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How to improve your credit score through credit cards

Trying to clean up your credit score just before applying for a loan is a lot like working out to get 6-pack abs just a few days/weeks ahead of your beach vacation!

Such shortsighted efforts won’t be good enough to undo months of reckless mistakes. However, people who know how to discipline themselves and who can get into the habit of making well-informed decisions, can definitely see some improvements. That sort of discipline is all the more important for people who’re about to apply for a loan within the next 2-6 months.

Good credit score

While there are some tried and tested methods that can help you build a long-lasting healthy credit score, you can also make some small-small changes into your credit card habits right away and see an improvement in your score in some time.

Just by changing the frequency and timing of your monthly payments, apart from using the right credit cards for your purchases, can lift up your score by around 20 points or even more, in a matter of two months! The extent of improvement will depend on your present financial habits and some other factors. Following are some useful ways in which you can use your credit cards to improve your credit score:

Pay your monthly card bills on time

This is easily the best thing you can do to improve your credit score. The payment history of your credit cards carries a 35% weightage in calculation of your FICO score (used by most lenders). That weightage is higher than any other factor that makes up your credit score. So, ensure that every credit card of yours is paid on time, every month.

Keep your account balances low

The amount of money you owe on your different credit cards carries the second biggest weightage (30%) in calculation of your FICO score.

A good way of understanding this factor is by paying heed to something known as credit utilization ratio. This ratio is the percentage of credit you’re actually using, from the total credit available to you. For instance, if the total credit limit on all your credit cards combined is $ 20,000 and you currently carry a collective balance of $ 4000 on them, you’re using 20% of your available credit.

Normally, people pay off all their cards in full, or to the maximum extent possible, to keep this ratio closest to zero. However, anyone who can’t afford to keep a zero balance must ensure that his/her credit utilization ratio is well below the 10% mark. At any cost, he/she should never exceed 30%.

And that applies to all of your cards. Many times people who’re looking for a loan in the near future, opt for balance transfer cards for bringing their card balances well below the 30% threshold, but they often do so without paying heed to the balance transfer fees involved. This fee can be 3% or more, often resulting in a fee amount that may not be worth paying for a credit score boost.

Make frequent payments

Paying your credit card bill only once every month may not be good enough for improving your credit score. The balance appearing on your credit report is normally the balance from your last statement/s. And people running up high balances on their credit cards may get penalized in terms of their credit score, even if they do clear those balances in full every month.

For instance, if a person makes a $ 5000 purchase on a credit card (with $ 10,000 credit limit) in a specific month, his/her credit report may still show him/her as having used 50% of his/her credit limit on that card, even if s/he pays that card in full by the end of the month.

Such records may not matter much to someone who isn’t planning to apply for a loan anytime soon, but for an individual preparing himself/herself for a credit check, they may make or break the deal. Hence, it’s always better to make multiple credit card payments every month as and when you use your cards.

Put your credit cards to use

Although you should never run up your credit card balances to the extent that you can’t afford to pay them in full, you can’t help using your cards if you want them to be counted as a part of your payment history either.

It’s not necessary to use your cards every month, but make sure that you use them every once in a while, so that there are records of purchases and their timely payments. Furthermore, there is a risk of card issuers cancelling the cards that haven’t been used for many years. A cancelled card can reduce your total available credit, putting a dent into your credit score.

Keep your oldest accounts

Although it may seem tempting to get rid of your old credit cards that you’ve rarely used, people wanting to apply for new loans should hold onto such cards until the completion of their credit checks. Closing a credit card automatically reduces the total available credit to you. Such a step can be even more detrimental if you’re carrying hefty balances on some of your other credit cards, as it can increase your credit utilization ratio. However, such dips are only temporary in nature, and the credit score normally rebounds in the next few months as the credit agencies discover that you’ve actually not taken on more debt. But, even if temporary, such dips can indeed become the cause for loan rejections. So, avoid closing any credit card if you’re planning to apply for a loan in the next 2-6 months’ time.

Keeping or closing the old card accounts can also impact the length of your credit history, which carries a 15% weightage in your FICO score. Nevertheless, the impact is most likely to be minor in nature. Moreover, if you’ve been paying those cards in full every month, your credit score may not drop at all by their closure.

Following these basic suggestions, you can effectively use your credit cards to improve your credit score. Last but not the least, check your credit history at least once every year to ensure everything is in order and all the information in it is correct.



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Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard Review

Using credit cards as a way to save through cash back or other rewards programs may seem like a pipe dream for those with less than perfect credit. That’s because most credit card issuers have strict policies on who is eligible in terms of credit history and credit score, leaving some out in the cold. Fortunately, individuals with fair to good credit have an option in the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard – a cash back credit card built specifically for middle of the road borrowers. So if you’ve had a black mark on your credit recently, or are fighting to get back into the good graces of the lending powers that be, it is worth checking out the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard as your cash back credit card for every day use.


The Card Basics

The Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard falls under a flat-rate cash back category, meaning there are no bonuses to sign up for each quarter or rotating categories to keep track of. Instead, the Barclaycard offers a flat 2% cash back on gas station, utilities and grocery store purchases (not including Target and Walmart). All other purchases earn a flat rate of 1% on each dollar spent. One of the perks of the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard is the fact that card members do not have to be concerned with purchase limits in either category. On top of that, rewards points never expire, as long as the card remains in good standing with the issuer.

Once rewards points have accumulated to at least 1,000 – the equivalent of $10 – card members have the option to redeem them in the following ways:

  • A statement credit toward the outstanding balance due
  • A direct deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account
  • Gift card purchases through the issuer’s rewards site

Added Card Member Benefits

While the rewards program is somewhat attractive in that is provides a simply way to earn cash back with no restrictions, the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard comes with an impressive list of added card member benefits. First, all card members have access to their FICO credit score through the website and the mobile application. The FICO score is updated periodically through the site, and alerts are sent directly to the card member when changes are reported. This no-cost perk can be a lifesaver to those concerned about increasing their credit score over time who may not have easy access to their credit score elsewhere.

Another added benefit with the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard is the ability to request a credit line increase after maintaining a strong payment record on the card. Barclaycard automatically reviews credit card holder accounts after five payments are made on time, and the issuer will increase the credit limit based on the card member’s repayment history. Credit line increases can be requested outside the automatic reviews but are subject to credit evaluation.

Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard also provides card members a safeguard in terms of over borrowing by not imposing an over the limit fee. Additionally, all Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard holders are credit cards with chip technology, which provides a wider acceptance around the world. Barclaycard also provides card members with $0 fraud liability on any charges that are unauthorized by the card member, meaning a lost or stolen card is less of a concern.

The Cost

Although the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard is a smart choice for individuals with imperfect credit history, or someone interested in a simple cash back rewards program, the downside to the card comes by way of its total cost. Fortunately, the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard does not impose an annual fee on card members, nor does it charge any amount for redeeming rewards. The expense with the card comes into play with its purchase and balance transfer interest rates and fees.

Currently, the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard does not offer a promotional interest rate for new card members, on purchases or balancer transfers. Instead, the standard APR for both is a rather high 25.24%. The APR for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances is the same across the board and is a variable rate, meaning it could fluctuate over time based on the Prime Rate and its movements. Part of the reason the standard APR is higher than most comparable credit cards is due to the fact that Barclaycard accepts a greater risk when taking on lower credit score individuals. To help offset that risk, the issuer charges more to all borrowers.

In addition to the APR for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, card members are assessed other fees for certain transactions. Anyone who opts to complete a balance transfer through the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard pays a 3% or $5 fee for each transactions, whichever is greater. Card members who take out a cash advance against the card pay a 5% or $10 fee per advance, whichever is greater. Finally, card members are assessed a 3% foreign transaction fee for all purchases made outside the U.S.

Final Thoughts

The Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard is an excellent choice for credit card users who have struggled with managing their credit in the past that resulted in a less than excellent credit score. The card may also be a preferred choice for individuals who appreciate the simplicity of the rewards program, or individuals who spend heavily on the categories that offer 2% cash back. The added perks the card provides – fraud liability coverage, free access to FICO credit score, chip card technology and credit line increases – make the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard even more attractive when compared to similar cash back credit cards.

However, individuals who have exemplary credit may want to search elsewhere for their go-to cash back credit card. The fees associated with the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard, specifically in terms of the purchase and balance transfer APR, are high, making carrying a balance from month to month expensive for the card member. The added foreign transaction fees should deter borrowers who utilize their credit card overseas, especially because there are other cash back credit cards that do not impose a fee for these transactions. All in, the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard can be a great cash back credit card to assist in building credit or in earning simple rewards on certain purchases.