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Before you decide to pull the trigger on applying for one of those many enticing credit card offers that seem to be turning up everywhere these days, there are a few things that you should do prior to opening a new account. After all, starting off a new credit card account on the wrong foot by impulsively filling out an application does not bode well for exercising prudent financial behavior one you have the card in hand. Stop to consider a few things before picking out another piece of plastic to tuck inside your wallet.
Assess Your Credit Score
The type of account and special perks you qualify for are determined by the overall health of your credit score. The higher your score, the better the interest rate, rewards program and account terms you will have to choose form. Go online to request a copy of your credit score, which will give you a very good indication of what your credit score is like. Everyone is entitles to one free credit report per year.
Analyze Your Payment Habits
Do you have a history of paying your bills on time? Have you ever missed any payments altogether? All of this activity will show up on your credit report and while you cannot erase what is already on there, seeing what the lenders see when determining whether or not to extend you a new line of credit will be a useful tool to help you understand why it is so important to be consistent and reliable with your payments.
Study Your Spending Patterns
If you have a tendency to put all of your purchases on your credit card, consider using cash a little more often prior to applying for a new card. If a lender detected what seems like “overuse” of your cards, they may be less likely to offer you an account with the best rates and perks.
The flip side is that you have to use credit in order to build credit. If you have been practicing the opposite behavior – if you have been paying for the bulk of your purchases with a debit card or cash – then it would behoove you to dust off your credit card and make a few charges with it before submitting an application for a new account. Lenders want to see that you can use credit responsibly, and this is demonstrated by making charges and paying them off in a timely manner.
Review Your Employment Record
If you have more than a few employment gaps throughout the past few years, or if you have a noteworthy amount of job changes, be aware that card issuers may regard these things as unfavorable. This is because they are concerned about the reliability of your income and, thus, your ability to pay off your credit card balances.
Look at Who Else Has Been Looking
Lenders don’t like it when an applicant’s credit report reveals a lot of recently-made inquiries, which is why it is not a wise move to apply for a new credit card unless you really need one.
Keep An Eye Out For Errors
Mistakes can turn up on your credit report that may have a negative impact upon your overall score. Go over your report carefully to notice if there is anything unfamiliar our outright incorrect. If you see anything, contact your creditor immediately to start the process of having the mistakes removed from your record.