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It may seem impossible to get a good credit card if you have bad credit, but understanding your options can significantly improve your outcome. Learn what to look out for and what the best practices are for someone who has bad credit.
If you have bad credit you're not alone. In the aftermath of the recession many stumbled into credit problems from trying to survive while unemployed. Whatever the cause for your credit woes, you still have some maneuvering room when it comes to getting a better deal on your credit cards. Here are some tips for getting the best credit card you can, even while you have bad credit:
Improving Your Current Credit Card
This may sound unlikely, but it's actually very possible to improve the high-interest-rate card that you have right now. Keep in mind that this won't work unless you've had the card for a while and you're up to date on your payments. Competition is intense among credit card issuers, but they have no motivation to lower your rate unless you ask. Call the customer service number shown on the back of the card and tell them that you've gotten an offer in the mail of much lower rates from another credit card company. Explain that you'll be forced to transfer your account to the newly offered card unless your existing card company is open to lowering their interest rate. Motley Fool points out that this tactic is often successful, because the company doesn't want to lose your business. Bankrate.com recommends using the phrase, "Can you do better?" or "What can you do to help me out?" They also recommend two other strategies: if you are turned down, try calling on a different day because you may get a different representative. Also, ask for a 10 percent interest rate drop. You may not get it, but it sets an ambitious bargaining point to work from.
Finding a New Credit Card
If you need a brand new credit card, start off by checking with your local credit union. NerdWallet points out that credit unions are member-owned non-profits that are prohibited from charging more than 18 percent interest on a credit card. Banks, on the other hand, may push interest rates up to 30 percent or even 40 percent if you miss payments. Be prepared to show the credit union some proof of income and other evidence that you're a solid citizen who caught a bad break. If your credit is truly, deeply awful NerdWallet recommends a secured credit card with Digital Federal Credit Union or another credit union.
Credit Cards to Stay Away From
Any credit card offer that sounds too good to be true probably is. If you have bad credit, you will probably not qualify for interest rates below 15 percent on an unsecured (regular) credit card, and you probably won't get rewards or airline miles. Knowing what to avoid is generally a matter of reading all the fine print before signing up for a card. MSN Money presents a few examples of mind-bogglingly bad deals: The VISA Black Card charges a $495 annual fee, and the First Premier Bank Credit Card asks you to deposit $95 before they will give you a $300 credit line -- after which they will charge you an annual fee of $75 to $120, along with a 49.9 percent interest rate. These steps require a little bit of legwork, but, as you can see, it's not impossible to get a better credit card when you've got bad credit. Once you lower your rates or find a better credit card, you can then focus on organizing other aspects of your financial life in order to climb out of bad credit altogether. Photo Credit: LendingMemo via Flickr.