Q: I am looking to apply for a secured or unsecured credit card to help me boost my credit scores. If I apply for an unsecured credit card, will it drop my credit score when my credit history is pulled? Will applying for a secured card be the better option or does that also drop my score? How can I apply and obtain a credit card to rebuild my credit score without having my credit history pulled and my score negatively affected?
A: According to FICO, the gold standard of credit score providers, applying for one new line of credit (whether it's for a secured or unsecured credit card) won't hurt your credit score very much. In fact, "for most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO score". Where you need to start being careful is if you're applying for multiple lines of credit (aka, credit cards) over a short period of time. This can be perceived as risky credit behavior and drop your credit score more than just a single credit card application would.
Since it seems one of your primary goals is to rebuild your credit history, you should definitely be applying for a credit card that reports to all 3 credit bureaus. Some good examples are cards developed specifically for those with poor or limited credit, like the Orchard Bank Visa Card and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®. However, these cards (like all credit card applications, whether they are for secured or unsecured cards) will pull your credit report to determine your creditworthiness.
If your bigger concern is the credit card application not having ANY impact on your credit score, you can try a prepaid debit card like the PrePaid Visa® RushCard. When you apply for the Rushcard no credit check is run, but it probably won't help improve your credit because it does NOT feature 3-bureau reporting. Instead it reports your payment history to lesser-known (and used) LexisNexis® and PRBC®.
If you're worried about how your credit score fluctuates over time (especially when you apply for credit cards or lines of credit), consider signing up for PrivacyGuard. PrivacyGuard's top-rated credit monitoring service provides 3-bureau credit monitoring as well as monthly updates to your 3-bureau credit scores and reports. Right now PrivacyGuard is offering NextAdvisor readers a 30-day trial for $1. When you sign up for the trial you'll receive all 3 credit scores and reports, and they are yours to keep even if you cancel during the trial period.credit card questions, Credit Cards, Credit Report Monitoring, Reader Questions