What is a credit card?
A credit card is a plastic card that allows the holder access to a line of credit from a financial institution. Using the line of credit is like getting a short-term, pre-approved loan from the bank, but the interest on the loan is much higher than a regular loan. Some cards offer perks like frequent-flier miles, cash back, warranties or rental car insurance with use, so in many cases paying with a credit card can be more beneficial than paying with cash.
Why is credit card important?
Credit cards allow consumers to have access to more money than they can safely carry around, and they can provide an extra source of money to use for unexpected expenses. Additionally, goods such as airline tickets, rental cars and hotel rooms, can only be secured with credit cards since they offer protection for companies in case you don’t pay the bill.
Build a credit history.
This is probably the toughest and most time-consuming part of the process. One way to do this is to request a secured credit card from your bank. You must secure the card with your own money, so you do not spend more than you can pay back. Be sure to make payments faithfully on your secured card. If you can’t get a secured card, start small: ask if your landlord can vouch for your timeliness in paying your rent, or attempt to buy something you needed anyway on store credit. After a few months of staying current on your bills, your credit should look good to credit card companies.
Shop around for a card that best fits your purchasing habits.
Do you plan to fly home often? If so, you might want a card that gives you frequent-flier miles. Do you plan to carry a balance from month to month? If so, find a card with the lowest interest rates. Be sure to read and understand the fine print.
Apply, once you have found the card(s) you like.
You may apply over the phone, by mail or online. On the application, you must supply the following information:
Name: This is the name that you have on your credit report. If you put a different name, processing of your application may be delayed.
Social Security Number/Tax ID: You must provide this information, as it is a unique identifier. Companies use this information to access your credit report and other financial information.
Address: This is the address to which they will send your bills and card. The company will also ask how long you have lived at your current address and how much you pay for mortgage or rent. They may use this information to get a general figure of your debt load and disposable income.