Thanks, Sis, but I'm ready for my own card now

With credit healing, brother seeks balance transfer

By Jane McNamara

Let's Talk Credit
Let's Talk Credit columnist Jane E. McNamara
Jane E. McNamara is president and chief executive officer of GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nationwide, not-for-profit, providing financial literacy through consumer education and counseling for more than 50 years. For financial literacy tips and assistance visit GreenPath on Facebook or YouTube.
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Question for the expert

Dear Let's Talk Credit,
My sister put me on her card as an authorized user to help get my credit back in order. With her help I have a credit score of 730. I have $2,200 in monthly income, I'm retired, have monthly expenses of $1,400 more or less average, live in a mobile home that is paid for and I owe about $3,000 on my sister's card. What are the chances of me getting my own card and transferring that balance to my own card? My sister doesn't think that can be done and if I apply and get refused it will reflect negatively on her good credit and also on mine. Please advise. Thanks. -- Mitch

Answer for the expert

Dear Mitch,
First, let's clarify something from your letter. If you apply for a credit card in your own name, yours is the only credit history that would be affected by that action. A credit inquiry made by the bank where you apply for a credit card would appear on your credit report only. Your sister's credit report would in no way be affected by your application for credit.

Your goal to qualify for credit in your own name is likely attainable. But something's not quite fitting together from your letter. You indicate some troubled credit, but say your score is now 730, which is a very good credit score. Assuming you're talking about the widely used FICO score, that's good enough credit to get a card on your own, with no help. If that's the case, congratulations, go forth and sin no more.

But since you indicate that you may have had credit trouble in the past, perhaps that score isn't quite golden yet. You may have to start with a retail credit card or secured credit card. Depending on what other positive credit accounts you have, you may not qualify for a credit card with a high enough credit limit to transfer your entire $3,000 balance.

Retail cards are generally easier to obtain than bank credit cards, so you might consider applying for a credit card at a retail store where you purchase things fairly regularly. Use the card to purchase items you normally buy and then pay off the balance each month. The positive history on another credit account should help you qualify for your own credit card.

Another option is to apply for a secured credit card. These cards are used the same as nonsecured credit cards, but are secured by money in a savings account. When choosing a secured credit card be sure that the issuer reports to the three major credit bureaus. Use the card for purchases and pay off the balance each month.

Once you have established credit in your name with a retail card or secured credit card and used the cards responsibly for three months or more, you could consider applying for a more general credit card. Should you not qualify for a credit limit high enough to transfer the remaining balance on your card with your sister, you can request a credit limit increase after three months of responsible use of your card.

Let's keep talking!

See related: Properly piggybacking your way to good credit, 2014 balance transfer survey

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Published: May 29, 2014

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