Credit where credit is due.

I bought a copy of my credit score last night, and damned if it isn’t within a hair’s breadth of perfect. For that, I thank Virginia National Bank.

I opened my account the moment that they set up shop in July of 1998 (my account number is three digits long) and, like all of their customers, quickly came to know every employee personally, from the bank president on down. They didn’t offer anything fancy — no credit cards or free toasters, just checking, savings, and loans.

In early 2000, at the age of 21, I was stymied by a lack of credit. If I’d been a college student I could have gotten one no problem — they hand out $2,000 credit cards like candy to college freshmen — but as a downtown business owner and young pillar of the-community type, I couldn’t even get a secured credit card. I didn’t have bad credit; I had none at all. I sought advice from Virginia National Bank. They provided some great advice (buy a car, get a department store card, etc.) but none of it was advice that I was inclined to act upon. If I wanted a car, I’d pay for it all at once; I didn’t shop at department stores. So I was sent back to the office of VNB president Mark Giles.

Mark listened to my problem, and offered a solution. He would provide me with a $2,000 line of credit. I could take that $2,000 out and put it in an interest-bearing account. Then I could gradually repay the $2,000 loan. They would report that to credit agencies, and it would establish credit for me. It would cost me some money — the difference between the interest I’d be charged on the credit and the interest I’d be paid from the savings account — but that’d be a far sight less than buying a car.

The deal was sealed with a handshake. I ended up tying the line of credit to my checking account, as an overdraft account, and fishing for credit with it as I might fish for bass, tugging the loan up and down over the months, creating a nice shiny lure for would-be creditors.

It worked. A year later I was able to get a $500 credit card. A year after that I got a $2,500 credit line with another credit card. Today my wife and I enjoy an embarrassingly high line of credit — one that I hope we’ll never need — and I haven’t been turned down for either of the times I’ve needed my credit checked for a purchase.

I now rank in the top 1% of consumers, credit-wise. I should be able to get the best possible mortgage rate, saving me tens of thousands of dollars in interest on a house. Other than following Mark Giles’ advice, and taking advantage of the opportunity that he provided me, I’ve done nothing special, though I’ve also done nothing particularly stupid.

So I figure the credit for this financial victory belongs squarely with Virginia National Bank. Thanks, guys.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

11 replies on “Credit where credit is due.”

  1. That’s great, Waldo. There are so many folks out there who learn the hard way about how to deal with credit: ending up with thousands of dollars of credit card bills and no end in sight. I am an accountant, and even I ended up racking up credit card debt when I was in college. Luckily, I lost a barn to fire on a property I used to own, and instead of rebuilding, I paid off the credit cards with the insurance money. These are lessons that parents should be teaching, but it seems that many don’t. It sure would be nice if there was a personal finance 101 class in high school to take up the slack…

  2. You paid for the credit report? Why not the free ones provided for by the federal government?

  3. I didn’t pay for my credit report, I paid for my credit score. A report will tell you what companies believe that you owe them money, a score will give you the integer by which future creditors will judge you.

  4. I am so glad that I bought my one unit of ownership at VNB. I only wish I had been flush with cash at the time and bought more.

    VNB works in a “Charlottesville” way and is great for everyone involved.

    As far as college students and credit goes, I still lament the day I “lost” the American Express card I got while at PVCC. I have avoided the temptation to ask for it back.

    Congrats on the great score – now go buy a house.

  5. A great credit score is definitely valuable.

    The devious credit card companies (the larger major ones at least) have subtle ways of keeping users from making on time monthly payments that adds finance charges and lowers that credit score.

    Why could you not get a secured credit card?

  6. Why could you not get a secured credit card?

    I really don’t know — I’m as baffled now as I was then.

    I give big points to Juniper. After they turned me down for some intro credit card I e-mailed them expressing frustration. A few weeks later I got a call from one of their employees, who explained to me specifically what they were looking for in a customer, and what they’d like to see me do before I got a card from them. (They were the company that suggested the secured card.) After I got that $500 card I went back to Juniper and got a card from them, largely because I was so impressed that they took the time to help me out.

  7. Juniper would be even better if they offered direct downloads for Quicken instead of the crazy process they have now.

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