Finance Charge. That’s what I saw on my credit card bill every month until I learned how to get out of debt. Sure, it’s easy to tell someone to stop spending money, but when I was a young adult in my 20’s, I didn’t listen. You could tell someone to stop drinking or stop smoking, it’s just not that easy. There aren’t enough rappers and celebrities talking about fiscal responsibility. If I knew back then how to build good credit and all the credit tips I know now, my life would have been significantly easier.
The best way to start building credit is to start using credit. That means at 18 years old, you need to apply for credit cards, use them responsibly, and learn about credit utilization. You also need to learn about how to avoid finance charges and the fact that you can any finance charge or bank fee refunded! Yes, that does sound boring. It is boring to learn about the best way to build credit when your other option is spending money and having a good time. But you can do BOTH! In this post, we’ll go how long does it take to get a good credit score and ways to get your finance charges refunded from the bank.
In this post, you’ll learn how to build your credit, maintain a good score, and how to get deal with banks. That’s not all, you’ll also learn about why you need a good credit score and all the amazing things a good credit score can get you.
How fast can you raise your credit score? That’s a journey that takes years. You can buy a tradeline which has a temporary credit boost effect, but you should start with understanding how to get a good credit score:
1. You Need Debt
A way to build good credit is to apply for credit. Student loans, secured credit cards, credit cards are good ways to start. To get good credit you need to be using credit. It’s that simple, but it’s easy to fall into debt if you don’t have self-control.
Frankly, debt sucks. I don’t like being in debt. I was all cash when I was younger until I got a credit card. Many credit card companies know young people are irresponsible and count on them to spend frivolously. The debt generates finance charges and the banks win.
I’m not that competitive, but I don’t like losing to banks if I don’t have to.
2. Build your credit history
If your goal is to build up a healthy credit score, you should start as soon as possible. The first step is getting a credit card. You should apply for as many credit cards with no fees as possible. Not all at once, but in general, this builds up your credit history much faster. When cards have no annual fee, it’s best to keep them open FOREVER. You will need to maintain activity on the credit card so the bank doesn’t close it on you.
3. Maintain activity on your credit cards
If you don’t maintain activity on a credit card, there’s a chance that the bank will close the credit card. This is very bad for your credit. To maintain activity on your credit card to keep it open, I suggest spending on it so something registers on the statement date at least once every 6 to 12 months.
4. It’s a long term game
How long does it take to get a good credit score?
It takes at least 5 years to get a good credit score over 700. You need to start building a credit history with multiple lenders (aka Banks). As more lenders give you lines of credit, your overall credit limit goes up and that helps out your credit score. You also need to understand how credit utilization works if you want to get a good credit score.
5. You need to know math
How does Credit Utilization work?
Hey, thanks for asking! That’s a very responsible question. You’re already on your way to getting a better credit score. Credit Utilization is a simple calculation based on your available credit and current credit card limits. For your total credit limit based on all your credit cards (5 cards at a $2k limit each = $10k total credit limit), you should never go over 30% utilization. So if you have a total credit limit of $10k between all your credit cards, you should NOT go over $3,000 in credit in total credit card spend.
Now, here’s where things get tricky with credit utilization. For any single credit card, you should never go over 50% utilization. So if you have a credit card with a $2,000 limit, you should never spend over $1,000 on that credit card. By going over the 50% credit utilization threshold, your credit score will go down.
Make sure to have 1% to 10% on your credit card statement
We’re not done yet. If you think you can just pay all your debts, that’s actually bad too. You need to make sure you have a statement balance of at least 1% of your total credit limit at all times. That means, if you have a total credit limit of $10,000, you should have at least $100 total among any of your credit cards on your statement date. Keeping up? It’s not simple.
The logic behind this is that if you want a good credit score, you need to be using your credit. If you are using your credit BUT paying off the balances to $0 before your statement date, when your statement appears as $0 that is reported to the credit card companies. When the credit card reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, Transunion) see that you aren’t using any credit, that’s when your score goes down.
Having a total credit utilization between 1% to 10% is the best way to build credit. Credit reporting agencies reward this responsibility by increasing your credit score. Just make sure to pay within 21 days otherwise the finance charges begin.
6. Know when to avoid finance charges
When Do Finance Charges Appear On My Account?
Finance charges appear on your account 21 days after your credit card statement date. Make sure to pay off the statement balance to avoid the fee. But if you do get hit with a finance charge, you can actually get it waived at least once per year! You just have to call the bank and ask them why you have that charge and if they can waive the fee as a one-time courtesy. You’ll be surprised that you can get a finance charge bank fee refund.
7. Monitor your credit score
Monitoring your credit score is an important part of getting a good credit score. You’ll see the immediate results of what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. The best way to start building credit is to start understanding it. So you can start by monitoring your credit score for free at Credit Karma. The service is surprisingly free and they break down each part of your credit report…it’s like a report card. There are more options on the Resources page.
8. You can change your credit report
Keeping Your Credit Report Clean From Closed Accounts
Let’s say you have a credit card you haven’t used in years. The bank may choose to close that line of credit due to inactivity. If this happens, call them and ask them to update the report to you requesting the account closed. This will save you from having a negative strike against your credit score.
When credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, Transunion) see that you had an account closed involuntarily, it will make your score down. That’s why calling the bank and telling them to update the status on your credit report to YOU choosing to close the account can make a big difference.
9. You can get refunds for almost any bank fee
Whenever I had to pay finance charges, I felt like it was a poor tax. Technically, very true because there is a Poverty Premium where people with bad credit get higher interest rates. It took a while to learn that you can get a bank fee refund by just calling and asking. It’s really that simple.
Always Take The Waived Fee Today Instead of Tomorrow
When I had no idea how bank fees worked, I actually called the bank because I didn’t understand why I got charged for using an ATM for a different bank. They actually told me that they can waive the fee BUT they can ONLY do it once per year. I was then given the option to waive the fee now or save it for later. I’ll admit that I made the stupid choice, I chose to accept the fee and saved the option to waive the bank fee later.
Even though it was $5, it still hurts to think I made the wrong choice cause I felt pressured into saving the waived fee for later. In case you’re wondering why it’s a bad choice, waiving the bank fee later doesn’t give you more value for your money. It’s the same bank refund either now or later. They count on you to not call about fees so of course the bank will always try to get more money out of you.
Make Banks work for you
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how credit works, how to get a good credit score, what can good credit gets you, and more. I’ve had over 100 different credit cards with banks for the sign-up bonuses which is somewhere around $50k in profit…technically A LOT more if you want to include the cash value of the first-class flights from the frequent flyer miles.
Anyhoo, that’s enough history, I’ll just explain what does good credit get you and how you can get bank refunds. (see #12)
10. Turn on Auto Pay
I’ve actually missed bank payments just because I forgot to pay. I got charged $5 for a yearly service I have on a credit card I never use. It’s just something I do to keep the card active. But this caused me to be 2 months late on a payment! I was hit with finance charges and late fees.
When I found out, I immediately paid the bill online and called the bank. I explained to them the situation and asked them if they would not report the late payment to my credit report. The bank representative was nice and agreed to my request. I then tried to push my luck. I told them, “This was a one-time mistake and I’ve turned on autopayment. Would it be possible to get a refund for the finance charge and late payment fee?”
Yes, it is possible. I got a refund!
Avoiding Missed Payments on your Credit Report
A big part of your credit score is on-time payments. If you want an excellent credit score, you need to have a perfect payment history. Any time you miss a payment and it shows up on your credit report, your credit score will quickly drop.
11. Accrue a lot of bank fees, then ask to get them waived
I have successfully waived fees with most banks. So if you didn’t know, most national banks in the United States like Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America all have non-branch ATM fees on their debit cards. When I travel, I use my Schwab Checking Account because they have NO ATM fees globally even if it’s in a different currency. Here’s the thing, in 2019 my Schwab debit card expired while I was on an extended trip. It was going to be another month until I could get my new debit card from Schwab. My only alternative option, was a Chase debit card.
- Hit with a finance charge? Ask them to waive it.
- How to avoid overdraft fees? Ask them to waive it.
- Hit with a foreign exchange fee? Ask them to waive it.
- ATM fees? Ask them to waive it.
If you go to the Chase Checking, I guarantee you won’t find their fee list. You have to dig DEEP on their website to find out what type of fees are associated with any bank account. I love Chase though, because they have really good sign up bonuses (not an ad).
Chase Bank Fees
The Chase debit card has a $5 non-Chase bank fee and an additional 3% transaction fee when withdrawing money internationally. You’ll also have to pay any additional ATM fee if there is one. Typically that’s another $5 to $7 depending on the country. All that added up is about 13% in fees when withdrawing $100 from the ATM. That’s a lot of money…but you can waive it!
I RARELY use my Chase debit card and it’s just a back-up emergency debit card. My only purpose for my Chase bank account is to make it easier to apply for their credit cards. So to sum that up, I haven’t called the Chase to waive any fees related to my debit card in years. For the month I lived internationally, I was withdrawing money and racking bank fees through Chase. This happened through several transactions.
Even though I could have called Chase to ask them to waive the fees, I didn’t…yet. I waited because I knew I would be using the debit card for a month so I let the bank fees pile up. I waited until I got my banking statement to see that I had $80 in ATM and foreign exchange fees. That’s when I made the call.
Calling Chase To Get Bank Fees Refunded
When you contact Chase bank, you have the option to message them through their website or through a phone call. In this type of situation, I always prefer talking to the bank on the phone. I just feel like it’s harder to say no to a person over a phone call than through an email. So here’s a breakdown of what happened on the call.
- I politely told the Chase Rep that I noticed there were a lot of fees on my account that I didn’t understand. There were A LOT of ATM fees and foreign transaction fees that I “wasn’t aware of.”
- Then I nicely said, “That’s a lot of money. I didn’t know there would be these types of fees for using the ATM. Is there any way that we can get the fees waived as a one-time courtesy?”
- They said, “Sure.”
That’s all. You just have to ask nicely! It works more often than you think. Personally, I hate making phone calls, but I love not paying bank fees more. It’s worth the call.
12. A Good Credit Score Gives You More Opportunities
What does a good credit score get you?
Good credit can SAVE you a lot of money! This is immediate money in your pocket because you’ll be saving money every month with lower interest rates and you’ll have more opportunities This is what good credit can get you:
- Priority when it comes to apartment rentals
- Low-interest loans
- 0% APR credit cards
- Lucrative bank sign up bonuses
If you’re young and haven’t had the pain of paying high-interest loans, these are just words to you. You may just be thinking of this weekend rather than working on the best credit score you can have to avoid the poverty premium. My personal goal, is to pay the least amount in bank fees. In addition to getting good credit, I started making a lot of money of bank sign up bonuses.
Think about it this way, there are a lot of credit cards that will give you $500 just for signing up. This is exclusively for people with a credit score of at least 700. Do you like free money? I do. So let’s start with working on your credit score.
What’s the Best Credit Score Possible?
The best credit score possible is around 840. Most people may say the best credit score you can get is 850 because that’s what the scale goes up to, that’s a myth. I don’t think anyone can actually achieve the highest score of 850, but that doesn’t really matter. Once a score hits 750, you’re pretty much qualified for the lowest rates for loans and eligible for some of the best credit cards.
A realistic goal for you would be to achieve a credit score of 700. That will open a lot of opportunities for you. If you need a temporary credit boost to apply for a loan or credit card, you can buy a tradeline. This article explains what are tradelines and how they can temporarily boost your credit score.
What is a good credit score to rent an apartment?
A good credit score to rent an apartment is around 650. You can definitely rent an apartment with lower credit, but if there are multiple people applying for an apartment, the landlord will most likely use the highest credit score and income as deciding factors. If you need to how to quickly raise your credit score to rent an apartment, you may want to rent a tradeline.
What is a good credit score to buy a car?
You want to have a good credit score to buy a car if you intend on getting an auto loan. A good score starts around 700 to qualify for the lower auto loan rates. If you have a low credit score, you can count on having a HIGH-interest rate. Overall, you’ll be paying thousands of dollars more for a car with a high-interest rate which is why it’s worth it to work on your credit starting at an early age.
13. You Can Make Money With A Good Credit Score
A dollar saved is a dollar earned, but I’m not talking about wise phrases, I mean you can actually earn money with good credit. The thing is, you need to be responsible and have a credit score of over 700 to qualify for the best bank bonuses.
For people that are eligible, you’ll see that there are A LOT of premium credit cards that give you money for signing up. Typical terms for a sign-up bonus “Spend $3000 in 90 days and receive a $500 bonus”. That’s surprisingly common and can be easily achieved with the right strategy. I’ll go into GREAT detail on this process in a future article. Due to bank sign up bonuses, that’s the reason why I’ve had over 100 credit cards.
If you want to know how to get good credit and what you can do with good credit, this sums it up:
- Start working on your credit at age 18 or as soon as possible.
- Focus on opening credit cards with no annual fee and keep them open forever.
- If you need to improve your credit score fast, you can buy a tradeline to temporarily boost your credit score.
- Bank fees can be refunded if you ask.
- You need a good credit score if you want to pay lower interest rates on loans.
- Good credit gets you 0% APR credit cards
- You need good credit if you want someone to let you rent an apartment.
- Good credit makes you eligible for credit cards with sign up bonuses that give you money.
I still recommend reading the details above if you intend on getting a good credit score. At least stop making these common credit mistakes is a good start.
If you found any of these tips useful, help your friends and family out by sharing these tips. It’s what the banks DON’T want you to do.