Step-by-step guide to build credit in one year

I have written this guide as a balanced approach to building credit if you are starting out. It is not intended to give you the maximum credit score, since that would require that you know perfectly how to manage credit from the beginning, an unrealistic expectation. If you follow this guide, at the end of the first year you should have a solid credit history that would allow you to get approved for most credit cards and obtain reasonable interest rates on auto loans.

Continue reading Step-by-step guide to build credit in one year

Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express: What are they really?

Many years ago, before I came to America, I was studying for the IELTS test. The IELTS is a test of English language skills that students coming from countries where English is not the official language have to go through if they want to study in an English-speaking country. For the listening portion of the test, exam-takers listen to an English conversation to answer questions related to the conversation. The conversation topics are sometimes specific to the country that administers the exam: either the UK or Australia.

One of the questions from the listening portion left me really confused at the time, so confused that I still remember it today. Actually the question was easy to answer; it was the content of the question that was not understandable to me. The conversation occurs in a store where the guest is asking whether the store accepts Discover or American Express, to which the waitress responds that they only accept Visa or Mastercard. I had never heard of these names before, and would not until years later when I actually set foot on a country where credit card use is the norm. My reaction at the time was something like: What? What’s American Express? A newspaper? OK, Mastercard is probably a card, but what about Visa? Is it the same sort of thing as a tourist visa?  Continue reading Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express: What are they really?