card, and no pre spending limit.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:24 AM on December 12, 2012

I agree with olinerd. If you are going to travel a lot and stick on one airline, get the card associated with your frequent flyer program. Otherwise, the Chase Sapphire is a great general travel card. Assuming you aren't planning to buy a car/house anytime soon, it doesn't hurt to try a card or two that you aren't sure you'll get before you apply for the easier cards. Your salary should be able to get you some card (it might have to be a non-rewards card to start, but you should be able to get a good credit limit).

In your situation, if you get denied for a card, it doesn't hurt to call the company and talk to them before you give up and go to your next choice. Just make sure they aren't going to hard pull your credit again.
posted by sgo at 4:25 AM on December 12, 2012

Are you traveling domestically or internationally? By air or by car? Can you choose your airlines and hotel chains?

My recommendation is to choose hotel affiliated card with nice sign-up bonus provided that you qualify. Hotel points are often much more valuable and easier to redeem than airline miles. Look at Starwood and Marriott cards.

If you don't qualify for travel related cards as of yet, then build your credit history with Amazon or some such card. One way of building instant credit history is to be added as secondary user to your parent's spouses card. You don't even have to use the card.
posted by zeikka at 4:35 AM on December 12, 2012

A traditional Amex card is for you. Very common business travel card, and no pre spending limit.

As long as the expense check comes before the bill is due.
posted by gjc at 4:57 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

With your starting salary I'm surprised your postman doesn't have back problems from delivering the pre-approved credit card offers to you. When I graduated I kept track for a while and I was over 100 offers before I got bored and quit paying attention. I got multiple offers in the mail every single day of my final semester. It was nuts.
posted by COD at 5:05 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask your bank. They know your financial situation, and they'll be more likely to offer you a card since they can see your checking account, pay stubs, etc.
posted by valkyryn at 6:18 AM on December 12, 2012

Albeit in Canada and in 2007, when I started my first job I was carrying little debt (no credit history, either) and making about $60,000. I went to my bank to get a credit card as the first thing I did. They made me wait until I had a pay stub, which fair enough, and gave me a decent credit card with a limit of significantly more than you're asking for.

I would say they're a good starting point, like valkyryn. If you could get whatever the travel rewards-type card is, I would suggest that based on your situation.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:07 AM on December 12, 2012

Get multiple cards to ensure you get enough credit. You should get a Visa and mastercard. Having multiple types of cards increases likeliness that your payment methods will be accepted. Having multiple cards increases redundancy in case one is turned off by the issuer for whatever reason (eg, you became a suspect of fraud).

Lots of places don't take Amex, so it shouldn't be your only card.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2012

I travel a lot for work. Chase Sapphire Preferred is my go-to card. You can transfer their points into Hyatt or United or Southwest very easily, and if you're spending a grand or two a month on travel, the fee is worth it (if you can't duck paying it, which you often can with a call to customer service).
posted by craven_morhead at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2012

A few notes:
  • I find it quite convenient to accumulate credit well in excess of what I use, because it allows me to make large credit card purchases if I need to and it means I don't have to worry about credit card utilization affecting my credit score. asciident is correct that this really only matters when you are using your credit score, but I find it easier just not to have to bother. Note, you use your credit score more often than you think - for instance, your car insurance rate is dependent on your credit score. Also, for travel purposes, having an high credit limit is quite beneficial when you need it. I have accumulated >$8k/month on travel expenses alone without trying very hard in a high-expense area. You can also sometimes find opportunities to pay large expenses with credit, maximizing your credit card rewards. For instance, I currently pay graduate school tuition with credit and get 1% back in cash.
  • Don't underestimate the amount of credit you need! You can find yourself needing to float two months of expenses due to cash flow reasons. It's counter-intuitive, but with credit cards, you can have up to 2 months in some scenarios to pay your bill without interest. For instance, if your credit card bill happens on the first of a month and you have a 30 day grace period, if you had an expense on the second day of the month, you would have two months to pay for it without interest. This can be very helpful when your company is being slow on reimbursement checks, but you can only do it if you have sufficient credit.
  • Getting a high credit limit is easier than you think. Just regularly ask for credit line increases whether you need them or not every 6 months. I did this in college, starting with a $500 limit my sophomore year and graduating with ~$30k in credit.
  • If you are looking to get the most benefit out of your credit card, you should have an idea of what you spend your money on, and then find a credit card that maximizes the benefit for that spending. In a scenario I had where I traveled extensively for long trips (ie, more hotel stays than airplane rides), I found that hotel points were the best - I used a hotel branded card (branded with the hotel I always stayed at) to pay for absolutely everything I bought in the world. With ~$4k-$5k/month in hotel expenses, I was getting a free day in a hotel room every month from my credit card alone, worth ~$100-$150 (2.5%-3% return). I couldn't find a cash rebate card that approached anywhere near that. At the moment, I use a cash rebate card rather than a hotel card, because my expenses are varied enough that no single area dominates.
  • I've never found a credit-union branded card that is worth using since the rewards are almost universally subpar. So, from that perspective, I disagree with the suggestion to get a credit-union branded card. However, the one thing I can say is that they will work with you to get a card. When I received continual rejections for cards due to lack of credit history (due to having no debt), I went to a local bank and worked with a banker there to get my first card. I got the impression the banker had to "overrule" the credit analysis group at the bank to get me a card. I promptly used that card as credit history to get other cards that actually had valuable rewards program, but it was a good "foot in the door", as it were.

posted by saeculorum at 7:31 AM on December 12, 2012

Be careful with the Amex charge cards. Although there is officially no preset limit, Amex reserves the right to cut off your spending when they feel like it. Many people have reported this on the various internet credit card forums.

If you are only going to have one credit card, it should probably be a Visa or Mastercard anyway. If a business accepts credit cards, it will accept those. I use my Amex when I can, but many restaurants don't like it.
posted by twblalock at 8:03 PM on December 12, 2012

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