Getting your first credit card is a big step forward for your personal finances. Getting approved for your first card can be difficult, but it will be much easier the next time so long as you’ve paid your bills on time and carried little, if any debt.
And while the goal of your first credit card is to begin building your credit, you’ll be able to do far more with your next card.
Why should you get another credit card?
Upgrading your starter card, or getting a second credit card, can help you in several ways.
First, your next card will have better terms once you’ve built a strong credit history. For example, it could have a lower interest rate and fewer fees, or it can offer you valuable rewards and benefits. And your next card will likely have a higher credit limit (although, it’s not always best to utilize this).
In addition, having another credit card will add to your credit history, thereby improve your credit score.
When is the best time to upgrade your credit card?
In general, it will take a year of on-time payments to make the greatest impact on your credit score. If you’ve had a perfect payment record and you have little debt, then after one year you’ll probably have a credit score that’s considered good or excellent. Your payment history for other loans you have, such as a car or student loan, will also be factors in your credit score.
Thankfully, it’s fairly easy for you to check your credit score these days using one of these free or paid credit tracking services. In addition, your credit card issuer may offer a free monthly credit score, even if you’re not a customer. Companies like Capital One, Chase, and Discover all offer free credit scores to customers and non-customers alike.
These services will also let you know the factors that are contributing to your credit score, and what steps you can take to improve it.
How to upgrade your starter card
When it comes time to move beyond your starter card, you have two options:
- switch to a different card from the same card issuer; or,
- apply for a new account as second card
In the credit card industry, staying with the same carrier by upgrading to a different card is called a product change. The advantage of performing a product change is that you retain the same account information while enjoying the terms and benefits of a different card. Also, you don’t have to fill out a new application to request a product change.
For example, if your first credit card is a secured card, and the company that issued your card also offers standard, unsecured cards, you can request one and receive a refund of your deposit. You could also request a product change from a student card to a non-student card when you graduate.
Alternatively, you can apply for a new credit card from a different carrier. Having a second credit card will add to your credit history and improve your credit score, while offering you an expanded line of credit. Also, it’s good to have two credit card accounts so that you will always have a method of payment available to you should one of your cards be lost or stolen.
Choosing your next credit card
If you have a good or excellent credit score, you can narrow down your choices for your next credit card are almost unlimited.
For those with good credit, you’ll want to stick with a card that has no annual fee, but has a lower interest rate and better benefits than your starter card. There are also some cards that offer rewards to those with good credit, but they won’t be as generous as the most competitive cards offered to applicants with excellent credit.
If you have excellent credit, then you’ll have a much wider selection of products to choose from, including reward cards. For example, you could choose an airline rewards card that offers you both travel benefits and frequent flyer miles. Or you can choose a card that features competitive rates of cash back.
You’ve started from scratch with your first credit card, and you’ve earned the opportunity to move to a better one. When it’s time to upgrade from your starter credit card, take a close look at your credit, and decide what you need in your next card, and then start your research.