GOOD NEWS, OPPO, after 9 years of slogging through the financial wasteland left after some horrid decisions involving credit card debt, car loans, and student loans, I finally have my credit back! And I need a better credit card.

I trashed my credit between 2006 and 2008 because of a series of factors—taking longer in school than I had intended, a significant period of unemployment, and terrified creditors who would not work with me. In 2007 and 2008, the financial system was melting, unemployment was rampant, and I spent 9 months doing essentially nothing before finally realising my future lay in Asia. That 9 months of dickering was costly, but the creditors really could have helped. They mostly didn’t.

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I have no problem telling you that while I had no “good” creditors, Bank of America was the best of them, because at least they let me pay up without dinging my credit, but I had to go hat in hand to friends and family to raise the money. BoA would not work with me on a credit plan. It was all or nothing, just that the all would mean a positive report, rather than a negative.

In the short run having my only major revolving credit line go into overdraft and get shutdown was bad. In the longer run, this has actually helped me, because apparently Bank of America continues to refresh the information, and now it counts as an 11 year old “positive” history (since it was not reported as negative).

Who was the worst? This may surprise you, but it was USAA, with whom I had my car loan and my student loan on account of my connection to the Navy. They talk a good game about having your back, but they are an extremely conservative organisation, and they talk a good game based precisely on the belief that military records more often than not produce reliably consistent customers. But heaven help you if you need some time to get your life in order. Not only would they not work with me on any kind of minimum payment schemes, but they steadfastly refused to come to any positive agreement. Their representatives were actually nasty on the phone, telling me they would send people after me, that they “would get our money by any means necessary” that they would “ruin” my life, etc.

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They finally did charge everything off, solidifying a major negative hit to my credit. After moving to Korea and then Japan, I continued to pay them for a BMW I wasn’t driving, even after the charge-off said I had defaulted on the loans entirely. I finally negotiated with them to pay them half of what I owed in a series of massive lump sums and sell the the BMW. That got them to go away, but of course, it didn’t affect the charge-offs. They refused to change it to “settled” or acknowledge in any way on my credit reports that they received a significant chunk of the owed money in a technically faster way than stipulated under the original loan agreements.

USAA will have your back as long as you don’t run into any issues, if you do, they absolutely will not work with you. At all. Go with Navy Federal instead. Even though I no longer have an active account with them, they’re still nice to me and understand my circumstances have changed and would work with me again based on present circumstances, not based on the past. Neither Bank of America nor USAA will ever work with me again, but that’s mutual. Especially in the case of USAA. If they changed their tune, I still would never give them my business.

So, I walked out of 2008 with a credit score of maybe 400-500. It was good that I had moved to Korea and then Japan (since credit scores are national, not international), and it was better to be in a position of no credit than ruined credit. However I still found that my ability to maintain my fiscal abilities in the U.S. were considerably hampered by my shitty credit history. By 2012, I had made it past 600, and I did some research on getting a card. I got a basic level Capital One card, the same one I still carry now, and was given a $300 limit on it. After about a year, that got bumped up to about $1000 and my credit score climbed a bit. Then it got bumped up to $2000. Now it’s being bumped up by rather small increments of like $100 there or $50 there, which isn’t particularly helpful, but okay, whatever.

Anyhow, now, as of November 21, my highest score is a 738 and my lowest score is a 702, up from across the board 600s just a month or so ago! WOOHOO. But it does go to show that it took me only about a year to destroy my credit and between 7 and 9 to restore it. Bottom line, don’t fuck up your credit.

That said, it’s time to try to get a new credit card, one with a decent limit, and decent airline rewards. AADVANTAGE is out because it’s a BoA product, and I don’t much like American. I’m not a big fan of United either. I love Delta, and so I’m seriously looking at the Delta SkyMiles Card, probably Gold. Platinum is a better card, but it requires Excellent credit, and I have Good/Very Good credit. I’ve also looked at the Starwood Preferred Guest card because it has 1:1 with most airlines, including Delta. I might be able to get the Capital One Ventures card since I am already a great Capital One customer, but it doesn’t seem to be as good of a ratio of miles to dollars as the SkyMiles would be directly. Biggest need for me on a day to day basis is no foreign transaction fees, because I don’t have a Japanese credit card.

Halp?