It can be more convenient to use credit cards than cash or
checks, especially for large purchases. But companies that offer to help you
get a credit card may actually intend to steal your money.
Do not fall for promises that you will get a credit card
even if you have bad credit. Fraudulent credit card offers often target people
who are having credit problems and have not been able to get cards elsewhere.
They may promise to get you a card, but legitimate credit card issuers
generally do not do business with people who have bad credit histories.
Do not pay upfront. It is against the law for telemarketers
to charge any fees in advance if they guarantee or claim that it is likely that
they can help you get a credit card. This does not apply to banks, but except
for secured credit cards, they do not usually ask for any money upfront. If
there is an application or processing fee, it should be very small, not the
hundreds of dollars that con artists request. Any annual fee usually appears on
your first credit card statement.
If your credit history is bad, your best bet is to get a
“secured” credit card. This requires you to place a deposit in an account at
the issuing bank equal to your credit limit. If you do not pay your credit card
bill, the bank will use your deposit to cover it. You may not get interest on
the account, but it is a good way to start rebuilding your credit.
A “gold” or “silver” card may not be what you think.
Sometimes fraudulent credit card offers promise “gold” or “silver” cards from
major card issuers. What you receive – if you get anything at all – is a gold
or silver-colored charge card that can only be used to buy overpriced goods
from the company’s own catalogue.
Apply for credit cards directly from the issuers. It is not
necessary to pay another company to help you get a credit card, nor will it
improve your chances of obtaining one.
If you have credit problems, get counseling. Fraudulent
credit card companies may also claim that they can repair your bad credit for a
large upfront fee. But you can correct inaccurate information in your credit
files yourself for free, and no one can erase negative information that is
Your local Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) can provide
advice about how to build a good credit record. CCCS may also be able to make
payment plans with your creditors if you have fallen behind. These services are
offered for free or at a very low cost.
To find the nearest CCCS office, call
toll-free, (800) 388-2227, or go to www.nfcc.org.