DISCLAIMER: I fixed my fucked up credit, but it’s still kind of fucked up until March 9, 2017.

I opened my first credit card my freshman year of college. I’d easily say that was one of the best, yet worst decisions I have ever made. It was the best because I never realized how important credit really was or really understood it until I moved to Los Angeles and needed, or well, attempted, to put everything in my name – it was the worst because what kind of “emergency” would an 18-year-old comes across while living in the dorms in college?

Moving on to 26-years-old, you could ask any one of my family members or friends and there is NO ONE, literally, NO ONE in their life that talks or teaches about credit more than I do. My friend even called me the other day saying their friend was talking about they wanted to sign up for Credit Repair, and joked about how he should just ask me because I know all about it. I’m obsessed. Not proud of it, but only because I’ve learned so much about it, made so many mistakes, still in debt and I will never stop talking about it until I am debt free (I can settle for debt free with credit and still have debt from school loans because I’ll forever be paying school loans – but one day, I will be debt debt debt debt free).

Anyway, here are all the things I wish I knew before I fucked it all up:

Use your credit card for emergencies only.
We all hear about that, right? But how many of us have actually followed that rule? I sure haven’t because the debt I have racked over my 26-years of life were definitely not for emergencies. Seriously, don’t use that card unless it’s for an emergency.

Sign up for Credit Karma.
Credit Karma is life. It’s completely free and it has no impact on your score if you check it. It updates every week, but I swear I check it daily as if my score will change.

I learned so much from Credit Karma: how much of my credit I’m using, how much I should pay off in order to better my score,  what accounts are on my report, my credit cards I would be approved for, what credit factors have a higher impact versus lower impact etc. Seriously, stop reading this blog and sign up. It will change your life.

Creditors report once a month.
If you become an addict like me, and you’re constantly checking your score – be aware that creditors will only update your balance once a month. I was pissed when I paid off a good amount of my balance last week, and when I was checking to see if my score updated. According to the simulator on Credit Karma it was supposed to go up 20 points, it went up 0 points because the amount I paid was towards cards that won’t be updated until March 6th and March 8th. So, if you’re in a position where your score needs to be fixed because you’re about to rent or buy a home or car, look at your report or call your creditors to find out the closing dates. Example: I could have had my credit ran last week if I chose to apply those payments towards the card that had a billing cycle that was closing on the 18th versus the 6th.

Never use more than 30% of your credit utilization.
If your credit limit is $1000, your balance should never be more than $300 and that’s considered as good credit.

Do not close your accounts even if they’re paid off!
There is no better feeling than paying a balance off in full. Then there is no better feeling than paying a balance off in full and cutting up the card. Do not close your account even if you don’t plan to use it because it helps with a higher utilization. If you have one credit card with a $1000 limit and $300 balance, and the other one with a $500 limit that you just paid off in full, you are at 20% utilization of your $1500 credit limit. If you were to close that $500 limit card, you would be using 30% utilization of your $1000 limit. While 30% is the standard of what you should use, the lower the utilization, the better.

Inquiries stay on your report for 2 years.
I wanted to increase my limit on one card because I wanted a higher utilization. I had been with that creditor for so long so I thought they would be down because they offered a few months ago… nope. Well first, fuck the rep I talked to because I asked if she can see if they’ll approve without messing up my credit, she said yes, and it was on my report the next day. It’s staying there until February 2018, cool – And my other inquiries will be off my report in 2017. Do not apply for a card or increase unless you need it, but take it if they offer. Chase offered an increase in January and I accepted and that didn’t go on my report at all.

Get a rewards credit card.
If you’re going to have a card, you might as well have one that has rewards or points. My favorites are Chase Freedom and Bank of America. You always get something back in purchases and the points add up so you can cash out.

Cut up your card.
Once you cut up your card you can’t use it again. Even if you want to, it takes 7-10 business days to get a new one, so by that time you should figure out whatever you were planning to swipe. I just paid off 2 cards in full and cut them up  (but I’m keeping it open!)

Credit cards are definitely something I wish I knew how to maintain over the years. As I said in the beginning, my credit was really fucked up before. It was so bad that I needed my parents to co-sign apartments for me. It wasn’t until this year that I was approved on my OWN credit. That felt amazing. But, now I am getting a car and need to take that score to the next level. It’s funny because I showed the dealer my credit score 3 weeks ago and he said I’d be fine, but I’m not taking that chance. I want it to be GREAT so there are zero issues. After I get my car, the next goal is a home in 2018.

Hope my credit card advice helps you!