Good credit card for a young-ish couple looking to rebuild credit?
April 29, 2014 12:41 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are older, full-time college students with part-time jobs. She has a couple of blemishes on her credit history, whereas mine is pretty limited. I'm looking for a good card to help us establish more credit and help repair hers, that can also offer cool rewards -- either in the form of cash back or rewards points. Details inside.

Her: Before she had joined the military, she made the mistake of rooming up with some sketchy folks, and, long story short, they were evicted from their apartment and she ended up in a pretty messy legal battle that (if my memory serves me correctly) resulted in her being sued by her former roommates for some unknown reason. She also defaulted on student loan payments while stationed overseas as her finances weren't handled by anyone back home. Now that she is out and back in school with steady income, she is now a fiscally responsible adult. However, we were approved for our current apartment only because my name is also on the lease.

Me: Having recently left the nest, the longest standing credit history I have is through my Chase Visa, which I was approved for pre-financial crisis at age 18. By my own admission, my spending habits weren't the greatest and I do have some blemishes myself, although I've been paying off full statement balances for the past several months now and my FICO score skyrocketed (>650). Recently, we've decided to purchase a new mattress through interest-free financing, so I imagine that will also benefit my credit (it's under my bank account) as we will have it paid off before the interest kicks in.

I'm still using my Amazon Visa as my staple card, but I'd like for her and I to have one for small purchases that can help both of our credit; preferably one with some kind of rewards. We have two friends who are also a couple that share the green AMEX; if I want a card (or maybe two--both linked to the same account), would it be best for me to sign up for it and have her as an authorized user? How does that even work? If it helps, I work at a commercial bank...but the reviews on our credit cards tend to be pretty mixed. I haven't had the opportunity of seeing if there are any sort of employee benefits or bonuses connected to any of them.

Also, I realize that while my heart really wants travel rewards points, more basic incentives like cash back is probably a better starting point for us at the moment since we hardly travel...although we have a strong desire to in the indefinite future.
posted by HiphopAnonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Check with your bank. Most offer credit cards, the terms tend to be fair, and your bank is going to be more likely to extend you credit than an entity that doesn't know you at all.

Get your own cards though, and don't put both names on one. Better that way, at least for now.
posted by valkyryn at 3:53 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

The three different things you're asking for (credit builder, joint card with non-spouse, spending rewards) are unlikely to be served by a single product and are at odds with each other. I highly recommend a one-on-one conversation with a nonprofit financial counselor. I work for a credit union & it's astounding to me what a 6-month credit builder loan can do for people's credit.

But they'd work individually with you both. Your credit is like your SSN - you might use it alongside someone else's on forms and applications, but it represents you only, and you're responsible for keeping it safe.
posted by headnsouth at 4:21 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Keep your finances separate, don't get any kind of joint account, don't co-sign for ANYTHING!

I recommend two people for information about money and credit, Suze Orman, and Dave Ramsey. I think Dave Ramsey is a smug jerk, but his advice is sound. Suze Orman will help you understand how credit works.

If you belong to a credit union, and you earnestly feel the need to get a credit card, get one through your credit union.

Time and good payments rebuild credit.

Unless you have agreed to marry, don't mix your finances. If you can't commit to a long term relationship/marriage, you shouldn't mix your money.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:31 AM on April 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Separate cards, separate cards, separate cards! Do not "go in together" on one credit card. You each need to individually re-build your credit.

To answer your specific question. Open Sky is a secured credit card that your girlfriend can obtain with no problem. This particular one has helped me in the past.

If you/she doesn't know what a secured credit card is, read about it here.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:11 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely get and maintain separate cards and credit accounts.

Now, if you're looking for good credit cards that have modest rewards but also have no fees, I can personally vouch for the Chase Freedom and American Express Cash cards. Both deliver about 1-3% on average cash back, and have no annual fees. I was able to get both with modest-decent credit.

For her, the best way for her to start rebuilding credit is really to keep paying bills on time. If she needs a jump-start (and can't get a decent credit card yet), a secured credit card is the way to go.
posted by General Malaise at 9:06 AM on April 29, 2014

Try a secured card with reward. Wells Fargo offers it.
posted by shoesietart at 12:35 PM on April 29, 2014

I think Dave Ramsey is a smug jerk too. So I follow Clark Howard instead. (Howard does not promote his financial suggestions as being Christian, either).

I suggest you check out a message board called CreditBoards. I used the board to help clean up my husband's credit and find out about better offers. A lot of the people are very rude, but there's good information there.
posted by mitschlag at 10:21 AM on May 8, 2014

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