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How To Get A Credit Card in the US

If you are planning to settle in the U.S. it will be essential to establish good credit. Credit cards are very useful not only for establishing a good credit record here (called your credit rating) but for using as an I.D., for renting a car, making airline and hotel reservations, making large purchases, and most importantly, enabling you to obtain lines of credit for buying a home or car or starting a business.

Some Tips on Obtaining a Credit Card

Before arriving in the U.S. apply for an American Express Card ("Amex"). That way, you may be able to obtain a U.S. card from Amex after you arrive. It will be cheaper to use a U.S. based card since you will not lose money through currency exchange fees as you would with a foreign-based card.

If you do not already have a credit card, you can apply for one through your U.S. bank or by looking at the many available credit cards and special offers at CardWeb. Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover are the main credit cards in the U.S. A number of different banks offer these cards at widely varying interest rates.

Try to obtain a card with an APR (annual percentage rate) of 9.9% of lower.

If you have an outstanding balance at a higher rate on a card from your country you may be able to make a balance transfer from your other accounts at a very low interest rate, sometimes as low as 2%. However, do not open accounts to transfer balances too often, or this may adversely affect your credit rating.

When you apply for a credit card you will be asked to list the name of your employer, your profession and your annual income, along with the length of time you have been with that employer. If the period of your employment or your annual income is below a certain amount, or if your credit record is insufficient to make a determination, you may be denied a card.

! Most cards offer a "grace period" of about 25 days after the date of your last statement to repay the your current balance without adding interest (finance charges).

How to Maintain an Excellent Credit Rating:

  • Pay all your balances on time - credit agencies are intolerant of any amount overdue, no matter how small. A debt delinquent by more than sixl months can ruin your credit for at least 7 years (after seven years, a debt is usually wiped off your credit record).
  • Keep a limited number of cards - having too many balances, or applying for too many cards within a short period of time, may label you a higher risk
  • Keep a low balance on your cards relative to your credit limit - "maxing out" your card over a long period of time can also lower your rating. Conversely, keeping a small balance on your cards may actually be better than keeping a zero balance. Learn more about the factors used to rate your credit at:

Fair Isaac, the credit reporting agency responsible for actually rating your credit:


Get a Credit Card?

Proceed if I am Denied Credit?

Maintain Good Credit?

Repair Bad Credit?

Get a Copy of my Credit Report?