This article is written by me with support from Capital One® in conjunction with the release of the new Capital One Platinum MasterCard Credit Confidence survey. All opinions are my own.
Renting an apartment in New York City is no easy feat.
The first question any broker asks you (after your name) is how much money you make.
They want to know right away whether your income is at least 40 times the monthly rent – otherwise you’re just wasting their time.
With a median household income of $53,657, the typical American family would only be able to qualify for a monthly rent around $1,300 – which in New York City, is nearly impossible to come by.
[tweetthis]With a median income of $53,657, the typical US household would only qualify for a monthly rent around $1,300 in NYC[/tweetthis]
If the average American household can’t qualify for a place in the Big Apple, you can imagine what it’s like for 20-somethings just starting out.
For the first seven years of life post-grad, I bunked up to cut down on costs. With enough roommates in the right location, I was always able to keep my rent well below $1,000/month – avoiding the traditional rental application route by subletting.
But after so many years of nomadic co-living, I decided to take the plunge and look for my own place with the boyfriend last spring.
Our budget was $2,000 a month – and this time we were going to have to convince the landlords to rent directly to us, which meant facing the dreaded income requirement.
If you’ve been following this blog for the past six months (or more), you know I tripled my income in 2015 – which means I made VERY little money before then.
So even though I was well on my way to a new income bracket, the paperwork I had to present with the rental application included my 2014 and 2013 tax returns, neither of which were particularly impressive.
Not only that, but my boyfriend, who had scored a steady gig on Broadway earlier in the year, spent several months of 2014 only partially employed before his big career breakthrough at the start of 2015.
So while our household income was greater than the $80,000 we needed to qualify, the previous years’ tax returns didn’t show it. And our broker was skeptical.
Thankfully, we had a saving grace – our credit scores. Both of our scores were in the high 700s, and we had a track record of paying our bills on time and in full. Even if our income hadn’t always been high, it was clear we’d never committed to taking on more financial commitments than we could afford.
When we finally found our perfect apartment, I bombarded the broker with our financial savvy, pointing to our credit reports as proof – years of on time payments, low debt to credit ratios, a long history of credit, etc. Eventually, she agreed to take our application to the landlord and present our case.
A week of nail-biting later… we were approved for our first New York City apartment, and last month we celebrated our one-year apartment-versary by resigning the lease.
I was saved by my credit score and I wondered if there were others who’d been empowered by their credit to meet their own milestone goals.
It turns out you can get a lot more than your first place with solid credit backing you up.
Brian Clayton, CEO of an innovative lawn care startup, was able to launch his business courtesy of good credit.
“When we launched our business two years ago we had no money and no outside capital to get started.
Like most tech start ups, we went on the fundraising circuit, talking to angel investors and venture capitalists begging for seed money. We got turned down and told no over 40 times.
I was fortunate enough to have solid personal credit, enabling my team to secure a line of credit for $85,000 to get our business started.
We paid that off in the first year. This year we’re going to surpass $3 million in annual revenue.
Good thing early investors told us no, because with their capital, they would have owned and controlled 30% of our business. Because we are self funded, my cofounders and I own it all.”
For former engineer and self-described early adopter, Dan Nainan, good credit was the key to his dream car.
“I had my eye on the coolest electric car for a few years, and because of some recent success, I decided to reward myself. My application for a lease was approved within seconds.
Getting that car was one of the happiest days of my life. It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that I built my credit up to level where I qualified for it.”
While driving the latest, fanciest car admittedly isn’t on my list of life milestones, (and maybe getting your own place or starting your own business isn’t on yours), the fact is, it’s awesome to have good credit in your corner.
The key to good credit is establishing a credit score – and one of the best ways to do that is by responsibly using a credit card.
Not all credit cards are created equal, though – especially if you are just getting your first card. Be sure to get one that is simple, fits your needs and offers beneficial tools. A great option is the Capital One® Platinum MasterCard® that has no annual fee, comes with helpful digital tools like the Capital One mobile app, payment reminders and Second Look – a tool that helps customers stay on top of potential mistakes and unexpected charges to their card.
Who knows where you’ll go and what you’ll eventually want to achieve, but whatever it winds up being, good credit can go a long way in helping you get it.
It got me my first New York City apartment!
For tips on building your credit responsibly and avoiding the most common credit pitfalls, check out The Worst Credit Myths – and How They May Be Hurting You. You can also check your credit score for free with CreditWise® from Capital One – even if you don’t have any products!