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To Do (Ideally) Before Applying for a Credit Card:

  1. Determine if a credit card is right for you right now. If you are going to buy a house in a year or less and your credit score (not Vantage score like Creditkarma and some others use, but FICO score like the free version of uses - see “Free Credit Score Options” here for additional bureaus & additional options) is below 775 for a personal card and your utilization rate is 0% and you already have a few credit cards, you should wait until after buying the house. If you have paid any interest on credit cards in the past year, I don't recommend getting any credit cards for at least a year. Also, don't get any credit cards unless you have a solid system in place for making sure that credit card use doesn't hinder your budget even if you never pay a dime of interest.

  2. Get a free expert recommendation such as (& preferably) from Adam. The ability for him to spend time writing pieces like this one are in part fueled by credit card referral links, where he can get points (sometimes, whereas sometimes the cards I recommend have no referral incentive) at no cost to you while you get expert advice for free.

  3. Get your credit in the best shape possible prior to approval (i.e. pay all balances down to 0 on credit cards right before they report to bureaus within a month of an application and don't pay off any installment loans in full even though paying down an interest bearing balance on an installment loan to almost 0 is positive for credit until it is paid off)

  4. If you want to be open to business cards, there are a plethora of options to have a legit side business. One is Lyft driving another is Airbnb hosting (recommendations) and each has a referral link for me (which may or may not still work) if you go for it.

  5. See if your chances to be approved for the cards in question. The best 1st step is to look for preapproval w the bank for that card. If you can't get preapproval, look at the banks rules for credit cards. Sign up for a free account with and then check (on a desktop/laptop, not a phone which only provides business chances) for your likelihood of getting your desired business and personal cards in case those cards are listed among possibilities. 

To see what credit bureau the institution is likely to pull from, go here. (Alternative I like more here)

Amex pulls Experian

Bank of America Pulls Experian in VA & mostly elsewhere

Barclaycard uses Transunion,

Capital One pulls all 3

Chase depends on the state (mostly Equifax 9 in VA)

Citi pulls from Equifax or Experian, though a little from Transunion, in VA.

Discover primarily Equifax but some of the others in VA

US Bank - no info for VA but pulls are diverse, with 2:1:1 Transunion, Experian, Equifax

Wells Fargo pulls Transunion in VA from a small data set of 2 pulls

For personal credit cards, use also to check your likelihood of approval if the bank typically chooses Transunion or Equifax. If the bank typically uses Experian, go to While many cards chances for you once you set up a free account are listed between those, some are not. Forums like reddit and posts from credit card gurus can also give insights into what it takes. 

  1. First call the company to see if you can get an offer not available to the public that is better than what is publicly available. If nothing better is possible, go ahead and apply online or over the phone (if a referral link is available for a particular card I would greatly appreciate you using it, but only if something that is a better offer is not available on the phone)

  2. Apply (ideally spread out by at least 1 month for credit cards and any banks for debit cards that require hard credit inquiry)

  3. If you get denied, call reconsiderations.

  4. If your limit is too small, & you’d part ways with some of the limit off another card of yours with the same issuer, consider requesting a re-allocation.

  5. After applying for 1st credit card, immediately acquire $ back debit cards to fill various niches. My favorites are (#1 by far due to options in a few categories that are unmatched like $1 off a coffee shop, Dairy Queen, or Sonic purchase of $1.50 or more by selecting that option, 5% off Walgreens which has many gift cards up to $7.50/purchase, w the ability to change selected options frequently) the Cash app debit card (using this referral link would be greatly appreciated if you decide to get it and using it would get you $5) #2 the Langley Federal Credit Union debit card (.$10/transaction although Citi has a credit card that gets a minimum of 10 Thank You points that is better that I have on my list of cards to get eventually), and the Discover debit card for 1% cashback up to $3k/month in times when no credit cards are allowed or when a big fee is charged or when purchasing stock from places like Stockpile >$100 to get an immediate buying edge the more you buy under $3k if there is a flat fee and other niche uses.

  6. If applying for 2nd and 3rd cards after >1 month and sign up bonus you were hoping for is gone, ask Adam for replacement card

  7. Be sure to use your credit cards at least for 1 small purchase once every few months (or even better is 1/mo)

  8. I recommend payments in full automatically from your bank account(s) for credit cards after automatically dividing paychecks so that your fixed expenses (i.e. house payment, student loan payment, insurance payment) go into a separate account(s) within 1 day of your paycheck.

  9. I recommend connecting all of your bank accounts and investment accounts and credit card accounts to, but having the dashboard just showing your flexible monthly spend checking accounts visible. By comparing the difference between what you owe (show only revolving credit card debt on your dashboard) and what is in your flexible spending checking accounts, the difference right before your next paycheck is essentially what to look for instead of your actual checking account which doesn't factor in what you owe.

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