Let’s Talk Credit Cards Part 1
I love writing articles about coding but another interest and passion of mine is credit cards. Full disclosure: I am not a licensed financial advisor. I just really love credit cards and I love talking about them. I truly believe that if used correctly, it can benefit everyone.
Let’s get right to it!
What is a credit score?
Think back to the Black Mirror episode, Nosedive, in which everyone’s social score was open for viewing. Although a credit score is not as public, it does affect one’s ability to obtain loans at a reasonably low interest rate.
Some might think, Oh, I’ll never need a loan.
But, for the others who might need a loan for a house or a car, having a high credit score is important. I’ll list some ways to build and maintain your credit score throughout the article.
I remember receiving my first credit card as an authorized user for my father’s Chase Freedom Unlimited when I was a high school student. Little Eva did not know what it even meant to have that rectangular plastic.
Years later, I came to learn that being an authorized user of someone who is great at paying their statements meant I was positively impacted. I did not check my credit score until my freshman year in college and at that point, it was somewhere around the 730–750.
My first recommendation is to ask someone, preferably a partner or your parents (so there is mutual trust), to make you their authorized user under one of their credit cards. Preferably one with a long history. But I understand that this isn’t available to everyone, so let’s go on to the next recommendation.
Secured Credit Card
There are several types of Secured Credit Cards. One type requires an initial deposit of about $100-$1000, which you will be eligible to get back as long as you maintain a good credit standing and owe nothing to the credit card issuer. The credit limit will the be amount that you deposit into the card. The credit limit is the amount you’re allowed to swipe on the card.
I recommend signing up for the credit card issuer’s online bill payment service (if it exists) and pay off the balance the moment you see it. It is ideal to maintain your credit utilization under 10% as a general rule before your billing cycle ends. For example, if your billing cycle is from the 2nd of the month to the 2nd of the next month, you can expect your statement to be due about three weeks from the last date of the cycle. If your credit limit is $1000, try to stay below $100 by the time your billing cycle closes.
Typically, Secured Credit Cards are for people with no credit history or ruined credit. These credit cards generally have low credit limits and little to no rewards system. Thus, it’s best to pay off every purchase immediately or just use the card to make small purchases. Most banks offer Secured Credit Cards and you can either go to a branch or go online to sign up for one. There are some that have annual fees, so please sign up for ones that do not!
Student Credit Card
As the name suggests, students are eligible for Student Credit Cards. Generally, you need to prove that you’re still a student. Most student credit cards have a simple reward system but generally, credit limits are low at first.
However, because there are Student Credit Cards that offer a reward system, I think it is to your benefit to swipe this card for whatever you can afford.
What do I mean by “whatever you can afford”? It means whatever is within your budget. PLEASE ALWAYS PAY EVERYTHING IN FULL.
There are times when credit card issuers give a nice signup offer of a 0% interest rate for about 12–18 months, but you’re still required to pay the minimum payment. Generally, anything that isn’t paid in full by the end of the promo period will be billed as if the promo period never existed. Please read the terms and conditions clearly. If you’re signing up in-branch, ask the banker for full details. If you’re signing up online, use the bank’s “Contact Us” feature so that you fully understand what you’re signing up for.
It is tempting to not pay back everything in full, but it is never worth paying interest. Please swipe your card responsibly. With proper discipline and knowledge, you can use the credit card system to your advantage.
List of Credit Cards I Have
Discover It ® Gas and Restaurants Card
My first Student Credit Card is the Discover It ® Gas and Restaurants Card that gives 2% cashback at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1000 in combined purchases each quarter. Anything after that will accrue 1% cashback. There are 4 quarters per calendar year, so you’ll be eligible to earn 2% cashback for a total of $4000, which is $80.
I signed up for this card as a sophomore in college and was given $1000 credit limit. It is now at five digits now. I love getting credit limit increases and you should get comfortable asking for them! It is a good way to lower your credit utilization rate as long as you are responsible and disciplined, and have maintained a good credit standing with the issuer.
I know some people who feel more comfortable having a low credit limit because they think they will use it all up. It’s up to you.
For example, if you only use the $1000 per quarter on restaurants and gas stations, you’ll get $80 by default. Discover will match that at %100, meaning you will get another $80. You’re literally getting paid to shop!
This was one of the cards I used consistently throughout my first two to three years of college. It has no annual fee and Discover has over 100 designs to choose from, so you can customize your credit card.
- I actually like this card, so I recommend this for any students trying to start out their credit score journey but still be able to get some cashback.
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
I think I got this card three months after I signed up for the Discover Card. (At the time, I really did not know what I was doing. I don’t recommend signing up for cards every three months. Please wait at least half a year to a year before signing up for another one.)
I was only given a $500 credit limit when I first signed up, but it is also at five digits now. It is worth asking! Sometimes issuers will increase it automatically after reviewing your credit standing, but if you think having a higher credit limit will benefit you, it is worth asking.
Amazon offers a $70 Amazon gift card upon approval, so that was one of the main reasons I was so tempted. Oh, and it’s a metal card, so it makes that nice clank sound.
Unlike the Discover It Card, the Amazon Card does not limit how much you can earn per quarter. This card is great if you order from Amazon or shop at Whole Foods often. The cashback for the other categories is decent but nothing to rave about.
There are other benefits but the basic ones are:
This card has no annual fee as long as you maintain an Amazon Prime membership. Your card will be automatically downgraded to the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. The main difference after the downgrade is that the 5% back at Amazon and Whole Foods Market will become 3%. Oh, and it’ll no longer be a metal card. I currently have the downgraded version because I no longer qualify for Student Prime. However, I still use this card whenever I shop on Amazon.
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
American Express (Amex), as I have learned, is quite generous with their credit limits, as they started me off with five digits. I got this card about a year after the Amazon one.
At the time of signup, there was an offer of 10,000 Membership Rewards® points. This card does not offer cashback. You get points for every purchase. I see this card benefiting people who shop at grocery stores often, as this card offers 2x points at grocery stores. After your 20th purchase of the billing cycle, all of the points for that month will be multiplied by 1.2!
For example, if you were to spend $500 at the grocery store and $100 elsewhere for January’s billing cycle, you will get a base of 1100 points. However, if the $600 was spent across 21 purchases, 1100 will be multiplied by 1.2, meaning the total points you will get is 1320 points! I remember swiping this card often at my college’s vending machines. Great times.
Another way to earn 2x points is through the Amextravel site, but it is not a feature I have used because I generally order my flights directly with the airline.
The Amex Points can be redeemed on the Americanexpress website.
There are so many ways to redeem! The main way I’ve redeemed is through gift cards and “Go Shopping”. The “Go Shopping” feature allows the user to redeem merchandise with the accumulated points. If the user does not have enough to cover the cost, Amex allows the user to pay the rest in cash. As a college student, I was absolutely ecstatic to redeem my first (and only) pair of Airpods back in 2019. It is still fully functional!
Another important feature to mention is that across all Amex cards is this “Amex Offers” feature that gives you lots of coupons to shop online (and some are for in-store). Here is a list of some of the current coupons.
This card has no annual fee! I enjoy using cards with no annual fees because I won’t feel forced to spend money as often. I also don’t think I can spend enough to cover the annual fee.
- I am a fan of Amex cards, so I recommend this one as well.