Monday, August 4, 2008

My Credit Card Portfolio: The Breakdown

I got this idea from one of my regular readers. The reader was curious about my own portfolio. In particular, I was asked if I had any regrets or if I would have done something different along the way (assuming I could do it all over again). I was also asked to rank order my cards. I figured this kind of exercise could prove instructional for all of my readers, so I've decided to lay my cards out on the table.

The first thing that should jump out at you is that my card selection is extremely diversified. I have 12 cards from 12 different creditors. That was not done by accident. You never know when a particular creditor is going to go crazy. If it does, I want to have a back up or two (or twelve). Also note that many of these cards are the end result of conversions and combinations. In other words, I may have started out with two Chase cards and then ultimately combined them for just one card. In other cases, I may have had one card but then converted it into a different one. What you see in my portfolio is what I currently have today. Without further ado, then, let me get to the rank ordering.

Favorite to least favorite:

  • Pentagon Cash Rewards (link here)
  • Nordstrom Visa Signature (link here)
  • Merrill + Visa (link here)
  • NASA Visa Platinum (with CU rewards) (link here)
  • Saks Fifth Avenue World Elite (link here)
  • Citibank Diamond Preferred (link here)
  • BMW Platinum (must call 866-861-8187 to apply)
  • Juniper US Airways (link here)
  • Chase Platinum (link here)
  • USAA American Express (link here) (must be a member of USAA)
  • Washington Mutual Platinum (link here)
  • American Express Gold (link here) (charge)***

    The Pentagon Cash Rewards card is my favorite card. It's a cash-back card and cash rewards are credited monthly. Cardmembers get 5% back on gas purchases (at the pump), 2% on supermarket purchases, and 1.25% cash back on everything else. There is no annual fee; the APR is 13.99%. The highest credit limit possible is $50,000. Pentagon reports the limit to the credit-reporting agencies. Pentagon usually pulls Equifax to evaluate credit history. Customer service at Pentagon is always top notch. This credit union does not offshore any of its customer service calls. This is my favorite card and I don't see that changing anytime soon. No regrets opening this account. I have a blog entry on this particular card here.

    Initial reason for getting card: wanted the rewards and knew that high limits were possible with this card.

    Verdict: would not change a thing. This has turned out to be my most heavily-used card. I'd recommend this card in a heart beat.

    The Nordstrom Visa Signature card is great. I am a shopper at Nordstrom, which makes this card a no-brainer. Interest rates are done on a tiered basis, with the best rate being prime. Note (November 7, 2008): Nordstrom recently changed its interest-rate structure (see story here). Customer service is always excellent. Credit limits are conservative at first but can get quite high after establishing a payment history. Indeed, it's often tough to get a credit-line increase at card activation, but it's fairly easy after you've shown a payment history for six to seven months. There is no cap on how high your credit limit can get. A customer-service rep once told me that Hillary Clinton has a $999,999 limit on her Nordstrom Visa Signature card (who knows how true that is). There is no annual fee on this card. Nordstrom operates its own bank.

    Because this is a signature card, there are two limits. There is the hard limit, the limit that you are assigned, and there is a soft limit -- which is the limit that is above and beyond your assigned limit. If my hard limit is $30,000, that means that I could theoretically charge as much as $60,000 on the card during a given month. The only catch is that I have to pay the balance down to at least my hard limit the following month.

    Another nice thing about this card is that if I am ever at Nordstrom, and I forget my card, I don't have to worry. Customer service people at Nordstrom can look up my account and charge my purchases to my card (even though I have left it at home). Same goes for the Nordstrom Notes that you earn. If you don't have the Notes with you, a salesperson can find them in the system and apply them to your purchase. Nice. Which reminds me. Notes have expiration dates on them. However, they are not "hard" dates. Nordstrom will accept your expired Notes too. I love doing business with Nordstrom. You can see why.

    After several months of using the card, and demonstrating a good payment history, Nordstrom is excellent with credit line increases. Simply call in around month seven and ask for a limit increase (without a credit pull). Anything over a limit of $15,000 will require a credit pull. Anything over $30,000 will require that you provide financials (usually a couple pay stubs). Nordstrom does not report the limit to the credit bureaus; only the high balance gets reported. Oh, and before I forget, Nordstrom is very sensitive to inquiries. If you have a lot of them, don't be surprised to get shot down during the application process. When I originally applied, I had three inquiries. I've always figured that six was too many. Additionally, Nordstrom does not grant instant approvals if you apply through the Web site. However, you can get an instant approval if you apply in the physical store (which is how I did it).

    Initial reason for getting card: Am a regular shopper at Nordstrom. Heard that customer service was unbeatable. Knew that Nordstrom would eventually grant high limits.

    Verdict: Great card. It's everything I thought it would be. My rate is prime (5%) and I have a healthy limit. This card gets plenty of action.

    The Merrill + Visa card comes in at number three. This card has a limit of up to $250,000 (I'm hoping to eventually get that limit before I kick the bucket). The limit is reported to the credit-reporting agencies. The annual percentage rate is 9.99%, but that's not bad for a card that offers plenty of rewards (see the Merrill site). Customer service is excellent. Credit line increases can be done on the Web site. A soft pull is done to evaluate your request. Merrill, which is managed by FIA Card Services (a subsidiary of Bank of America), will notify you if it must do a hard pull to accommodate your request. I've done plenty of limit increases; none ever required a hard pull. Every now and then, though, you might have to discuss your request with a credit analyst. This is my highest-limit card. I'm constantly offered excellent balance transfer deals (currently 0.9% for a year).

    Initial reason for getting card: Knew that I would be a lawyer in a matter of no time. Wanted a limit that would be able to accommodate me when I was ready for a card like this. The limit is already outsized; I'm looking forward to breaking $200,000 on the card (it'll probably take some time, but I know the card is capable of a quarter-million limit). Was also intrigued by the rewards on this card. Given that there is no annual fee on the card, it seemed like a sure winner.

    Verdict: Outstanding card. Plenty of good rewards. It's everything I thought it would be and more. It's a card that will grow with you as your needs grow.

    The NASA Visa Platinum card (with CU Rewards points) is underwritten by a credit union. The APR is 9.9%. NASA allows a maximum of $50,000 on any combination of cards. That means that you can have two cards at $25,000 each or a single card at $50,000 (this is the same way that Pentagon works as well). The credit limit is reported to the bureaus. Customer service is excellent. Like Pentagon, NASA does not offshore its customer-service operations. Like most credit unions, NASA usually requires income verification for its credit-card and loan products. Always be prepared for the request.

    Initial reason for getting card: This card was part of my diversification plan. I wanted a credit union to offset my bank credit cards. Also, I knew that NASA granted healthy credit limits. This was an integral card in my "higher-limits-begets-higher-limits" strategy. My limit isn't quite at the max, so I have just a bit more left to squeeze out of it.

    Verdict: It served its initial purpose. I was able to get some nice limits after I got approved for this card. Credit line increases can be had through customer-initiated requests or through NASA doing unsolicited line increases. Expect NASA to pull Equifax if you do request a limit increase. Not as heavily used any longer, but very glad that I got the card. It did its job.

    The Saks Fifth Avenue World Elite Mastercard has some excellent rewards. There is no annual fee. Credit-limit increases cannot be done on the Web site; they must be done over the phone. Saks Fifth Avenue's Web site allows for a dual application. You can apply for both the store card and the World Elite card -- with just one credit pull (mine was Equifax). If you're going for the Mastercard, you'd be a fool if you didn't add the store card to the application as well. Both cards report the limit to the credit-reporting agencies. This note, though: sometimes people don't qualify for the Mastercard but will be granted the store card. Be aware of that. APRs for both cards are high. I would never keep a balance on either of these cards. This card is underwritten by HSBC. As far as I know, there is no cap on the limit. This card is similar to the Nordstrom Visa Signature card in that it allows you to charge over your hard limit. Same rules apply. The excess must be paid down when you get your bill.

    Initial reason for getting card: I shop at Saks. There are plenty of bonus opportunities on this card. Saks is constantly offering $450 Saks gift cards with a purchase of $3,000. If you buy a suit, a pair of shoes, and a tie, you could easily spend $3,000. But even if you aren't a big spender, there are lower thresholds available as well (spend $1,000 and you'll get a smaller gift card). I was also intrigued by the dual application. I liked the idea of applying for both cards and only incurring one hard pull.

    Verdict: I've been a little disappointed by the credit limit on this card. Because I have significantly higher limits on the rest of my cards, this card doesn't see a lot of swipe action. As a result, I don't get increases on this card. It's a vicious circle, really. Because I don't use the card much, I can't get an increase. If I can't get an increase, I won't use the card. At some point I might get serious about using the card more. Would be a solid card if I used it more.

    The Citibank Diamond Preferred card is relatively new to me. This card used to be a Citi Platinum Select card (but it got converted to this). My limit is fairly high and the APR is just above 7%. The limit is reported to the bureaus. Credit-line increases can be done on the Web site. You'll either be given an instant increase (without a hard pull) or you will be given a form to fill out. If you get the form, and decide to fill it out, a hard pull will be done. I use this card sparingly. I've been busy with other cards and haven't had a chance to really explore the card's features yet. I have it ranked where it is because I've generally been happy with Citibank over the years. I imagine that this card will eventually be a good card for me (and if it's not, I'll convert it to something that is).

    Initial reason for getting card: I wanted to get in with Citibank. My initial Platinum Select card got me in the door. Wanted to be with a big creditor that was well known.

    Verdict: Glad I have this card. Citibank has been very good to me over the years (even if they weren't always the most generous). Eventually, Citibank opened up and started throwing more available credit my way. This card's limit is about average when compared to the rest of my cards. I'll be keeping the card open. Citibank is a good bank to have a card through.

    I grabbed my BMW Platinum card many years ago. I was a BMW (car) enthusiast and figured that I needed this card. The APR is currently at 10.99%. Limits are fairly generous on this card, though financials are required for any limit above $25,000. Credit limit is reported to the credit bureaus. Guideline increases (of $500), without a hard inquiry, are available every 12 months. I do not have the rewards card, though BMW does offer one. I've found that you'd have to spend way too much money to ever be able to realistically take advantage of the rewards that are offered. By and large, this card simply complements my BMW fetish. The card is underwritten by BMW Bank of North America. The Web site is without a doubt the worst of all my cards. BMW needs to upgrade this site. Given the BMW marque, it's embarrassing that they would allow the credit card Web site to remain so pathetic.

    Initial reason for getting card: because I drove the cars, I figured that I needed the card. The card is also underwritten by BMW, which gives me yet another bank that I can do biz with.

    Verdict: As a BMW fan, I think it's a fun card to have. I don't use the card a lot, but I make a purchase every now and then to keep the card active. If I didn't enjoy BMWs so much, it's doubtful that I would have this card. Additionally, this is not a card I recommend. There are better cards out there.

    We're now getting toward the end of my list. This is where the cards once served a purpose that may no longer exist. The Juniper US Airways card is interesting. First, I don't fly US Airways. I live in American Airlines and Delta country. I originally grabbed this card because a friend of mine told me that Juniper offered decent limits. This was the first creditor that offered by a 5-digit limit out of the gate. For that reason, it'll always hold a special place in my heart. After combining this card with a few other Juniper cards, the limit is pretty significant. Because I have the platinum card, the limit is reported to the credit bureaus. Still, this is a quirky company to deal with. I've seen some people get pathetic limits and I've seen Juniper do big credit-line decreases. Additionally, it's tough to get credit-line increases with this creditor. In fact, I have never received a credit-limit increase with this card. I have grown the limit by applying for other cards and then combining them. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of this card. I don't use the card very much but it did help get me on the road to higher limits. The APR is high on this card. I'd never carry a balance.

    Initial reason for getting card: no real reason, actually. I applied for this card when I didn't have a credit plan in place.

    Verdict: Because the limit is so high, I keep the card open. It helps me attain higher limits on my new cards. Also, I don't have an annual fee on this particular card. I downgraded the rewards package on this card (which helped me eliminate the fee). If you have the US Airways card, and don't use the rewards, you should consider downgrading the card to a slimmed-down version.

    My Chase Platinum card has been with me for a long time. But we've had a fairly rocky relationship over the years. Here's why: even though I used to revolve balances (and paid interest for the privilege) and always pay my bills on time, Chase rate jacked me to almost 30% in early 2006. The company was no doubt concerned about the utilization that I had on the card (link here). I immediately paid the card off and threw the card in a sock drawer. I have a long memory, so Chase has spent a lot of time sniffing underwear and socks. I use the card every four to six months (to keep it active). The APR is just over 10% now (Chase eventually reduced my APR when I got my scores well into the 700s). I have received very few credit-limit increases on this card. The limit reports to the credit-reporting agencies. Any limit increase will require a hard pull (Chase loves hard pulls).

    I'm considering converting this card to a Chase Freedom card. If I do, I think I'll use the card a lot more. Until then, this card mostly serves on sock-patrol duty.

    EDIT (November 1, 2008): I have since converted my Chase Platinum card. I now have the Chase Freedom card. And, just as I thought, I am using the card a lot more. I'm using it for the 3% back in my top three spending categories. I like the card so far.

    Initial reason for getting card: Like my decision to bank with Citibank, this was part of my plan to have a card with yet a different bank. Even at the beginning of my credit days, I recognized the importance of not having all of my eggs in one basket.

    Verdict: This is one of my older cards. I keep it for credit-history purposes. The card is pretty bland. There are no rewards, the limit is fairly low, and Chase has been known to piss me off. I now treat this card like it used to treat me. I give it no respect. I'll look to convert this card early next year (or when I get around to it).

    The USAA American Express card has served its purpose. USAA is well known for granting nice credit limits. But as a non-military member, I have a watered-down relationship with USAA. For those of us who are not military, but who were able to join before USAA closed off membership back in 2006, we're considered ugly stepchildren. We're members of USAA but we're not able to get insurance or rewards cards. What's more, we get higher interest rates on the credit cards we are eligible for. I have mostly used this card (its limit in particular) to leverage against my other creditors. It worked. Other creditors have given me limits that match or exceed the limit on my USAA card. The limit is reported to the credit bureaus.

    Initial reason for getting card: Wanted a high-limit card. Also wanted to get in with USAA so that I could partake of the many benefits that members are entitled to.

    Verdict: Aside from the high-limit card I got, this relationship is mostly a bust. The card mostly gets used for Costco purchases. I keep the card open because of its limit. If I had known then what I know now, it's unlikely that I would have applied for the card. Because membership is now closed to non-military people, I don't have to worry about dissuading you. If you are military, I think USAA offers plenty of nice cards, loan products, and insurance options.

    Last, and definitely least, is my Washington Mutual Platinum Mastercard. I originally got this card through an invitation to apply. Because I bank with Wamu, I figured that I'd get a decent limit. Wrong! Instead, I got a 4-digit limit that pales in comparison to the rest of my cards. The APR is decent (around 9%), but this card does not allow for customer-initiated credit-line increases. Wamu's standard line is that it reviews accounts periodically, yada, yada, yada. Whatever. I've received one increase during my tenure. (EDIT, November 1, 2008): Make that two increases. I recently received another credit limit increase on the card.) The credit limit is reported to the bureaus (though I wish the card would disappear from my reports altogether). I never use the card. In fact, I am so frustrated by the sub-prime feel of this card that I have shredded it. Wamu bought the old Providian portfolio; sometimes I think I have one of those sub-prime cards. Let's just say that I am not used to receiving this level of dissatisfaction.

    Wamu has one, and only one, redeeming quality. It's the only reason I don't close the card down right now. Wamu offers a Bankcard Industry Option FICO score every month to cardholders. It's a nice little perk. I'll tell you, though, if I didn't get this free FICO, I would have closed this card a long time ago. Occasionally someone will get a decent limit on the card but it's a rarity. I'd stay away from this particular card (even with the free FICO score). You can read about the Bankcard Industry Option FICO score here (link).

    Initial reason for getting card: I bank with Washington Mutual. Figured it was a good credit card to get. Thought I would be offered a decent credit limit.

    Verdict: This is the biggest regret in my card portfolio. I wish I didn't have this card. I wish I would have ignored that initial invitation. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be this: don't bother clicking the Wamu link (above) unless you want what will likely turn out to be a very weak relationship. I couldn't be more negative on a card. Avoid.

    ***I left the American Express Gold card for last. I didn't put it last because I like it least (that honor goes to Washington Mutual); I put it last because it's a new card for me. American Express is well known for treating its customers well. Unfortunately, it's also well known for conducting those pesky financial reviews that can come at the worst time. (You can read all about my American Express Game Plan here.) I've already had interaction with American Express's customer service agents. They've been very pleasant to deal with. I'm also impressed with American Express's Web site. Really quite good. I got the charge card, which means that I will be paying the balance in full each month. I did not want to get into a credit relationship with American Express. I don't have much more to say about the card at this time. After I've had a chance to use the card in a meaningful way (and had a chance to deal with American Express's customer-service reps a few more times), I'll come back and amend this post. In the meantime, if you're curious, you might want to check to see if you are preapproved for an American Express card. American Express has a nifty area on its Web site that lets you check to see if you're already preapproved for a card. There is no hard pull. It's a soft pull, which does not impact your credit score. However, if you do decide to apply for the card, American Express will do a hard inquiry at that point. The pre-selector link can be found here (link here).

    Initial reason for getting card: mostly for diversification purposes. Also wanted to see how customer service was. I know plenty of people who think American Express is top dog. I wanted to find out for myself.

    Verdict (update 10/6/2008): After a few months of having the card, I am happy with my decision to apply. So far, so good.

    I hope you enjoyed this little exercise. I know it's helped me. It's served as a tuneup of sorts. I'm thinking, after having done it myself, that all of us could use a credit tuneup every now and then. If you haven't done so lately, you might want to reevaluate your cards to see where (and if) they fit in your current plans.

    Related Articles:

  • Sign Of The Times: Nordstrom Bank To Lift Interest Rates On Its Credit and Store Cards

  • Heads Up: Macy's and Citibank Closures and Credit Limit Reductions On My Radar Screen


Marat said...

Does Nordstrom Visa Signature report CL to CRA?

I have Penfed CashRewards Visa Platinum, it is my favorite, highly recommend to everyone.

I have Saks World Elite MC. The reasons to get this card were:
1. No AF
2. Reports CL to CRA
3. Priority Pass

Credit Matters said...

The Nordstrom Visa Signature card does not report the limit to the credit-reporting agencies. It only reports high balance. I have updated my blog entry.

Thanks, Marat, for the question.

lupoman said...

Good stuff Marcus!! I wont hold you being a Lawyer against ya!!

I am still using much self control before i apply for the Penfed. Waiting for my scores to raise a Bit. This was def a great article man!

Credit Matters said...

Lupo, thanks for not holding my legal training against me.

I'd rather be remembered for my journalism background, anyhow. I'm bringing to bear, on a daily basis, all of the skills that I learned in that profession.

I'm a journalist first and a lawyer second. Plus, I am still in law school, so we don't even have to worry about calling me a lawyer for another 12 months.

Thanks for reading, Lupo.

awedio said...

as always, thx for the great write up!

my plan of attack (after reading this latest entry)
1) Penfed c/c & LOC
2) NASA c/c & LOC
3) Merrill + (BOA has always been good to me)
4) Saks

Credit Matters said...

Sounds like a plan, Awedio. Do you already have the Nordstrom Visa card?

Good luck on your targets.

awedio said...

Since you mentioned it's sensitivity to inq's, I'm going to wait on the Nordstrom Visa

awedio said...

need some advice:

I have a Sears (Citi) MC, opened '98, limit 13k+.
Also have a Citi Drivers Edge, opened '85, limit 41k+.
Citi will not consolidate (something about the Sears being a different card...)

I'm thinking of asking Citi, if they will CLI the Drivers Edge if I agree to close the Sears.

Given the age of the Sears, is this a good idea?

Credit Matters said...

I think closing your Sears card is a bad idea. Work the limit on your Driver's Edge card separately. I would not close that Sears card (not only because of the age, but because it's got such a nice, workable limit, too).

Awedio, work your Driver's Edge card for limit increases.

Don't close the Sears card.

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, I take it you have a few inquiries on your EQ report? Or do you have several spread out among all of your credit reports?

awedio said...

inq list
EXP = 4 (from 2 car lease's(3), BoA(1)
EQ = 2 (both on 8/1/08 Penfed, NASA)
TU = 0

looking some TU pullers

awedio said...

thx, advice taken on the Sears account.

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, if you got denied at Nordstrom, it would certainly not be because of inquiries. You've got very few. When I applied two years ago, I had three on Equifax. It wasn't a problem. I was instantly approved (I did the application in the store).

Awedio, I don't know what your scores look like, but I can tell you that you won't be denied because of your inquiries.

What do the scores look like right now?

awedio said...

TU 787
EQ 789
EXP 774

I really need to get my util down.
I'm at approx 20%

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, you have nothing to worry about on the Nordstrom application. I'd be shocked if you got denied. What's more, if I had your scores and your inquiries, I'd walk straight into Nordstrom and apply in person. Your utilization, though high for some of us credit geeks, is not outrageous.

I'm not urging you to apply, but I am telling you that if you did, you'd be golden.

awedio said...

do you remember which cr Nordstrom pulls?

I'm also looking for at least 2 "100%" TU pullers!

These days, it seems like none of the brand name creditors pull TU

Credit Matters said...

Nordstrom is an EQ puller, though they've been known to do an additional pull on one of the other reports when the applicant isn't strong.

There aren't that many creditors that are exclusively pulling TU these days. And those that are, typically are the ones I don't want to do biz with. Which is why I have 0 TU inquiries.

I'd do a search over at creditboards. See who is exclusively pulling TU.

awedio said...

I'll take your advice & go in store to Nordstrom, later this week.

I had the feeling that TU is on it's way to being at the bottom of the credit "food chain"

I've heard (from creditboards & another source) that the following are TU pullers:
Citi Premier Pass & Gold AA and Chase Platinum, Ultimate Reward, Cash Builder Plat. & Mileage+ Plus Visa

I will lock my EXP & EQ before I try for 2 of those.

Credit Matters said...

Once upon a time I applied for the Citi PP. It was not a TU pull; it was EX. It's all based on geography, though, so it could be a TU in your neck in the woods. Good idea to lock down your EX and EQ before trying it.

Meanwhile, good luck on the Nordstrom application. You'll do fine. If your limit isn't to your liking initially, don't hesitate to get on the phone with the analyst while your salesperson is on the phone doing the application. Also inquire about your interest rate (ask for tier 1).

awedio said...

Since I've been reading this blog, I've noticed a bounce in my "credit step".

I wish you had started this 3-4 years ago!

I remember applying for a BoA biz LOC, that was back in '04. I asked for 45, they gave me 37.5k, but, they asked if I wanted a 2nd one for my 2nd biz a/c, I said no thx..(what a dumbass I was)

Now, (thx to you) I definitely have a plan

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, glad to hear that you've got a bounce in your step. That comes from realizing that you are in the driver's seat. You're no longer wondering who will do biz with you; instead, you're deciding who you want to do business with. It's a great feeling.

Congrats on having a plan and taking full control of your credit life.

Thanks for contributing to my comments section, awedio. You're a valuable reader.

awedio said...

credit matters, I took your advice on the Sears card, called & asked for CLI to 27k, but I was only offered a 3k increase.
My last transaction on this card was Dec. '02

Thx for the advice, I will keep the card & start to give it some more frequent use.

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, nice work on Sears. And, yes, I think it's wise to keep cards open when they're more than 10 years old. Plus, it's not as though you have an unusable limit. That's a solid limit at Sears.

Carry on.

awedio said...

I forgot to mention, CLI for Sears Gold MC is a "soft internal" pull.

That's what the CSR said.

Credit Matters said...

Just make sure it was a soft. If it turns out to be a hard, call them and have them recode it.

Anonymous said...

I can definately relate to WAMU. In fact, you pretty much summed it up perfectly. I so wish I could remove that tradeline from my credit reports.

Didn't know alot about USAA, so thanks for the info about that bank. Makes me somewhat glad I didn't jump in before they closed outside membership.

Agree about Nordstrom being picky about inquiries. I though I was a shoe-in for approval. Alas, I was denied for 2 inq's in last 60 days. Haven't reapplied, but I've heard so many good things about Customer Service and good increases, that it is on my to-do list.

Credit Matters said...

Anon, you and me both, pal. Wamu is the scourge of my credit report. The limit is under $10,000, the APR is decent (about 9%), but the card does not grow with you. You can't call in for credit line increases. That kills me. That feels very subprime to me. Juniper is pretty bad about credit line increases too. It used to be that if you called in for a CLI, they'd ask if you made $250,000. Who are they kidding? Morons.

As for USAA, you aren't missing much. Non military members don't have access to anything other than the credit cards. We're also given higher interest rates as well.

Nordstrom can be real picky when it comes to inquiries. The higher the FICO the more forgiving they'll be, though. Ultimately, though, that's a great card to have. Right near the top for me.

A Texan said...

Great blog this morning.

Don't have much to say today....just taking notes!

Credit Matters said...

Tex, I figured today's column would be more about studying. That's why I published this one on Saturday. My Monday pieces are often study-type stories, which is why I give my readers time over the weekend to digest it (and research some of the stuff that I write about).

awedio said...

credit matters,
I took your advice on Nordstrom, walked into the mall & applied.

Did not go as well as I had hoped (I forgot you had mentioned that one could ask to speak to the credit analyst)

Tier II (prime + 3.9%)
limit 10k

awedio said...

thx for the great advice!!

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, that's OK. You are in. What's more, I would not accept that interest rate. Call and ask for tier I instead. That should be an easy call for you. Give it a whirl.

Also, even though you got $10K on the Signature card, you have an effective limit of $20K if you need it.

awedio said...

I tried talking to the csr's, they said there was nothing they could do.

do you have a tel # for the credit analyst dept. that you can email me?

Credit Matters said...

I would call the number on the back of your card. But instead of asking a CSR about the matter, ask for a supervisor instead. Let the supervisor know that you're very excited about the approval; not so happy about tier II. You don't plan on keeping balances but you'd like to have the best rates nonetheless.

Talk to a supervisor.

awedio said...

I won't have my card for the next 7 - 10 days

Credit Matters said...

Doesn't matter. They can see your account in the system.

Call and ask for a supervisor.

As you can see, I am very proactive.

awedio said...

credit matters,

you d man!!!

called & laid down the "speech" per your advice & BAM...Tier 1 (prime + 0%)


Credit Matters said...

Awedio, I've been there and done that. I'm basically laying out my game plan for all of my readers.

I know what works and doesn't.

I knew you'd be golden on the approval and I knew you'd get tier I.

You're a pimp. Congrats.

awedio said...

thx to you, I'm pimp jr!

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, congrats on your success. Pimp or pimp jr., you're doing well.

Onward and upward.

awedio said...

Merrill + is a no-go for me.

After speaking with a BofA Credit Analyst, the max credit exposure from BofA is not per account, it includes all cards issued or managed by BofA/FIA.

Since, I'm at that max, if I applied for a Merrill +, they would have to decrease the limits of one of the existing BofA cards to make room for the new card

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, that is correct. BofA takes everything into consideration. Merrill, though FIA handles the account, will take your other BofA accounts into effect when determining exposure.

My way around that? I consolidated all of my BOA accounts into one. Then I fed all of them to Merrill (after I got approved for Merrill).

By the way, here's some interesting information for you: if you have BOA accounts that are open, Merrill will steal some of your limits from the BOA accounts if you are at the max exposure (as you just learned). But if you only have a Merrill account, and no BOA accounts, BOA will not steal from Merrill to approve you on a new BOA account -- even though BOA may have told you that you were maxed out.

Something to keep in mind.

awedio said...

Nordstrom update:

They pulled EQ & TU.

awedio said...

These days, it seems EXP is considered the gold standard of CRA's.

Maybe it's because their system's are more "up to date"?

Yesterday (approx 20 hrs ago), I got 2 CLI's from BOA.
I just refreshed all 3 reports, EXP shows both CLI's from BOA.
EQ & TU...we shall see

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, thanks for the update on Nordstrom.

As for BOA, congrats on the CLIs. BOA is fast with updating the bureaus.

By the way, I have an old trick for anyone trying to get BOA to update balances. Let's say that you were maxed out on a BOA account (and that's what got reported to the bureaus). But let's say that you finally paid off the balance in full -- and the new utilization is really going to help your score. Problem is, you have to wait a month before BOA reports your card again.

Well, if you have two BOA cards, there's a way to make BOA report right away. Here's how you do it: you call BOA and have them reallocate part of your limit from one card and put it on the card that you want updated. So, if you had two $8000 cards, you could call up and request that BOA take $1000 of the limit from one card and put it on the other. That would give you $9000 on one card and $7000 on the other. BOA will then report the new limits to the bureaus right away.

It's just a shortcut to get your new utilization reported.

GoldenDomer said...

Nice post!! One question: Is your NASA APR really 13.99% - or 9.99%? My NASA account is 9.99%, and I can't image yours being 13.99%. Did you confuse your PenFed APR with NASA? My PenFed APR is 13.99%.


Credit Matters said...

GD, thanks for the heads up. My card is actually 9.9% -- not 13.9%. The Platinum CU cash rewards card is 13.9%. Mine has CU rewards points. I have made the change in the column.

Thanks for the heads up.

Brian said...

On the Penfed card, what's the international transaction fee? From their site, it looks like 1% It was a little unclear...

Credit Matters said...

Brian, it appears to be 1%. Here is the disclosure that you probably found on Penfed's Web site: "International Service Fees: Visa and MasterCard will assess 1% of the transaction amount for multi-currency transactions and 0.8% of the transaction amount for a single currency transaction. A single currency international transaction occurs when the country in which the card is issued is different from the merchant country, even when only a single currency is involved."

So, it's either going to be a 1% fee when there are two currencies involved (think the U.S. dollar and British pound sterling, for example), or it will be 0.8%, when just a single currency is involved and the credit card is issued in a country that differs from the merchant (for example, the U.S. dollar and the Ecuador dollar -- which uses same currency as United States).

Sorry for the long-winded explanation, Brian. But, yeah, it's either going to be 0.8% or 1%, just depending on the nature of the foreign exchange scenario that you fall under.

Thanks for reading.

Brian said...

That just reinforced my desire to sign up. I'm a long-time CB reader, but this specific post is making the Penfed card my next target - I opened an account with them last night, and am planning to sign up for the card as soon as I get my paperwork :)

Thanks for the great info - keep it coming!

Credit Matters said...

Brian, glad that I could be of service.

Enjoy your relationship with Penfed and enjoy the card (when you get it).

Thanks for reading.

Brian said...

WOW, you weren't kidding about Penfed's customer service! I called them today, a few days after applying since I hadn't received my membership number, and apparently due to a computer glitch, my account was in some type of manual review mode. Not only did the rep get me all set, he actually seemed like he WANTED to help! I didn't realize this type of customer service existed anymore!!!

Credit Matters said...

Brian, it's all good. Glad to hear that you're being treated well at Penfed.

Anonymous said...

Hi CM,

I'm curious have you ever considered a piece on the infamous, yet mysterious Amex Centurion a.k.a. "The Black Card" for your blog?

In my reading up on U.S. credit cards and the best of the best, I came across The Centurion. It's above Platinum. It seems to blow away many of the Visa Infinite's and MasterCard World Elite's. Apparently, there's only 10,000 in existence. A person has to be "invited" after spending $250,000 or more in a given year on any American Express Card or cummulatively spending the amount on various Amex cards.

It's made out of Titanium, and seems to be the ultimate card you can strive for when you bass "The Bar" exam and finally call yourself, a lawyer.

It seems the card can get you anything. Into clubs only celebrities get in. Free upgrades and tickets for hotels and airfare. A wife that loves you. A mistress that desires you, and a dog that won't piss on you.

It's rumoured that if a middle class person touches it, visions of what could be flashes through his/her head. :)
Just thought I'd throw in a suggestion for a future blog.
We here in Canada have little Credit Card competition. And it shows in the paltry rewards we get.
My Amex Platinum here doesn't get half of what the Amex Platinum gives a U.S. cardholder.
The CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite I have is pretty good, but not great. The Citi Driver's Edge Platinum (up to $5,000 reward points for a used or new vehicle of any kind) is pretty good. The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Amex Card is probably the best rewards card in Canada for it's versitility. But we have nothing compared to The Centurion or even The Merril + Visa or even The PenFed Visa or even...yada yada yada. You get the picture.
Sorry, I had to vent.

Robert, Detroit/Windsor border guy.

Credit Matters said...

Robert, I feel your pain on the neutered cards that you get there. That would suck.

As for the Black card, I will not be writing about that card. Most of my readers -- as great as they are -- won't ever qualify for that card. Additionally, there is a Web site out there that does a fairly good job of detailing the ins and outs of the card.

My efforts would merely be duplicative.

Thanks for reading, Robert.

Anonymous said...

Hi CM,

I got my new Amex Gold Card. I activated it, and broke it in first at Macy's. A really nice fall designer long sleeve shirt. Regular price $50.00, reduced to $25.00, on sale Friday for $15.75!!! hehe.
After I went to Starbucks. A frozen Mocha and apple fritter for $5.00
Then I went next door to Jimmy John's for a Gourmet Sub (never knew of such a thing), for $6.50

All high end stuff is all my Amex Gold will see.

I'm wondering CM, are you getting 10,000 bonus points if you spend $500.00 in 3 months?

I beleive that's a promotion Amex is offering on that card.

Creditcards dot com is reporting that on their card listing.

Robert, Detroit/Windsor border guy.

Credit Matters said...

Robert, glad to see you around these parts on a late Saturday.

I didn't get any MR points bonus. Only thing I got was my annual fee waived. I applied for the card through Amex's Web site. I was using the preapproval tool on the site. Applied directly through that.

In hindsight, I should have found a link where I could have received bonus points, etc.

Oh, well. Live and learn.

Anonymous said...

True, we could have used a link, but with security concerns (identity theft), it was more prudent to use the card's site for the application.

I am going to call Amex tuesday, and state that I was referred to them by creditcards dot com and the promotion for 10,000 MR points with $500.00 of purchases in 3 months.

I'll say that I was concerned that the creditcards site wasn't 100% secure.

It can't hurt to see if they are willing to give it to me.

I'll let you know what they say.

Robert, Detroit/Windsor border guy.

Credit Matters said...

Robert, that's a great idea. See what they say.

Please check back in.

And you are correct. It is kind of sketchy to use links outside of Amex.

Let me know how you fare.

awedio said...


anyone know why a Citi c/c would show a balance but the credit limit shows zero.
It is reporting this way on all 3 bureau's

Credit Matters said...

I do, Awedio.

There are several Citi cards that are no "preset limit" cards. The American Airlines card and the Premier Pass cards come to mind right away. If you have those cards, you'll see that Citi reports the high balance -- but not your limit.

awedio said...

It's a Drivers Edge card.

What is Citi policy with regards to switching/converting to another "flavor" of card?

I need that limit to show up, it's too high to waste.

awedio said...


thx for the info.

When you say "no preset limit", is that like an Amex?
This card does have a credit limit

Credit Matters said...

Citi will convert your card to a card that does report the limit.

Call. It's not even a 5-minute call.

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, correct. Even though you have a limit (and you see it on your statement), you can charge over your limit -- assuming that Citi approves the charges.

It's like my Nordstrom Visa Signature card. Even though I have a stated limit, I can charge twice the stated limit. The catch is that I must pay down the balance the next month to my stated limit -- plus make the minimum payment.

awedio said...

Is there a way to tell which one of the Citi cards report cr. limits?

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, all of Citi's "no preset spending limit" cards will not report the limit.

I know for sure that the AA and PP cards do not report the limit. The Citi Platinum Amex probably doesn't report the limit either, since it's a no preset spending card as well.

By the way, I am on Citi's site right now. I don't see any indication that your Driver's Edge card is a no preset spending card.

I'd call Citi and find out why it's not reporting.

Elusive D. said...

Okay--here's a question I've been hoping to ask: Just received a "Pre-Qualified" offer from Juniper. 7.99% fixed APR, no annual fee and "regular credit line increase reviews". I want to diversify my credit portfolio, and currently only have Capital One (not a fan), and WaMu. Is a Juniper worth jumping for, or should I perhaps wait for a Citibank offer? Or both?

I want to do whatever's best for my credit rating. Thank You in adavance for your knowledge and support!

Credit Matters said...

Elusive D, I am not going to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I think of Juniper.

Juniper is one of my highest-limit cards. Strange but true. It helps with my utilization greatly. However, I rarely use the card. Also, I have never requested, nor received, a credit line increase from Juniper. If they're performing regular credit reviews, I guess we know what Juniper thinks about my usage.

As my friends like to say, Juniper is, well, quirky. My pal, NoBull, coined that term for Juniper. People seem to love Juniper or hate Juniper. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of middle ground.

You're asking, though, what you should do with this "pre-qualification." I'm here to tell you that a pre-qualification doesn't mean much. It only means that you were part of a huge list of people that met Juniper's underwriting qualifications when it first had that list constructed. It does not guarantee an approval. You could easily get denied for the card. Or get approved. You might have just as much luck applying cold.

Finally, how does Juniper work into your credit plan? Would you not rather have a card from some place else? Why not apply for a Citicard? Or a Chase card? Where, ultimately, does this Juniper card fit into your plans? Were it not for the "pre-qualification" letter, would you even be interested in Juniper?

You just need to figure out if you really want a Juniper card. If you do, then maybe you'll decide to apply. If you don't want a Juniper card, then you'll likely refrain.

Decisions, decisions, eh, Elusive D?

Josh said...

What IS the maximum "exposure" of BOA per person?

Credit Matters said...

Josh, there is no hard and fast rule. Don't bother trying to figure it out. Bank of America isn't going to tell you.

That goes for any credit card company. They're not telling, either.

You'll know when you've reached the maximum exposure with them when you get a letter in the mail saying that it has declined your request for a credit limit increase because your income doesn't support a higher limit.

Wish I could be more specific. But that's what we know.

Josh said...

Ahh now I see what you were referring to. I'm sure that is a very arbitrary number.

Anonymous said...

Hi CM,

I called Amex this morning and let them know that I learned of the Amex Gold and its 10,000 My Rewards Points by Creditcard dot com. A very nice southern belle of a woman answered (nice to know that Amex doesn't offshore all the customer care reps), and I told her I wasn't sure if the link was 100% safe so I logged onto the Amex site.

I asked her about when I would receive the 10,000 points. She said it takes 6-8 weeks. I asked her to check my account to see if I qualified. She said it would take a couple of minutes.

When she came back she said yes. It usually shows up the second or third billing statement. I should call back then if I don't receive it. But for all intensive purposes, YES!

Call them CM. Ask to verify that you qualify for 10,000 My Reward points with your first purchase (yes, it got better, no waiting for $500.00 of charges in 3 months to be made).

Robert, Detroit/Windsor border guy.

Credit Matters said...

Robert, thanks, dude. I will give them a buzz.

Separately, Robert, I have a question for you about Canadian credit unions. Email me at

I have a Canadian reader who was interested in a good CU in Canada. Told him that I don't know any. Thought maybe you might. Anyhow, email me if you get a chance.

Thanks, pal.

Credit Matters said...

Josh, yep. It's very arbitrary -- to us. I am sure it makes a lot of sense to BOA and its ilk.

Thanks for writing.

awedio said...

Josh & CM,

I did ask BoA about max exposure

Level 1 max exp is 75k across all BoA/FIA issued cards using stated income

Level 2 max is 100k across the board, you will need tax returns, money market, cd's (liquid assets)

Level 3 above 100k, you need more of level 2. This level is handled by a different group of credit analysts.

awedio said...

I forgot to add,

BoA likes to keep their max exposure to no more than 33% of household income, unless you provide the extra documentation

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, I appreciate the information. Next time I get on with an analyst, I will drop a few comments here and there and see what I can get out of them.

This is great information, though.

Much appreciated. Thanks.

Credit Matters said...

Regarding the 33% of income figure, I am sure that's an aspirational number. I'm well above that. No income verification necessary.

Thanks again, Awedio.

awedio said...


I straight up just asked the analyst I was speaking with & they gave me the info. I was surprised, since I didn't think they would say..

Remember, that 33% figure is based on the "current" credit climate.

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, thanks again for this information. This is useful.

awedio said...

btw, this info is about 1 month old!

awedio said...

CM, just spoke to Citi, the card is a Drivers Edge Charter, "World Points" version & it is indeed a no preset spending card.

The csr a problem within their system has caused that card to show a zero CL on cr reports.

He also said they have received numerous complaints about this.

Citi is currently working on a fix, he just couldn't say when.

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, is there two versions of the Driver's Edge, then? If so, why not get the other version? Or are there some perks on that World card that you really like?

By the way, I would ask a supervisor at Citi what the real time table is on the fix. CSRs have a way of not always being in the know.

awedio said...

CM, yes, there are 2 versions, Drivers Edge & D. Edge Charter.

The charter has more travel perks, concierge svc etc.

Me thinks I'd rather have the 40k+ limit (zero balance) reporting vs. perks!!

Credit Matters said...

Sounds like a plan.

Josh said...

Just curious has anyone found value to these no present spending limits on credit cards?

Credit Matters said...

It has value for me because my other creditors don't know how much ACTUAL credit I truly have. It serves as a hidden limit for me. They know that I have the account; they just don't know what my limit is.

Anonymous said...

Hey! A New Banner And A New look CM! Nice.

Well, I like Macy's, as I decided to break in my new Amex Gold there, but I won't add Macy's card or May's Visa to my "To Do" list of cards to get.

Way too many complaints about how badly they handle card customers, how they don't disclose a Macy's Store Card application is also a Macy's Visa Card application, how they offshore their customer care reps, and how they double hard pull for store and visa applications.

Sad. For such a highly regarded store, to try and bait & switch and to nickel and dime...not good for an attempt at 5 Star service.

I'll limit myself to Saks for credit at a store. At least they are better regarded, with less complaints, and a single hard pull gets both cards.

Here's the links for what I have found. I don't have permission for the direct links, so replace my "DOT" for a real . and it'll take you there. DOT com/nzforme/Sothisisatreadmill/entries/2008/02/27/sorry-macys/3807

http://offonatangent.blogspot DOT com/2007/09/macys-calling-my-wife-from-india.html

Robert, Detroit/Windsor border guy.

Credit Matters said...

Robert, a new look, new gadgets, and new domain name. We're still using the blogger backbone, but we're mostly independent now.

Be sure to bookmark

Thanks for the links.

Anonymous said...

Good news to hear CM.
I will bookmark it.

Can I ask you two things?
First how did the Canadian reader do with the info I gave him about Canadian Credit Unions?

Second, when you applied for your Saks card, what Credit Reporting Agency was pulled? Just curious.

Robert, Detroit/Windsor border guy.
P.S. What did you think about the Macy's Credit Card complaints? One woman said she was charged interest & a late fee even before the bill's due date. The customer care rep from India said they do that to everyone so the customers can see what happens when you don't pay the bill on time. What the heck is that!?

Credit Matters said...

Robert, I have not heard back from the reader on the credit union stuff. But he was happy to have the information. Not sure if he has acted on it yet.

I have not read the stuff you linked -- yet. Been a busy time around here the past 72 hours. But I will check it out.

As for Saks, they pulled EQ. It was just one pull -- and I got both cards.

Anonymous said...

Was Merrill + Visa a EQ or EX pull?
For both Saks and Merrill, is an average fico score of 750 or more enough to get them?

Robert, Detroit/Windsor border guy.

Credit Matters said...

Anon, Merrill was an EX pull for me. Knowing nothing else, a FICO of 750 or more would give you an excellent chance for both cards. If I had that score, I personally wouldn't be too worried.

Josh said...

Though I thought I was seeing things, Nordstrom Tier 1 Interest is now at 5% which is PRIME(not 5% plus prime, 5% is the interest rate). Marcus, you wouldn't be such a lucky one to be at tier 1 are you?

Credit Matters said...

I've been at tier 1 since I got the card. It's a great rate. When I initially got the card, more than two years ago, the rate was 8.25% (which is what prime was at the time). As prime moves down, so does the interest rate at Nordstrom.

Good stuff. Great card.

awedio said...

Does the LOC and CC from Penfed show the credit limit on our reports?

Credit Matters said...

Awedio, they do report.

Josh said...

Sign of the times. You can't apply for Saks cards online anymore.

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