How to Dispute a Credit Report and Win the Dispute Case

How to Dispute a Credit Report and Win the Dispute Case

One of the most important chores on any financial to-do list is to regularly review your credit reports for errors. If an error does appear, disputing it is a fairly simple process with a big potential payoff: It might improve your credit score.

Keep reading to learn how to dispute a credit report and win.

How to Get an Accurate Credit Report

Consumers can access their credit reports for free every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These credit reporting companies feature similar but not identical data, and any errors may appear on one or more reports.

There are three ways to request a report:

•  Online: AnnualCreditReport.com

•  Phone: (877) 322-8228

•  Mail: Download an Annual Credit Report Request form from the URL above, and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

You can request all three reports at once or each one at different times without paying a fee. Helpful hint: By ordering one at a time and spacing out requests every four months, you can be fairly confident about catching major issues while they’re fresh and easier to dispute. For example, you might order the Experian report in February, the TransUnion one in June, and Equifax in October – all for free.

After your free annual access has ended, you can pay to check your credit reports as often as you like. Credit reporting companies can’t legally charge a consumer more than $13.50 for a report. It’s also possible to access credit reports through specialty consumer reporting companies, some of which charge a fee.

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

Why It’s Important to Correct Mistakes in Your Credit Report

Credit reports generally make it easy to spot negative financial information like missed payments. However, take care to review your credit report for other incorrect data, however minor, such as former addresses and employers. Common credit report errors include inaccurate bank balances, duplicate account info, and false late payments.

In case of an error, take steps to have the mistake removed as soon as possible. Credit report errors can lead to a bad credit score, impact loan applications, or raise your interest rate. Bad marks on a credit report can also affect your employment options, insurance premiums, and ability to rent an apartment.

Recommended: Developing Good Financial Habits

How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Reports

To dispute an error on a credit report, you’ll need to contact each credit bureau that published the error. Mistakes can appear on one report only or all three. Each credit bureau has its own dispute process, so check the instructions on AnnualCreditReport.com or the individual credit bureau sites. You’ll likely need to fill out a dispute form and provide supporting documentation that helps prove an error was made.

If your dispute is accepted, follow up to make sure the credit bureau and the business that supplied the incorrect information update their records accordingly. If a mistake is easy to prove, start with the business that made the error. Be aware that credit bureaus and businesses cannot charge you to correct errors on your report.

In the case that a mistake on a credit report is due to identity theft, it’s important to report that to IdentityTheft.gov and get a personalized recovery plan.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

Example Letter for Disputing a Mistake on Your Credit Report

Usually, a dispute needs to be submitted in writing. If you submit a letter via the Post Office, send it certified mail with “return receipt requested.” That way you have proof that the credit bureau received the letter.

The following information should generally be included in a dispute letter:

Identifying Information

The date, consumer’s name, and their address all need to be included in the letter.

Each Item That Needs Disputing

Whether there is one error or many, each one should be outlined briefly and clearly. Identify each error, explain why the information is wrong, and supply the correct information if applicable. Then request to have the error corrected or removed.

Copy of the Credit Report

It can be helpful to enclose a copy of the credit report with the errors circled. Don’t send any original documentation with your letter. Make copies and keep the originals safe in case they are needed again.

Why Consider Credit Score Monitoring

To efficiently keep an eye on your credit reports, you may opt to use a credit monitoring service. These services will update account holders when certain credit updates appear, such as new accounts, hard inquiries, high credit card balances, or a missed payment.

Not only does credit monitoring make it easier for consumers to stay on top of their credit and work toward improving their credit score, but it can help catch fraud and identity theft early.

How to Report Credit Scams

If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a credit scam, report it to IdentityTheft.gov, a division of the Federal Trade Commission. They will provide a personalized recovery plan, walk you through the steps, track your progress, even pre-fill forms and letters for you. Then, you should dispute any false information on your credit report.

The Takeaway

Disputing and correcting errors on your credit report is usually straightforward, as long as the mistake can be proven. Whenever possible, reach out directly to the business that reported the mistaken info. Then follow the dispute instructions for each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Regularly review your credit reports annually to catch errors early, before they negatively affect your financial record – and your life.

For extra help monitoring your credit, turn to SoFi’s money tracker app. You can monitor your credit score at no cost, with weekly updates to help you stay on top of your financial wellbeing.

With SoFi, you’ll know where your finances stand — and knowledge, as is often said, is power.

FAQ:

Who always wins a credit dispute?

There is no one party or side that always “wins” a credit dispute. If the consumer can document that an error was made, they will likely win the dispute.

What reason should I put for disputing a credit report?

The reason for disputing an error on a credit report can be a typo, outdated information (more than seven years old), data that belongs to another consumer, or fraud, among other things. Include any supporting documentation you have to help strengthen your argument.

Does disputing a collection notice reset the clock?

No, but a dispute does pause the clock in regard to bill collectors. Once you dispute a debt in collections, the collections agency can’t contact you again until they have provided verification of the debt in writing to the consumer.


Photo credit: iStock/mediaphotos

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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What Is a Contactless Credit Card and How Does It Work?

What Is a Contactless Credit Card and How Does It Work?

Amid health and safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity of contactless credit cards soared. This method of payment allows you to use your credit card for a purchase by simply tapping or holding it on the card reader, as opposed to inserting or swiping it.

While you may or may not already be familiar with how to use contactless credit cards, you may be wondering, how do contactless cards work? Here’s a look at the tech that enables contactless credit card payments, as well as the pros and cons and overall safety of using contactless credit cards.

What Is a Contactless Credit Card?

Physically, a contactless credit card looks like a regular credit card, with the bank name and the account number on the front of the card and the ubiquitous magnetic stripe on the back of the card. However, contactless credit cards allow cardholders to “tap and pay” instead of inserting or swiping their card in a merchant payment machine.

This enables a consumer to make a purchase at a retail location without ever having to physically touch a payment device, which is why contactless payments increased during the pandemic.

What Does Contactless Payment Mean?

The term contactless payment more broadly refers to a form of payment that involves no touch. You can make a contactless payment using a credit card as well as a debit card, gift card, mobile wallet, or wearable device.

Regardless of the form, contactless payments rely on the same technology to make a payment without needing to swipe, enter a debit or credit card PIN, or sign for a transaction.

How to Know If Your Credit Card Is Contactless

Major credit card providers like MasterCard and Visa offer contactless cards. You can determine if your credit card is contactless-capable by looking for a contactless card symbol on the back of your card. This symbol looks like a WiFi symbol flipped on its side, with four curved lines that increase in length from left to right.

Even if your card has this symbol on it, you’ll also want to check that the merchant has contactless readers. You can figure this out by looking for that same symbol on the card reader or asking the merchant directly.

How Contactless Credit Cards Work

Like other credit cards, contactless credit cards have small chips embedded in them. But instead of requiring you to insert the card, this chip emits electromagnetic waves that transfer your payment information when you place the card close to a payment terminal that accepts contactless payments.

You don’t actually even need to tap your contactless credit card to pay — all you have to do is place your card within a few inches of the payment terminal. This will initiate payment.

You might then have to wait a few seconds while the transaction processes. The terminal will usually give a signal when the transaction is complete, such as by beeping or flashing a green light.

Technology That Enables Contactless Credit Card Payments

Instead of inserting a credit or debit card into a merchant payment terminal, contactless credit cards rely on radio frequency identification technology (RFID) and near-field communication to complete a retail transaction.

The “no touch” concept is driven by a contactless card’s short-range electromagnetic waves, which hold the cardholder’s personal data, including their credit card account number. This information is then transmitted to the merchant’s payment device. Once the device grabs the airborne card information, the transaction can be completed and the purchase confirmed.

Pros and Cons of Contactless Credit Cards

Like most consumer finance tools, contactless credit cards have their upsides and downsides. Here’s a snapshot of the pros and cons to note:

Pros

Cons

Convenient to use Not always available overseas
Secure Low transaction limits
Increasingly offered Not always reliable
Better for merchants

Pros

These are the main upsides of contactless credit cards:

•   Convenient to use: Contactless credit cards are extremely convenient to use once you get the hang of how credit cards work when they have this feature. All a user has to do is wave their contactless credit card in front of the card reader, and the deal is done in a matter of seconds. Plus, you can avoid touching any surfaces in the process.

•   Secure: With data thieves regularly on the prowl, “tap and pay” and “wave and pay” technologies are highly protective of a consumer’s personal data. All of the data is stored on a password-protected, fully-encrypted computer chip embedded inside the card, making it difficult for a financial fraudster to steal a user’s personal information.

•   Increasingly offered: The availability of contactless payments has increased in recent years, and many brand-name companies now offer the option. Companies may even offer discounts and loyalty point details that are immediately added to a consumer’s account at the point of sale.

•   Better for merchants: Companies that offer contactless credit/debit card payments also benefit from “no touch” card technology. Aside from superior operational capability and faster transactions, merchants get a better customer experience and formidable fraud protection from contactless payment technology, with no extra cost. That’s because merchants pay the same transaction processing fee with contactless payments as they do with regular credit card transactions.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Cons

Of course, there are downsides to contactless credit cards as well:

•   Not always available overseas: Contactless payments may not work abroad, given the recent expansion of a new card payment technology. Additionally, consumers may be charged foreign transaction fees when they do use contactless payments overseas, depending on the specific country’s credit card payment laws.

•   Low transaction limits: Contactless card users may find they can’t cover large transactions, like a laptop computer or king-size bed. That’s because merchants may issue those limits until they’re convinced contactless payments (like any new technology) are completely safe, secure and free of any fraud threats. In the meantime, contactless card-using consumers can always use the same credit card to make a big purchase by using “chip and sign” or “chip and swipe” card technologies.

•   Not always reliable: Contactless credit card transactions aren’t always reliable, as sometimes the payment won’t go through even though a reader indicates that it accepts contactless payments. This could cause someone to have to resort to swiping their card instead to complete the transaction.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Guide to Using a Contactless Credit Card

When using a contactless credit card, the transaction is enabled and completed in three key steps: look, tap, and go.

1.    Look. The consumer checks for a contactless symbol on a merchant’s payment device (this will look like a WiFi signal tipped on its side).

2.    Tap. After being prompted by the payment device, the consumer will wave the credit card an inch or so over the payment device, or actually touch (tap) the credit card on the payment terminal. This is why the process is sometimes referred to as credit card tap to pay.

3.    Go. Once the wave or tap is executed, the payment device picks up the transaction, confirms the credit card payment, and completes the transaction.

Be mindful that if you carry multiple contactless credit cards, you may want to keep those cards away from a terminal that accepts contactless payments. This will help ensure the correct credit card is being charged. Instead of holding your wallet or purse over the payment terminal, take out the specific card you’d like to use instead.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Are Contactless Credit Cards Safe?

Contactless payment cards basically offer the same anti-fraud protections as any card that relies on a credit card chip.

This is because the chip in contactless credit cards creates a one-time code for each merchant transaction. Once the payment is confirmed and the transaction is approved, the code disappears for good. That makes it virtually impossible for a financial fraudster to steal a consumer’s personal data, as they can’t crack the complicated algorithmic codes financial institutions use with chip-based payment cards.

Additionally, a contactless card is equipped with electromagnetic (RFID) shielding, which helps keep card information from being “skimmed” by data thieves. In turn, this removes another data security threat from the credit card transaction experience.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Contactless credit cards are emerging as an effective payment technology that’s gathering steam among consumers and retailers alike. Thanks to the tech that enables contactless credit card payment, these credit cards allow you to simply wave or tap the credit card within range of a payment terminal that accepts contactless payments. You can figure out if a payment terminal — and your credit card — offer contactless payment as an option by looking for the contactless payment symbol.

If this is a feature that interests you, it might be worth looking out for when picking a credit card that works for you.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

Are there extra charges for using contactless credit cards?

No, there are no extra charges for using contactless credit cards. This is true for the consumer who’s tapping their card as well as for the merchant accepting contactless payments.

What are the risks with contactless credit cards?

While contactless credit cards generally offer enhanced security, there is the risk of a thief skimming cards in your wallet by using a smartphone to read it. However, the thief must be within very close range to do so. Perhaps the easiest way for a thief to get ahold of your information is by stealing your physical credit card, which is a risk with any type of credit card.

Where can I use my contactless credit card?

You can use your credit card at any retailer that has a terminal accepting contactless payments. You can determine if a card reader will take your contactless credit card by looking for the contactless payment symbol.

What happens if I lose my contactless credit card and someone else uses it?

If your card is stolen or lost, contact your credit card issuer immediately. Check your recent credit card transactions for any fraudulent activity, and make sure to report that information to your credit card issuer.


Photo credit: iStock/milan2099

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

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What Are Credit Card Points and How Do They Work?

Credit card points are a common incentive for cardholders to actively make purchases on a rewards credit card. Once earned, cardholders can use credit card points toward a redemption option they find worthwhile. This can include travel or a purchase credit toward a good or service.

Read on to learn more about how credit card points work, including how to get and how to use credit card points.

What Are Credit Card Points?

Credit card points are one of many different credit card rewards that card issuers offer to consumers through a rewards program. For instance, a program might offer you two points for every dollar you spend on the card, which you could then redeem for use once you’ve accumulated a certain amount of points.

Points act as a form of currency within a credit card rewards program, designed to entice cardholders into maintaining spending activity on the card. Some reward programs for credit cards are also co-branded to encourage loyalty to a particular brand.

How Do Credit Card Points Work?

Understanding how credit card points work ultimately comes down to knowing how to earn points on credit cards — and then how to redeem them.

Earning Points on Credit Cards

Wondering how to get credit card points? There are a number of ways to earn points on your rewards credit card account:

•   Everyday purchases: Using a card as your primary payment method for your routine expenses is one way to earn points. Depending on your preferences and the features of other rewards cards in your wallet, you might choose to put purchases, like your morning coffee, groceries, rideshare expenses, and more on the card.

You might also choose to dedicate certain spending categories to a rewards card that offers bonus points toward that purchase. For example, if your rewards card offers 5X points when using your card at the supermarket, you might decide to use the card exclusively for groceries.

•   Shopping with credit card partners: Part of finding the right card for you is researching whether the credit card partners with brands and services that you already shop with. For example, some cards partner with ride-sharing services, like Lyft, and offer bonus points for every Lyft purchase put on the card.

Note that some card issuers require you to pre-register for this type of bonus point incentive. You might have to link your rewards card to your Lyft account in order to receive bonus point credit for ride costs, for instance.

•   Sign-up bonuses: If you’re expecting a costly upcoming expense, like a medical bill or home repair, a common strategy to earn credit card points quickly is finding a competitive credit card bonus offer. Sign-up bonuses typically offer a promotional bulk quantity of points after you spend a minimum amount on the card within the first few months of opening the account.

Putting your large purchase on a new card accelerates your point earnings, but make sure you can pay your monthly statements in full to avoid interest charges — one of the important credit card rules to abide by in general. If you allow your balance to roll over into the next month, it can cut into the value of a sign-up points bonus.

•   Referral points: When you refer a friend to your rewards credit card program, some card issuers offer a referral bonus. Typically, you’ll receive a referral bonus reward, and your friend also receives bonus points if they meet certain spending requirements on their new card. Referral points vary by credit card, but it’s another option for cardholders who want to earn points on credit cards while giving friends a bonus perk, too.

Redeeming Points on Credit Cards

You can redeem credit card points in various ways. Common options to redeem credit card rewards points, depending on your card’s redemption choices, include:

•   Flights

•   Hotel stays

•   Car rentals

•   Statement credits

•   Cash back

•   Gift cards

•   Merchandise

•   Online retailers

•   Special experiences

•   Charitable donations

Redemption typically takes place through the card issuer’s app or website, or through the issuer’s dedicated rewards program website.

Types of Credit Card Rewards

Credit cards offer different types of rewards options. The common “currencies” are points, miles, and credit card.

Reward Points

You can earn credit card points by making purchases on your rewards card. Some credit card products offer a flat rate per dollar spent on your card, while others offer bonus points toward a spending category.

For example, a card might offer tiered bonus points at a rate of 5 points per dollar at restaurants, 3 points per dollar toward every gasoline purchase, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Miles

Miles are a common reward unit that’s typically used among travel credit cards and airline-branded rewards cards. Depending on the mileage rewards program, you’ll typically earn bonus miles when charging travel-related expenses on your rewards credit card. Some credit cards also let you earn miles on non-travel purchases at a lower mile-per-dollar rate.

This type of credit card reward is ideal for regular travelers who often fly to their destination and are interested in using credit card rewards to travel for less. If you prefer flying on a specific airline, a branded rewards credit card can help you earn miles toward a future flight, in addition to other redemption options, like hotel stays or goods. General rewards mileage cards can be redeemed in a similar way, but it’s not restricted to a particular carrier.

Cash Back

Credit cards that offer cash-back rewards let you earn a percentage of cash back based on the amount you spend. This can typically be redeemed as statement credit to reduce how much you owe on your monthly credit card bill, or as cash sent directly to you. Some cash back credit cards let you redeem cash back rewards as credit toward a purchase through one of the issuer’s partners.

If you’re not an avid traveler, a cash-back card can be a straightforward option to earn and redeem rewards. Many card issuers offer a flat-rate rewards model that offers an easy-to-remember cash-back percentage on all card purchases.

How Much Are Credit Card Points Worth?

The value of each credit card point is generally worth 1 cent. However, reward valuations vary between credit card reward programs and can also differ based on how you choose to redeem them.

For example, your credit card points could be worth 1 cent when you redeem them for cash or gift cards, but worth 1.25 cents when you redeem them for travel-related options, such as flights or dining. Keep in mind that these amounts can vary widely, so it’s important to understand the terms and conditions of your credit card.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Getting the Most of Your Credit Card Points

Below are a few helpful ways to maximize your credit card points:

•   Stay on top of bonus categories. Some rewards credit cards offer rotating bonus spending categories that temporarily increase the points you can earn per dollar spent on the card. These types of cards often require you to “enroll” in the bonus category, so familiarize yourself with your card’s bonus calendar.

•   Be aware of bonus limits. Read the rules of your rewards program, including thresholds on the maximum dollar amount that’s eligible for bonus rewards.

•   Calculate if the annual fee is worth it. Before signing up for a rewards credit card, review your spending habits over the last year. Note the spending categories and amounts you’ve spent. Based on this information, calculate whether the card’s rewards program and benefits — like TSA PreCheck credit and other perks — exceed the annual fee you’d spend each year.

The Takeaway

Accruing credit card points, miles, or cash back can be worthwhile as long as you use your card responsibly and select a rewards card that fits your lifestyle. Before putting your earned rewards toward a high-dollar purchase, or applying earned cash rewards to your monthly statement, keep your objective in mind.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Do credit card points expire?

Typically, credit card points don’t expire. However, your points might expire if your credit card account is closed, falls into bad standing, or after a period of inactivity. Different cards have varying rewards program terms and conditions, so check with your card issuer to see if your credit card points have an expiration timeline.

Do credit cards with rewards have higher interest rates?

Rewards credit cards, like retail credit cards, tend to have higher interest rates compared to regular credit cards. Cardholders with a positive credit history and strong credit score generally qualify for lower interest rates compared to those with a low credit score.

What is the use of earning reward points on my credit card?

Earning rewards points on your credit card allows you to get something in exchange for the spending you do with your credit card. For example, depending on your rewards program, you can redeem credit card points as a cash back reward, or put them toward future travel or other purchases.


Photo credit: iStock/stefanamer

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Changing a Secured Credit Card to an Unsecured Card

A secured credit card can help you establish credit for the first time, or rebuild your credit if you’ve damaged yours with missed payments, defaults, or bankruptcy. While secured credit cards offer many of the same advantages as traditional credit cards, they do have some limitations.

Eventually, those who start out with a secured card may want to switch to a traditional credit card. Here’s a closer look at how to transition from a secured credit card to an unsecured card.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

What Is A Secured Credit Card?

A secured credit card requires that you put down a cash deposit, which serves as collateral for the charges you make with the card. Usually, the amount of the deposit is the same as your credit limit. So if you deposit $1,000, you’ll be able to borrow up to that amount.

If you miss payments, the bank can cover their losses by drawing on money from the deposit. That said, making on-time payments is just as important with secured credit cards as it is with traditional cards, especially if you are using the secured card to build credit.

As with traditional credit cards, secured cards require that you make a minimum monthly payment. Beyond that, you can carry a balance from month to month, but you will be charged interest on that balance. Pay your balance off in full each month to avoid interest payments.

Recommended: Differences Between a Secured and Unsecured Credit Card

Benefits of Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards offer users and banks a number of advantages.

Easier to Qualify

Because secured cards require users to put down a deposit, banks are taking on relatively little risk. As a result, it can be much easier to qualify for a secured card than it would be a traditional credit card.

Can Help Build Credit

If you have no credit or poor credit, it can be difficult to get approved for credit cards or loans. Making small purchases regularly with a secured card and paying off your bill in full and on time can help you establish credit or rebuild your credit.

If you’re looking to build credit, you may also consider becoming an authorized user on a credit card.

Convenience

You can use secured credit cards anywhere traditional cards are accepted. Secured credit cards allow you to shop in person or online without carrying cash around with you. It’s also difficult to accrue too much debt because you’re limited by the amount of your deposit.

Drawbacks of Secured Credit Cards

Alongside the benefits offered by secured cards, there are limitations to be aware of.

Coming Up With the Deposit

In order to get a secured card, you will have to come up with the cash that will serve as your deposit. That may require you to save for a period of time before you apply.

Once you deposit that cash, you can’t access it while your secured card is in use. That said, your deposit is refundable when you close the account or convert your secured credit card to an unsecured card.

Higher APR

The annual percentage rate (APR) is the interest rate you’re charged when you carry a balance on your card. Secured credit cards may offer higher interest rates than traditional cards, which can end up costing you more money if you carry a balance.

Spending Is Limited

Most credit cards, whether they’re secured or unsecured, have spending limits. For a secured credit card, your limit will depend on the size of the deposit you make, which will typically range from $200 to $2,000. If you’ve only deposited $1,000 and need to replace your transmission for $1,800, you won’t be able to put the repair on your card.

In comparison, the average credit limit across all cards is upwards of $30,000, according to a recent report from the credit reporting bureau Experian.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

What Is an Unsecured Credit Card?

An unsecured credit card is a traditional credit card that does not require a deposit as collateral. Instead, your credit limit is determined based on your creditworthiness. If you fail to pay off your credit card, your card company can send your bill to a collections agency, and your credit score will take a hit.

There are a variety of types of credit cards to choose from when it comes to unsecured cards, including rewards cards and balance transfer cards.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

When You Might Keep Your Secured Credit Card Open

The biggest reasons to keep your secured credit card open have to do with the potential implications closing the account can have for your credit score.

For one, closing an account may result in a dip in your credit score. Additionally, closing the account may decrease the age of your credit history, another factor that goes into determining your credit score.

When You Might Upgrade to an Unsecured Credit Card

You may consider upgrading to a traditional, unsecured card if you’re able to manage a secured card responsibly and are looking for a lower APR or a higher credit limit. Ultimately, making the move requires that your credit is in decent shape.

To do so, it’s important that you stick to credit card rules. That includes being sure that you’re not in the habit of overspending, you’re able to pay your bills on time and in full, and you can keep your total purchases lower than your available credit. Experts suggest keeping your total balance at 30% or less of your available credit.

However, whether you can change a secured credit card to unsecured will also depend on your credit card issuer. Not all card companies offer unsecured options that you can upgrade to. In those cases, you’ll need to apply for a new card.

Guide to Upgrading from a Secured Card to Unsecured Credit Card

If you’re looking to upgrade to an unsecured card, make sure you’re following these steps.

Watching Your Credit Score

Many credit cards require that you have at least a good credit score to qualify. That means, you’ll need a FICO score of 670 or higher. Not only are you more likely to qualify for a card with a higher score, you’ll also be more likely to secure more favorable terms and lower interest rates.

If you’re considering trying to convert a secured credit card to an unsecured card, monitor your credit score regularly. You might check with your card issuer to see if they offer you free access to your credit score.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Making the Minimum Monthly Payment

Getting approved for a change from a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card requires displaying responsible credit card behavior. Ideally, you’d avoid interest payments by paying off your credit card in full every month. But if that’s not possible, be sure you are making at least your minimum monthly payment, as payment history is one of the biggest determinants of your credit score.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Managing All Your Accounts Responsibly

Before opening an unsecured credit card, make sure you’re able to make other debt payments on time as well. This includes student loans, car payments, or a mortgage. If you’re not displaying good credit behavior elsewhere, that will show up on your credit report and potentially hurt your chances of qualifying for an unsecured credit card.

Limiting the Number of Credit Accounts You Open

Opening new accounts requires a hard inquiry, which will result in a temporary dip in your credit score. Additionally, if you open too many new accounts in a short period of time, it can lower the average age of your credit accounts, which is another factor that influences your credit score.

Ideally, you’ll avoid activities that will cause your credit score to drop as you’re trying to work toward being able to qualify for a secured credit card. A better score will improve your chances of getting approved.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

The Takeaway

A secured card is an important tool for building or rebuilding credit. However, once you’ve established healthy credit card habits and good credit score, it may serve you to switch from a secured to unsecured credit card.

In the market for a new card?

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

Can I upgrade my secured credit card to unsecured?

Some lenders will allow you to change a secured credit card to an unsecured card. However, others will require that you apply for a new card.

How long does it take to convert a secured credit card to an unsecured one?

To move from a secured credit card to an unsecured one can take anywhere from several months to a couple of years. How long it takes will depend on the credit card issuer’s policies as well as what your credit score was when you opened the account.

Does converting a secured credit card to an unsecured card hurt your credit score?

Closing your secured card to open a traditional credit card may cause your credit score to take a temporary dip. However, you shouldn’t notice a huge impact.

Do all credit card issuers allow the conversion from a secured to unsecured card?

Not all credit card issuers will convert a secured card to an unsecured card. More often than not, you’ll have to close your secured account and open a brand new card.


Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

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What Happens If You Overpay Your Credit Card? And What Do You Do?

Chances are that you never intend on overpaying your credit card bill, yet sometimes you may see a negative balance on your account. Although overpaying a credit card isn’t ideal — that cash flow could’ve been used toward another expense, after all — it’s usually not cause for concern.

If you overpaid your credit card, interest isn’t charged on the amount; in fact, that amount is owed back to you. What you do next, whether that’s requesting a refund or applying the overpayment to next month’s bill, is up to your discretion.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

How Credit Card Overpayments Happen

Since credit cards work by providing you with revolving purchasing power up to your allowable limit, any activity on the account can change your available balance — even after you’re issued a monthly billing statement. This includes new purchases on the account that increase your credit card balance, but also payments or credited amounts that lower the outstanding amount you owe.

If you end up making a payment to your credit card issuer for a higher amount than you owe, for instance, it results in an overpayment. This is also called a “negative balance.”

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How You Could Have Overpaid Your Credit Card

There are a few circumstances that might result in an overpaid credit card.

Manual Payments

Submitting a manual credit card payment for an amount that’s higher than your actual outstanding balance will push your account into a negative balance. This might happen if you’ve been repaying a large purchase in equal increments each month, but don’t adjust the last payment for a smaller amount.

For example, let’s say you used your new 0% APR credit card to purchase a laptop for $2,150 and plan to make manual monthly payments of $500. By month five, you’d only need to make a $150 payment to pay off your card balance. But if you forget what your current balance is, you might accidentally make another $500 payment. The $350 difference would be an overpayment on your account.

Paying attention to your outstanding balance on the day you plan on making a manual payment can help you avoid overpayment.

Additional Payments on Top of Automatic Payments

You might also overpay credit card balances if you made a payment to avoid credit card interest charges, but didn’t realize that you already had autopay enabled on your account.

The scheduled automatic payment will still be processed, regardless of any manual payments, unless you cancel it for the month. For this reason, a double payment can result in an overpaid credit card.

Before making an extra payment, double-check whether you’ve enacted auto-pay and see how another payment might affect your outstanding balance.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Receiving Refunds

Another common scenario resulting in an overpaid credit card is if you return a purchase to a merchant or get a refund for a service. If the amount of the purchase was credited back to your credit card, and you make a payment based on what’s shown on your statement balance that arrived before this transaction, you’ll overpay your credit card bill.

If you returned an item and received a refund back on your card, remember to adjust your manual payment or auto-payment to reflect your new balance due.

Guide to Rectify Overpaying Your Credit Card

Now that you know what happens if you overpay your credit card, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to fix it. If your credit card balance is under $0, and you’re owed money back, there are a few ways to move forward.

Request a Refund

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects your rights when it comes to how your credit card account is handled. It states that you have the right to request a refund if you overpay your credit card by more than $1.

The credit card rules state that the issuer must give you a refund in the payment method of your choosing within seven business days of receiving your request. Additionally, it must, in good faith, make attempts to return unapplied overpayments that have been on the account for over six months.

When requesting a refund by mail, make sure to send your request through certified mail so you have proof of the date it was received by the bank.

Allow the Negative Balance to Roll Over Next Month

Another way to address a negative balance on a credit card is simply to do nothing. If you don’t explicitly request a refund, the bank will automatically roll over the unapplied credit toward your next statement balance.

If you have a larger statement balance than your credit during the following month, the overpayment credit will be applied and the remaining balance you owe is reduced. However, if your credit is greater than your new statement balance, your adjusted credit amount will roll over again.

It will continue this way until you’ve effectively used all of your account’s overpayment credit or you ask for a refund.

Enable Autopay on Your Credit Card

If you’re not already enrolled in automatic payments, enabling autopay for your credit card bill can help prevent overpayments due to manual payment errors. Leveraging your card’s autopay feature is a responsible way to use a credit card since it ensures you pay the correct amount on your account on time.

If you set up autopay to always pay your statement balance or outstanding account balance, it also helps you avoid credit card debt that’s getting increasingly harder to pay off.

Does an Overpaid Balance Affect Your Credit Score?

Having an overpaid credit card balance is better than having a positive balance on your account. Credit card companies report negative balances as a “zero balance” when forwarding your card activity to the credit bureaus.

A zero balance lowers your credit utilization, which impacts your credit score calculation. Although it can improve your credit compared to carrying an outstanding balance, the effect of an overpayment is the same as making a payment for the correct amount to reflect that you owe $0. In other words, this isn’t the type of scenario where you’d consider whether to pay a credit card with another credit card.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Although overpaying credit card balances is a common occurrence, following the tips above can help you avoid a negative balance. Paying attention to this can help prevent your discretionary cash flow from getting tied up with your card issuer unnecessarily — a key to smart credit card habits.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

What happens if I overpay my credit card?

If you overpay your credit card, the amount is reflected as a negative balance on your account balance. You can request a refund, or let the bank apply it to your next statement.

Does a negative balance have an effect on my credit score?

No, a negative balance doesn’t affect your credit score. Your bank reports it as a “zero balance.”

How long do you have to dispute a credit card charge?

You have 60 days to dispute a credit card charge, starting from the date it appears on your statement. The bank is legally required to acknowledge your dispute within 30 days of receiving it. A resolution must be enacted within two billing cycles or a maximum of 90 days from your dispute date.

How can I request a refund after overpaying my credit card?

Send a written letter to your bank requesting a refund and specifying the method in which you’d like to receive it, such as a check or other method. The bank is required to provide your refund within seven business days of your request.


Photo credit: iStock/Really Design

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

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