My Very First Credit Card (Sorry, Dave Ramsey)

First Credit Card

I have an exciting and somewhat embarrassing confession. I just got approved for my very first credit card! And it was no easy task! How did I make it this long without one? Easy. I’ve never needed credit and I’ve always used secondary cards under Johnny’s name to rack up our rewards.

A few months back I decided I wanted a cash-back rewards card of my own for my grocery and gasoline spending. My credit score was pretty good — about 760. Based on that score, all the credit card sites said I was eligible for some pretty sweet rewards cards. So I did some research and applied for my first card.

And within five minutes I was rejected.

Five minutes! What a blow to my credit-steem. I figured I must have aimed too high and decided to apply for a different card in a couple months. So, feeling admittedly a little less confident, I applied for another, less lofty rewards card. The credit card company said they’d let me know in a few days if I were approved. Phew! No immediate rejection this time!

A few days later I got a letter in the mail. And once again, I had been denied! I couldn’t believe it. What was going on?! As I read the rejection letter more carefully, they spelled it out for me: I didn’t have enough credit history for them to approve me. So although I had a good credit score, zero debt, and a history of paying off all my school loans, my lack of past credit cards was the dealbreaker.

I was pretty down in the dumps by this point. So Johnny and I decided it would be best for me to apply for a very basic, introductory card. Within a few days, I received a letter in the mail from the credit provider. And I hadn’t been approved… BUT I also wasn’t denied. They required that I send them a copy of a bill showing proof-of-residency before they would approve me. I guess at my age having absolutely no credit history is kind of fishy. And after I sent them the necessary documentation, I was finally approved! Hallelujah! Dave Ramsey would have slapped me silly if he’d seen my victory dance.

And so now I’m a bonafide credit card holder. I plan on putting about $100 on my new card each month (and paying off the balance, of course) to help slowly build my rapport with the credit card companies. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get a swanky rewards card all my own.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? Was it naive of me to think I’d be approved right away?

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  • Reply Michelle December 27, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I recently have been trying to get my sister a credit card so that she can start building credit, however, every place has denied her! It’s getting annoying.

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Starting with an introductory card is probably your best bet, but there’s also some helpful tips from the commenters below!

  • Reply Brian December 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

    A trick that works for some people is to call the reconsideration line and speak to a specialist. They can override the denial and get you approved (and it won’t count as another hard pull on your credit). A lot of times just talking to an actual person is enough for this and they can ask you some other questions that the application didn’t have or clarify your answers. Sometimes offering to pre-pay some of the non-existant balance as a sort of deposit helps too.

    But other than that, the plan you have now is a very solid one. I also assume that this card doesn’t have an annual fee so you can just hold onto it forever and help your score with the “length of credit” factor.

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      I didn’t know there was a reconsideration line! Hopefully I won’t have a reason to use it in the future, but if I do, I’ll try that route!

  • Reply jrm December 27, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I’d be interested to know how many/who (credit score above 800? 820?) gets the rewards cards.

    Michelle – Have you looked into a secured card? Not always the cheapest route but may be a good place to start.

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      My husband’s always maintained a score in the upper 700s, which is good for only having had credit for a few years. He’s been able to get every rewards card he’s applied for. So while we only have a sample of one, I don’t know that it’s that difficult once you’ve established a credit history.

  • Reply Budget and the Beach December 27, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I remember “back in the day” where they’d give just about anyone a credit card. I was in college with no credit history when I got my first discover card. I guess now I have the credit history because it’s easy for me to get one. I had no idea it was hard if you’ve never had one. I guess in a way that’s sort of a good sign for the overall financial health of the world??

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Good point! It’s also kind of telling that an applicant who’s a few years out of college with no credit card history is an anomaly for credit card companies these days!

  • Reply Lyn @ Pretty Frugal December 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I got my first credit card when I graduated college. I had no credit history beyond paying utility bills, and my first card had a limit of $300 and absolutely no rewards. Memories. I didn’t use my credit card at all for years because I was scurred of getting into ($300) debt. I got a rewards card from Chase when I moved my accounts there, and have used my credit card for nearly everything since there to rack up rewards points. My credit limit is still only about $4,000 but I don’t need anything more and I pay it off every month anyway. The only time I’ve wished it was higher was when I put part of my car purchase on my credit card for the rewards, which I paid at the end of the month. Would have loved to have been able to put more on the card!

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      Every six months or so my husband increases his credit limit with his credit card. It’s become a sort of game for him (This could be a potential post in the making.). You might consider calling your credit card company and seeing whether you can increase the limit! 🙂

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty December 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Awesome! I am a credit card rewards junkie so I can see why you would want a rewards card!

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      I’ve been able to enjoy rewards from Johnny’s cards, but it will be nice to get some of my own! 🙂

  • Reply K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! December 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    When my husband moved to the US a few years ago he had zero credit history. The bank he dealt with offered him a secured card ($500) and after one year of on-time payments they gave him back the $500 with interest and upped his credit limit considerably. He now gets so many pre-approved credit card offers it’s ridiculous!

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      That’s good to hear! I’m hoping this first card of mine will be the gateway to getting whatever card I want. Although, I probably won’t enjoy the sudden influx of credit card offers in the mail!

  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money December 27, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I was spoiled because my parents did something that immediately gave me and my siblings a great credit rating. We went to a private high school 17 miles from our home, in which we commuted. My parents covered the gas. We had a credit card that was under our name but rolled up under my Dad’s account. We were supposed to only use it for gas (my sister did get hers taken away for a while from abusing it by buying fast food and clothes!). I used it only for gas and after a 2-3 years of this we started out with an awesome credit history and I got pre-approved for a very high amount on my first personal cc application. I didn’t realize until after I got that card WHY I got such a high limit right away. It’s a bit dangerous, but I think I will do the same for my kids and make sure they are very aware of why credit card debt is bad. I always pay mine off in full, even though I easily could have gone into a ton of debt from that first card.

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      That’s a cool idea. For this first card, I also got a surprisingly high limit, and maybe it’s because I have a few of Johnny’s cards in my name!

  • Reply Chris December 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    My first card had a $4,500 limit. This was about 8 months ago and it’s already at $7,000. I’m not sure why they keep upping it because I really don’t use it for anything. I bought some stuff when I first got it to build some credit while it was 0% interest. I freaked out 2 months before that 0% expired and I paid it all off. I just keep it for emergencies now. I should take advantage of the rewards and just pay it off every month, but I still don’t trust myself fully to do such responsible things.

    I went to get pre-approved for a mortgage in October and they told me I had “thin credit” meaning I didn’t have 3 credit lines open for over a year. I find it funny that you can get punished for not “charging it”.

    A lot of other people have mentioned it but at the credit union I work at we recommend people get a secured card to build or fix credit.

    • Reply Joanna December 28, 2012 at 11:01 am

      I don’t understand why having open lines of credit is such a big consideration for lenders, either! Johnny and I are thinking about buying a house in the near future, so I’ve definitely got to beef up my credit before that time!

  • Reply Joanna December 28, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I’d like to think those sneaky clothing and Sephora trips were just well-deserved payment for having to be your parents’ little errand-runner 😉

    Johnny and I didn’t have parents who gave us cards in our name (maybe they knew they couldn’t trust us!), but after hearing about it, we might just give it a try with our kids.

  • Reply Hank December 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    It’s a slippery slope with credit cards. You get one and then it quickly turns into three or four. The banks will up your credit limit, and it takes a lot of discipline to do what you’re doing by continuing to pay off your balance month in and month out. The banks are banking on you not being able to resist the temptation forever. Congrats!

    • Reply Johnny December 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      You’re a wise man, Hank.

      I’m always hesitant to say anything redeeming about credit cards. But lucky for us, we’ve never dealt with the temptation of spending on credit. In our home, they’re debit cards. So the credit card companies can keep hoping that we’ll “eat the apple,” but I’ll cut them up before I ever spend a dollar over what’s in my bank account.

  • Reply eemusings December 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Hmm, I got mine as a student when banks showered everyone at university with all kinds of offers. My partner doesn’t have one (and would be a terrible candidate for a credit card) though we might get him a debit card next year for our travelling.

    • Reply Joanna December 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      I think Johnny had a similar experience to you because he didn’t have any problems getting one in college. Clearly the times have changed!

  • Reply Jeff March 5, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Haha, so my first reaction as I started reading was: “how the heck do you have a 760 without ever having had a credit card!?” But seeing that it took some work made me feel a little better about my experience with my first credit card 🙂
    BTW, I got my first card as a student as well, so maybe that helped a bit. (Cosigners were the only thing that got me my auto loan)

  • Reply Laura April 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    We’ve always had both of our names and SSNs tied to our credit cards. We each get a copy of the card with our name on it, and it adds to BOTH of our credit scores. This has worked well for my husband because when we got married he had ZERO credit, but I had a good credit because I’d had a credit card through college that I had always paid off. Maybe a having your name on all of your family cards would work for you? Glad you were finally approved though!

    • Reply Johnny April 29, 2013 at 2:05 am

      We’ll have to look into the cards that we currently hold and see if that’s what they do. I don’t remember during the application process entering both of our SSN’s and stuff though, which makes me think we didn’t opt for it initially or that option wasn’t available. But thanks for the heads up!

  • Reply Oscar June 29, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I just got approved for my very first credit card and its a cash rewards credit card from bank of america. I’m 25 in college and I have no credit history but somehow my credit score is 768. How can this happen?

    • Reply Johnny August 5, 2013 at 2:45 am

      That’s a great question, and honestly, I don’t know the answer. It definitely didn’t work for Joanna, but maybe that card is more open to first time creditors. But congrats, and don’t let it suck you into any encounters with the Debt Monster!

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