Posted by: realtormarkpalace | October 22, 2010

For Your Clients: Get Credit Score in Order Before Applying for Credit

By Pamela Yip

RISMEDIA, October 19, 2010—(MCT)–If your mailbox is starting to fill up again with credit card offers and you’re tempted to apply, be realistic about your chances of qualifying.

Increased credit card solicitations are an indication that things have gotten much better for card issuers, with declines in defaults and delinquencies, said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of and author of “The Credit Card Guidebook.”

“They are once again aggressively pursuing new customers, but this time around, they seem to really be focusing on those with good or excellent credit scores,” he said.

Consumers may have to jump through more hoops than before to get a credit card today. But it’s not impossible to get a card.

Before you apply for a credit card, get a copy of your credit report and your FICO credit score, the dominant score used by lenders, which uses a score range of 300 to 850.

Use your credit score as a guide to what kind of credit card you should apply for.

If your score is lower than you expected, check your credit report for errors and correct them before you apply for credit. If your score is too low, be prepared to pay.

“If your FICO score is 750 or above, you should apply for the cards specifically offered for excellent credit,” Hardekopf said. “A score of 720 or above is considered good credit; 660 to 720 is acceptable.”

If your score is below 650, you could find yourself in the subprime category, and you could have a tough time getting approved, he said.

“Anything below a 650 FICO score seems to be the dividing line between prime and subprime,” agreed John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at

The scary thing is that as of April, 35.2 percent of consumers had FICO scores below 650, according to the company that produces the influential number.

“Scores below 650 are there for a reason,” Ulzheimer said. “It’s negative information, such as late payments, foreclosures, bankruptcy, tax liens, hitting your credit report and excessive credit card debt.”

According to Hardekopf, “consumers should not waste their time and apply for a card for which they are not qualified. If you apply for too many credit cards at once, this is a red flag and may actually cause your score to drop.”

Some credit card issuers will give you some guidance as to what your credit level is.

For example, Capital One considers you to have excellent credit if you’ve had a loan or credit card for at least five years, have a credit limit of more than $10,000, have never been more than 60 days late on a credit card, medical bill or loan payment and have never declared bankruptcy.

You have average credit in Capital One’s eyes if you have a credit card limit of less than $5,000 or you may have been late on more than one credit card, medical bill or loan payment in the past six months.

How you pay your credit card bill also should determine what kind of card you apply for.

If you pay off your card each month, you should look for a card with a good rewards program, Hardekopf said.

But if you carry a balance each month, you want a card with the lowest annual percentage rate and then work your tail off to pay off the card as quickly as possible.

“You really need to decide before you apply for a card what kind of credit card customer you are,” Hardekopf said.

(c) 2010, The Dallas Morning News.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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