5 Ways a Credit Card Can Rebuild Your Credit

5 Ways a Credit Card Can Rebuilt Your Credit

credit card advice

Mike Randall
By: Mike Randall
Posted: August 25, 2016
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

If you’re trying to build a good credit score, or repair bad credit after a few missteps, having a credit card can be a great way to start. But remember, simply owning a credit card won’t rebuild your credit. To reestablish yourself as a worthwhile credit risk, there are some factors you need to keep in mind.

Remember that a credit card is a tool, and when used properly and responsibly, it can help to show you’re developing good credit habits. Here are some of the ways you can use a credit card to rebuild your credit, as well as six of the best cards for getting started.

1. Pay Your Bills on Time

The single most important factor in calculating your credit score is whether you pay your bills in a timely manner. That’s because 35% of your FICO score is based on your payment history. No other single factor can have as much negative impact on your credit score, as being labeled a late payer.

And it’s not just credit card payments that get reported to the credit bureaus; your cable and cellphone bills, loan payments, even your rent — all of these can have an impact, and need to be paid on time.

2. Use 25% or Less of Your Credit Limit

Another factor in rebuilding your score is the total amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much you have available. This factor accounts for 30% of your overall score, and can do a lot of damage if it’s too high.

So, how much is too high? Let’s say you have a single card with a $1,000 credit limit. If you owe $800 on that card, it means you have a credit utilization ratio of 80%. Most creditors want to see a utilization ratio closer to 25% or less. That’s because anyone “maxing out” their credit cards may be in financial hardship, and therefore not a good credit risk.

3. Keep Your Old Credit Cards Active

The length of your credit history is also an important component in calculating your FICO score. In fact, credit history makes up 15% of your total credit score. Even if you don’t use that old credit card with its high interest rate and no rewards points, it could still be helping your score.

Keeping it in an active status will make your length of credit history look more attractive, and may also help contribute to your credit utilization ratio.

4. Have a Healthy Mix of Credit Accounts

Believe it or not, your credit score is also impacted by the types of credit you have. A mix of revolving and installment accounts is more desirable than only having credit cards, and counts for 10% of your total credit score. Adding an installment account, like a car loan or even financing that new TV purchase, will look better to creditors and can help to increase your credit score.

5. Be Mindful of Credit Inquiries

An inquiry is made into your credit history each time you apply for a loan or credit card. If you apply for multiple credit cards or loans in a short period of time, these inquiries or credit checks can negatively impact your FICO score. That’s because to creditors it may seem like you are in desperate need of cash, and therefore are not a good credit risk.

There are two types of credit inquiries — a soft inquiry and a hard inquiry. Soft inquiries are used for things like an employment background check or when you open a cellphone account, and these won’t trigger a hit on your credit score. A hard inquiry is when you apply for a loan or mortgage, or apply for a credit card. These do make it onto your credit report, and too many of them can cause your credit score to drop.

Secured Vs. Unsecured Credit Cards

There are two types of credit cards you can get, and each type can help your credit score if you use it responsibly. A secured credit card is one that uses money you deposit into an account as the available credit line. These are some of the easiest credit cards to get and are usually for people with poor credit or fair credit.

The second type, an unsecured credit card, requires no deposit. This is a true revolving credit account, where the money is lent to you by the issuer and you repay it in increments over time (plus interest of course). Since both secured and unsecured credit card payment information is shared with the credit bureaus, they can both help to rebuild your credit.

3 Best Unsecured Credit Cards for Bad Credit

The upsides to having an unsecured card include no security deposit and perks like cash back or rewards points, depending on the card. The better your credit, the better the rewards card you’ll be approved for. For credit scores above 650, you may benefit from checking out our card reviews for fair creditgood credit, and excellent credit, as these cards offer the best rewards and APRs.

Do your research to find the card that fits your needs. You can start by checking out our top three best unsecured cards for people with bad credit.

Emporium Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

  • Up to $5,000 Spending Limit in Less than 60 Seconds! Shop from over 100,000 brand name products such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, Gucci, Prada and much more with low easy payments.
  • Less than Perfect Credit Accepted. Approval is quick and easy. Must be 18 years or older, have a valid checking account and a verifiable source of income.
  • Up To 12 Months Same As Cash
  • 50% Early Payoff Discount
  • No Hidden Fees
  • Return at any Time
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See website for Details
N/A
Poor, Fair, Limited, or Damaged Credit

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It’s a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad Credit
Total Visa® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★
4.3

OVERALL RATING

3.5/5.0
  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine VISA card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a Processing Fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Terms
See Terms
Fair, Bad Credit

+See more unsecured credit cards

3 Best Secured Credit Cards for Bad Credit

In general, a secured card will be easier for people with bad credit to get approved for. If issuers view lending to you as more of a risk, using a secured credit card responsibly is a great way to build your credit and work toward a solid financial history.

Below, our experts have picked out the top three secured credit cards for anyone with bad credit.

  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It’s a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad Credit
First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card Review

at First Progress'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★

4.0

OVERALL RATING

2.9/5.0
  • Fund your new MasterCard® secured credit card with your tax refund today!
  • Our card reports monthly to all three major bureaus and approval is based upon a fully-refundable security deposit.
  • We can approve you at any credit score, no minimum required.
  • No processing or application fees required.
  • Full-featured Platinum MasterCard, accepted for car rentals, hotels, and millions of other locations worldwide.
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 - $2,000 Submitted with Application
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
11.99% (Variable)
$44
Bad / No Credit
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank'ssecure website

SECURED RATING

★★★★

4.0

OVERALL RATING

2.9/5.0
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search "OpenSky Card" in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.64% (Variable)
$35
No Credit Check

+See more secured credit cards

How You Use the Card Makes the Difference

Keep in mind that credit cards aren’t inherently good or bad — it’s how you use them that makes the difference. Staying mindful about maintaining your budget, making the payments on time, and using your cards responsibly is the key to credit card success. And the more you know about how your score is calculated, the more control you have over your credit.