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We get many letters from 18 year olds like "I submitted 9 applications and no one will give me a credit card!" Here's the reason for that.

A Hand-Holding Guide to Getting Your First Credit Card

I got my first credit card at age eighteen. I was a high school senior, I’d just been accepted into college, and the world was my goddamn oyster (just slightly less like salty snot). The year was 2005… and getting that shiny little piece of plastic was just about as easy as putting out my hand and asking for it.

Times have changed. We now live in a post-2008 Recession world, and getting your first credit card has become markedly harder. This is probably why we constantly receive questions from eighteen-year-olds like “I’ve submitted nine applications and no one will give me a credit card. What do???”

The Ramseyan debt purists will say “Do without it, you fool!” But we believe a credit card can be an extremely useful weapon in your financial arsenal. Just look at what happened when Kitty and her boyfriend tried to rent an apartment together and couldn’t because he had no credit!

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Podcast Episode 003: "My parents have bad credit. Should I help by co-signing their mortgage?"

Episode 003: “My Parents Have Bad Credit. Should I Help by Co-signing Their Mortgage?”



When life stresses me out beyond belief, I find nothing more soothing or rejuvenating than reading about petty dramas I’m not personally involved in.

Neighbors feuding in all caps on Next Door; running blogs dragging the shit out of marathon cheaters; Facebook mommy groups erupting into explosive schisms over international geopolitics. Ahhhh… reading them is like slipping into a warm bath. So juicy! So low-stakes! With so much to fret about in my life, it’s nice to pause and contemplate the completely optional frettings of random other people I will likely never meet.

Which is why I love Reddit! And I’ll occasionally pull random questions that feed the drama-devouring beast within me interest me! Today’s question was found on r/personalfinance, a board where I lurk on the reg for obvious reasons…

Today’s question

“I currently live with my parents (22) and they want to sell our house and move into another. My dad can’t be on [the mortgage] because his credit is low so it would be my mom as the primary and me as cosigner. I am wondering if this is a good idea because I’m pretty nervous about this. I don’t want to ruin my credit or be stuck on a 30-year loan. If I move out can they take me off the mortgage? Thanks for any help.”

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As best I can tell, there are two likely reasons for the prevalence of this misconception. Sadly, they both link back to perfectly true, but often misunderstood, facts about how credit works.

Let’s End This Damaging Misconception About Credit Cards

I don’t know who started the rumor that carrying a balance on credit cards is good for your credit score, but I think they should be drawn and quartered.

You shut your pie hole, Poppins. This is serious.

Of all the damaging misconceptions about personal finance we’ve had to correct over the course of running Bitches Get Riches, this is by far my least favorite. And it keeps popping up again and again in questions from our followers! Why? How? Who is teaching all of our darling kangaroo babies such a terrible way of handling their credit cards?

Until I can find the culprit and give them their just desserts (hot oil? The rack?), I have made it my mission to set the record straight.

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Dafuq Is Credit and How Do You Bend It to Your Will?

We’ve been getting a lot of variations on the same question recently: “How dafuq do I credit?”

How indeed? A lot of our readers are struggling with not only maintaining a good credit score, but with even understanding credit in the first place.

It’s one of the many money terms I have the sneaking suspicion everyone else in my high school class was taught on a day I was absent.

Thus, I’ve been left to figure it out for myself over the years. And what I’ve found is reassuring: credit is not nearly as scary or complicated as you’ve been led to think. But like a pack of trained raptors, it must be treated with care and attention lest it rend you limb from limb.

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Emotional gratification and continuous encouragement aside, what is the best method of paying down debt?

The “Best” Way to Pay off Credit Card Debt

The Harvard Business Review recently published a study on “the best strategy for paying off credit card debt.” Set aside for a moment the idea that you should try not to rack up credit card debt in the first place (shit happens, no judgment). This study benefits the millions of Americans who are literally $800 billion in collective credit card debt according to the Federal Reserve. So it’s a problem that needs a solution.

The researchers tested a couple of different methods for credit card debt reduction:

  1. Dispersing payments equally across every debt account each month.
  2. Concentrating as high a payment as possible on one account at a time.

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There is a way to build up good, healthy credit while neither increasing your debt nor your risk.

How to Build Good Credit Without Going Into Debt

As we’ve discussed, adult human beings need credit—good credit—to do lots of important adult things such as renting apartments and buying cars. But having debt, whether it be in the form of a balance on a credit card or just Ye Olde Stvdint Loane, can be fucking terrifying.

Fear not, gentle readers. For there is a way to build up good, healthy credit while neither increasing your debt nor your risk.

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If you're confident in your ability not to abuse it, raising your borrowing threshold will give your credit score an instant boost.

How to Instantly Increase Your Credit Score

One of the ways you can improve your credit rating is to lower your credit utilization ratio, that is: the amount you owe compared to the amount you could borrow.

It’s usually better to just pay down the principal, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you’re confident in your ability not to abuse it, raising your borrowing threshold will give your credit score an instant boost.

I’d assumed this was a complicated process requiring some degree of cringing, but it turns out increasing your credit limit is extraordinarily easy. This method was described to me by an educator in my city’s free first-time homebuyer program. I will try to transcribe it exactly as she said it:

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I've come to think that's the ideal role for credit cards to play in a debt-free person's life.

Why You Might Not Need Your Emergency Fund

Excluding my mortgage, I’m a debt-free individual. That means my credit card is a pretty lonely lil’ guy. He doesn’t even get to live in my wallet. He’s entombed in my office with my library card, my old student ID, and that Best Buy gift card with only $3.52 left on it. He has a zero-balance and a $10,000 limit.

I used to keep $6,000 in cash squirreled away as part of an emergency fund—enough to make a few rent payments if I lost my job or had to cover an unexpected accident deductible. I was very lucky, and none of those things ever came to pass; but this meant my emergency fund sat in my savings account, slowly depreciating. Meanwhile, I was toying with the idea of closing my credit card altogether—after all, I never used it.

But eventually, I saw a wonderful opportunity to justify that card, and put my emergency fund to better use: I invested the $6K and designated my credit card as my new emergency fund. I’ve come to think that’s the ideal role for credit cards to play in a debt-free person’s life.

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You do not need a 52-inch TV on which to watch steroid-enhanced men in spandex bowl each other over in between reminders that we are all slaves to capitalism.

Dafuq Is a Down Payment and Why Do You Need One to Buy Stuff?

Sometimes you don’t have enough money in the bank to buy stuff, so you borrow money to buy the stuff. But if you have some money, it is always better to use it to pay for part of the stuff than to borrow all the money you need to buy the stuff.

In an ideal world, we’d all pay for expensive things like cars and houses and a college education with the money that we already have. But unless you have a Scrooge McDuckian money vault at your disposal, paying cash in full for a car or house or bachelor’s degree feels nigh impossible.

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