The Branding Agency & AR (Augmented Reality) – Main Tips to Implement It

In the past the brand design, branding agency concept ruled. Nowadays, after the physics became nonlinear and more quantum based, the branding agency has now become more experiential vs. just brand identity designs. So, in the past looking for an open market, placing your product and/or start intrusively shouting your offer was the best way to do marketing, moving forward to the industrial era it became more cold call system than strategy itself. As time goes by we have been living a phenomenon of exponential acceleration of things and thanks to that exponential theory (Moore’s law) the more it moves forward the wider the leap in time, it correlates and side by side with cosmos enlargement theory by astrophysics.

Having into account our daily lives and daily routines, if we manage to remember, back in 1938, Mr. Buckminster Fuller for the first time introduced a very quirky word called ephemeralization which means among other meanings, the trends of “doing more with less”, a term mostly used in chemistry, health and obviously the industrial field. Stanislaw Ulam, little bit later in 1958, wrote a publication which was based on a conversation he had with John von Neumann where the main topic was the acceleration progress of our technology and how it influences human life. Later on, Hans Moravec was the first one to generalize Moore’s law in order to make predictions about the future of artificial life, Hans was computer scientist and futurist. Moore’s law talks about exponential growth patterns within and in the complexity of integrated semiconductor circuits. Based on Moore’s ideas, Moravec extend the scope to it into other modern and future forms of technology, particularly Robots and how they evolve into an ever more intelligent specie, moving further to the mere integrated circuit theory.

Because technology and religion (beliefs not dogmas) influence the way people see the world and indeed shapes our attitude and as some other sociologists say it helps create, maintain or make disappear entire cultures and this way civilization we can see the level of current technology influence is so high that sometimes we cannot notice, otherwise you might remember James Burke and his TV series Connections (1978), later on: sequels Connections² (1994) and Connections³ (1997) where it was mentioned for the first time the conventional linear and teleological view of historical progress. It’s just today and now we must discuss based on quantum and other theories that look forward to connect to other forms of perceptions, linking this way senses and technology until it goes to more subtle levels we cannot understand yet.

Branding and marketing are facing nowadays new ways to integrate messages into people’s perception and the graphic design agency is this way searching for more interesting brand marketing strategies. The new branding strategy agency will be the one who can integrate marketing and branding via super tools to expand the stimulation of our senses and taking us to new level of perceptions. That will be the new creative marketing agency of the future.

Top branding agencies are now betting for micromoments (thanks to Google!), not anymore, intrusive cold calls and/or direct sales. It is now the brand experience or micro moments, it is the journey through the purchasing process that has apparently more value than the purchase itself although is the opposite. The product branding strategy is simply following what the branding in marketing corporate branding strategy is dictating, therefore, the design and branding agency leverage the creative designs to bring forth new levels of experiences.

The new “branding a company” will not merely want to be one of the best branding agencies, just branding a product. The branding advertising agency of the future will include positive values into their brand marketing strategy, therefore, we will not only do branding and identity just for the sake of doing branding but in order to leave a transformational message to the mankind and help them grow.

Ideas to implement AR to branding.

In the past, branding a business with the help of a branding and design corporate branding agency started by creating a brand of course and this is something any creative design agencies, design branding agencies or corporate branding companies used to do.

It should and exclusively start by understanding ourselves. An honest and sincere understanding of who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, potentialities. This require deep and systematic silence in order to penetrate deep levels of inner intelligence and understanding both of our inner nature and nature around us. Great changes happen in silence, never amidst the noise.

Observe nature. Mother nature is the best teacher we can have in order to create similar experiences via artificial devices. Most of us, almost all startups I know, are so focused on generating profits that they even forget to honestly take care of themselves; sadly, enough, once they achieve their financial, material goals, etc. (if they manage to achieve it) they are sick and can’t enjoy what the results.

We are always jumping up and down between either artificializing nature or humanizing artificial things, say, devices, isn’t this a contradiction? Best idea in this is to understand the real value of nature and the real value of human nature and the real value of that interaction.

Therefore, the brand design company must adjust as much as possible the new advertising agency branding paradigm: The human being as the main subject not the product, service or idea itself. Understanding the human being behind the device is of utmost importance, nowadays we talk about UX or user experience, it should go beyond that UX, beyond the simple subject-object interaction. Just like physics classification has different shares of categories from a gross into a subtler levels or covers, just like onion rings, this way we should see this whole thing from a holistic point of view.

Brand marketing companies must delve more into the heart and soul of the brand identity work. Marketing and branding companies and even top advertising agencies must not think only of the money but of a more transcendent work that goes beyond a simple brand positioning strategy.

Augmented Reality enable the end user to position or place any life-size 3D model into any specific environment either with trackers or not. Therefore, it enriches our cameras feed and fill it with any contextual information released by the source. So it aligns reality with your mobile, laptop, etc. Great study cases to carefully analyze is the British Museums’ Ancient Egyptian trail or The Augsburg Display Cabinet at the John Paul Getty Museum.

Does it take lots of resources to implement (budget)? Are you or your advertising and branding agency following a marketing branding strategy? Disney for example, is using AR for interactive book coloring series and for promotional purposes such as the Star Wars Weekends (SWW).

Is this experience looking forward to engaging more or creating more brand awareness as part of a defined brand strategy consulting outlook? AMC Theatres use AR in order to engage moviegoers and this way interact with different engaging items such as promotional movie posters by using their phones or tablets.

In what stage fit AR in the sales and marketing funnel? How can it boost that specific stage? Volvo for example used AR in order to nurture their prospects base before launching XC90 in 2015. Volvo wanted to show the cutting-edge design behind this model by letting know the most important and interesting capabilities of the XC90. The wanted prospects download the “Volvo Reality” app in order to end users check and delve inside of the car system, go for a virtual drive highlighting its main and nice features along the way.

What you offer must be something, outer nature doesn’t have, otherwise is a waste of time. For example, City University London has implemented cARe. As a Jisc-funded project, the idea behind is to provide a simulated clinical training to nurses to support patient care. You must download the cARe app an iPad that is usually loaned and a headphone splitter so students can concurrently access and listen to a resource. The resources that students had access to were adapted, converted and further developed from the CeTL website (a City University resource that offers learning resources related to clinical and communication skills).

Get yourself centered. Yes, you first. Do research, plan, execute, measure, learn and try again.

Branding and marketing companies, brand management consulting agencies, marketing and advertising firms, brand consulting firms, branding corporate identity specialists and creative advertising agencies can use advertising and branding AR in order to engage its target to more premium packages by using AR branding strategies in virtual marketing. For example, Marriott gives you the experience of teleportation. Teleporter VR Program uses a 4D sensory experience in order to immerse into travelers’ real travel experiences. The database is full of different travelers’ personal stories and experiences when traveling different destinations around the world. Therefore, the story created by the user’s experiences is in a shareable mode.

Branding Agency for Today

The typical branding agency from the past (or at least a more professional branding agency) have focused on the standard mission, vision and values approach. And yes, this works well as it understands what a company stands for and aligns the brand around this. However in practice over the years, I have noticed a few things that happen, firstly, the client starts to feel engaged in the process, they get excited and start to get more involved (all good), however, in some cases I see that as they start to get to understand our processes and get more involved, they stop focusing on the end result and start to refer back to the work, aligning to what are they are today, or what they want to achieve, and the client gets more and more drawn into the process. And while it is good to get the clients attention and involvement in the branding process, it isn’t so good for the branding to loose grip of the end result.

It’s interesting when I look more holistically at the results of the bigger and more established agency – I won’t mention names, you start to see that once they become well known for what they do, they start to be trusted by companies and brand managers, who acknowledge that they don’t actually need to sculpt the end result for themselves, they trust the branding agency to make recommendations, and then from here reap the rewards of this. The result from these branding companies is more arresting, vibrant and produces braver brands, and once these brands are out there in the world, they start to grow and form new brand leaders, brands that others can only hope to follow.

So, to be a really great branding agency, the answer is in the branding process, making sure that you educate the client in how brands work, how his brand works and how his demographic will be inspired by a new brand. The branding agencies have been educating companies in this way for many years now, it’s in recent years that clients have seen these branding companies as a more conceptual branding agency, with strong strategic anchors. In fact one of my brand strategists often refers to us as being creatively driven and strategically anchored, and I like this description as it is accurate and what I would suggest other agencies should aim for, after all, you should never be different for the sake of being different, or so strategically aligned and ‘safe’ that you loose any brand personality.

Five Things Which Make a Great Brand

In today’s modern World, the brand is king. All successful companies rely on their brand strength and presence to ensure their public image is as effective as possible. Top blue chips pour thousands of pounds, sometimes even millions, into theirs with the desired outcome of complete brand recognition across all their target markets.

However, you don’t need millions of pounds to make sure yoursis effective, if you follow the five following points, you should ensure your brand has respect and longevity.

1. Brand identity design is paramount. Your logo is the most recognizable element of your brand. It represents your business within one mark, therefore it has to be spot on. Branding workshops and strategy can help to ascertain the core values of a brand, which should be reflected within the identity. The business’ USP’s can also be communicated through the logo, although as business’ can change, the logo needs to have flexibility to allow movement within the brand. Most of all, the logo should represent your company’s aspirational value.

2. Stay relevant. It is important for brands to remain relevant within the target audience’s eyes. Those which appear static and set in their ways are often left behind remarkably quickly by competitors which recognise the importance of constantly refreshing and looking to the future. Most successful brands employ a branding and marketing agency to manage and maintain their brand image.

3. Positioning is everything. Positioning the brand within the market place is one of the most important things for any new one. The market and its competitors need to be analysed in detail by brand experts who can then ascertain where it should be launched. Positioning includes whether the product is low, medium, or high end, the tone-of-voice and who will be its biggest competitors.

4. Consistency. The brand needs to be consistent so that all communication across various medias has the same message. Corporate branding guidelines can ensure yours maintains a high standard of aesthetic and communication.

5. Hit the right target. Identify the target audience and then aim for them. Any brand will have a specific target audience (unless they are large umbrella corporations). Yours should be focused on communicating to these people. The vehicle of communication should also be strongly considered. If the brands products are aimed at different target audiences it is advisable to utilise sub branding, which can sit underneath the main umbrella brand. These can then individually target different markets / areas.

Top 5 Biggest Branding Mistakes

The modern marketplace is over saturated with millions of companies. Never before has it been so important to ensure your brand is effective and communicates the right messages to your target audience. The following 5 branding mistakes are just the tip of the iceberg, any professional branding agency will be able to guide you through the pitfalls of the branding process. However, it pays to be aware of these mistakes so you can help guide your brand to success.

1. Inconsistent corporate identity
Your corporate identity relies on consistency. From your company logo, to sub branding, corporate stationery, through to your website and any other marketing material, the brand, brand name, colour schemes etc should all be consistent. Inconsistency in your identity causes confusion amongst existing and potential customers. Your customer must hear and see your name, logo, tag line and colours consistently over and over in many different ways before you are imprinted on your customer’s mind map.

2. Trying to be all things to all people
Successful brands have a specific target audience. Unless you run a large umbrella company, your brand should be specific. Trying to target too wide an audience means your brand is likely to find no audience at all.

3. Failing to differentiate
What makes your company stand out from your competitors? This is the essential attribute you should look to your brand to encompass. It is essential you differentiate your brand from the competition. Merely fitting in with the market means your brand is never likely to exceed its current market share. Utilising the expertise of a top branding agency will help to identify your integral USP.

4. Not understanding your customers
Without understanding your clients wants and needs, you cannot hope to have a successful brand. Every aspect of the brand should be tailored with a specific client base in mind. What do your customers want and how can you communicate that through your brand? Solving this question will automatically give your brand an advantage over the competition.

5. Restricting potential growth
Speaking of a short-term view on things, you shouldn’t build your brand around what you’re doing now…it should reflect where you want your company to be several years from now. If you wish to allow your existing brand the flexibility to grow and expand, but don’t want a large switch in your branding, it is advisable to enlist rebranding services. This will allow you to evolve the brand without throwing away positive attributes the brand has built up in the past.

Branding as a whole, is an intricate, complicated and ultimately rewarding project to undertake. However, the consequences of getting it wrong are potentially very damaging. It pays to get a professional branding agency to help with the facilitation of a new brand, ensuring your company has the ability to reach and exceed its future goals.

Top 5 Biggest Branding Mistakes

The modern marketplace is over saturated with millions of companies. Never before has it been so important to ensure your brand is effective and communicates the right messages to your target audience. The following 5 branding mistakes are just the tip of the iceberg, any professional branding agency will be able to guide you through the pitfalls of the branding process. However, it pays to be aware of these mistakes so you can help guide your brand to success.

1. Inconsistent corporate identity
Your corporate identity relies on consistency. From your company logo, to sub branding, corporate stationery, through to your website and any other marketing material, the brand, brand name, colour schemes etc should all be consistent. Inconsistency in your identity causes confusion amongst existing and potential customers. Your customer must hear and see your name, logo, tag line and colours consistently over and over in many different ways before you are imprinted on your customer’s mind map.

2. Trying to be all things to all people
Successful brands have a specific target audience. Unless you run a large umbrella company, your brand should be specific. Trying to target too wide an audience means your brand is likely to find no audience at all.

3. Failing to differentiate
What makes your company stand out from your competitors? This is the essential attribute you should look to your brand to encompass. It is essential you differentiate your brand from the competition. Merely fitting in with the market means your brand is never likely to exceed its current market share. Utilising the expertise of a top branding agency will help to identify your integral USP.

4. Not understanding your customers
Without understanding your clients wants and needs, you cannot hope to have a successful brand. Every aspect of the brand should be tailored with a specific client base in mind. What do your customers want and how can you communicate that through your brand? Solving this question will automatically give your brand an advantage over the competition.

5. Restricting potential growth
Speaking of a short-term view on things, you shouldn’t build your brand around what you’re doing now…it should reflect where you want your company to be several years from now. If you wish to allow your existing brand the flexibility to grow and expand, but don’t want a large switch in your branding, it is advisable to enlist rebranding services. This will allow you to evolve the brand without throwing away positive attributes the brand has built up in the past.

Branding as a whole, is an intricate, complicated and ultimately rewarding project to undertake. However, the consequences of getting it wrong are potentially very damaging. It pays to get a professional branding agency to help with the facilitation of a new brand, ensuring your company has the ability to reach and exceed its future goals.

Branding Agency for Today

The typical branding agency from the past (or at least a more professional branding agency) have focused on the standard mission, vision and values approach. And yes, this works well as it understands what a company stands for and aligns the brand around this. However in practice over the years, I have noticed a few things that happen, firstly, the client starts to feel engaged in the process, they get excited and start to get more involved (all good), however, in some cases I see that as they start to get to understand our processes and get more involved, they stop focusing on the end result and start to refer back to the work, aligning to what are they are today, or what they want to achieve, and the client gets more and more drawn into the process. And while it is good to get the clients attention and involvement in the branding process, it isn’t so good for the branding to loose grip of the end result.

It’s interesting when I look more holistically at the results of the bigger and more established agency – I won’t mention names, you start to see that once they become well known for what they do, they start to be trusted by companies and brand managers, who acknowledge that they don’t actually need to sculpt the end result for themselves, they trust the branding agency to make recommendations, and then from here reap the rewards of this. The result from these branding companies is more arresting, vibrant and produces braver brands, and once these brands are out there in the world, they start to grow and form new brand leaders, brands that others can only hope to follow.

So, to be a really great branding agency, the answer is in the branding process, making sure that you educate the client in how brands work, how his brand works and how his demographic will be inspired by a new brand. The branding agencies have been educating companies in this way for many years now, it’s in recent years that clients have seen these branding companies as a more conceptual branding agency, with strong strategic anchors. In fact one of my brand strategists often refers to us as being creatively driven and strategically anchored, and I like this description as it is accurate and what I would suggest other agencies should aim for, after all, you should never be different for the sake of being different, or so strategically aligned and ‘safe’ that you loose any brand personality.

All About College Credit Cards

College credit cards are the credit cards that have been specially designed for college students. College credit cards are more popularly known as student credit cards. College credit cards allow the students to experience the benefits of credit cards much earlier in their life. Through college credit cards, the college students are able to learn more about credit cards and their use. In fact, for most of the students, their college credit card is their first credit card that acts as a gateway to the world of credit cards. Some other students might have previously used supplementary credit cards linked to their father’s credit card account; however, for such students too, their college credit card is the first one that is truly theirs.

College credit cards are not very different from other types of credit cards in the basic sense; they function in the same way as any credit card would. However, there are some differences, which basically arise from the fact that college credit cards are used by people who have no prior experience with credit cards and who perhaps don’t understand the concept of credit cards completely. Hence, the credit card supplier is at risk with issuing credit cards (college credit cards) to such people whom he is not sure about. Most of the students don’t have a credit history either. In such a case, the supplier of college credit card cannot be sure of receiving the credit card bill payments in time (and even receiving them at all). To counter such risks, the supplier of college credit card requires the parent of the student to co-sign the college credit card application form as a guarantee.

Moreover, the credit limit on college credit cards is generally around $500-$1000 per month, which is lower than what it is for other credit cards (this credit limit is generally sufficient to fulfil the typical needs of a student). Another risk mitigation instrument used by the college credit card suppliers is the interest rate or APR. The APR on college credit cards is generally higher than that for other credit cards. Again, this is done to dissuade the students from overspending on their college credit card (and finally not being able to pay their credit card bills).

However, if we were to look at these impositions in a positive sense, we would find that these are actually in favour of the student (who is still getting trained to take on the real world of credit cards). Moreover, college credit cards also help the students in establishing a (good) credit history which is another important benefit that becomes handy when the student needs any type of loan at a later stage in his/her life.

What You Need To Know About Credit Cards

What is a credit card? A credit card is a card that allows you to borrow money to pay for things. There will be a limit to how much you can spend called your credit limit. At the end of each month you can either pay off the whole of the amount you owe or make a minimum repayment. Other kinds of cards include: 1) A cheque guarantee card, issued by your bank, that you can use to ensure that your cheque will be honoured up to a certain limit.

2) A chargecard where you have to repay the full amount at the end of each month.

3) A debit card, issued by your bank, where whatever you spend is immediately deducted from your bank account Do you need a credit card? Using a credit card is a useful way of making purchases: a) A credit card means you don’t need to carry huge amounts of cash around and risk losing it.

b) A credit card means you can buy items over the internet.

c) A credit card means you can make purchases abroad without having to worry about local currency.

d) A credit card gives the opportunity to spread the cost of a large payment over several months.

e) A credit card is useful in an emergency. For example, an unexpected repair to your house or car.How do you choose a credit card? The main two UK credit card issuers are Visa and Mastercard. These are accepted in most places and in 130 countries worldwide. Beware of less well known brands that may not be accepted everywhere. Before you choose which credit card is the best for you, remember to read the terms and conditions carefully. Never sign up for a credit card without fully understanding what you are agreeing to. Remember that all the plus factors will be prominently displayed in large print. You may have to study the small print carefully to discover if there are any negative factors.
A list of the current cards on offer in summary is available on this credit card summary page. What You Need To Consider:1) APR (Annual Percentage Rate)

This is the rate of interest that you will pay on any outstanding balance. 2) Special Introductory Rates

You may be offered a low or 0% rate of interest for a limited time (Up to 6 months) when you sign up for a new card. A higher rate of interest may be charged for cash withdrawals. 3) Balance Transfer Rate

Card issuers may offer you a lower rate of interest if your swap your balance from another credit card to theirs. 4) Interest Free period

Remember to check when interest payments will begin. Will you pay interest from the day of the purchase? Or will you have a number of days interest free before you begin to pay? There is usually no interest free period for cash withdrawals. 5) Cashback and Rewards

Some cards over points or rewards for every pound spent on the credit card. Make sure that these are appropriate for you. For example, there&’s no use collecting airmiles if you never fly. 6) Minimum Repayment

Remember to check what the minimum monthly repayment will be. If you borrow £1000 on your credit card the monthly minimum repayment will probably be in the region of £25. But if you only pay this amount each month it will take a long time to pay off the balance and cost a lot in total when you include the interest payments. 7) Annual Fees

This is the fee that the issuer will charge you every year for using their credit card. Not all credit cards have an annual fee, so remember to consider this when you are choosing which one is right for you. 8) Late Payments

There will be an extra charge, as well as the interest owed, if your payment is late. This charge may even be more than the amount you owe so be very careful to check what the charge is, and to ensure that all your payments are made on time. A good way of doing this is to set up a direct debit from your current account. 9) Exceeding Your Limit

You may also be charged a fee if you exceed your credit limit. Will Your Application Be Accepted? Whether or not your application is successful will depend on your credit rating. Your credit rating depends on your credit history (a record of your use of credit) and is based on the record of your ability to repay debt. You can obtain a copy of your credit file by contacting a credit reference agency. There may be a small fee for this service. When you application has been accepted you will be given a credit limit. The credit limit will be fixed when you first apply for your card (although you can ask for it to be increased or decreased later) and the limit, including the amount you have left available to spend, will be shown on your monthly statement. Insurances and Protection. What You Can Do: 1) Take good care of your credit card to ensure that it isn’t lost or stolen. 2) To prevent misuse of your card you must report any loss or theft of your card to the issuer immediately. Many issuers allow you to register all your cards with them so that in the event of you losing a purse, handbag or wallet they can all be cancelled with just one phone call. 3) You must keep all your receipts and also check your statement carefully and report any suspicious transactions. For example payments that you have no record of making. 4) Credit card companies are now issuing cards with PIN (Personal identification numbers) which are known as Chip and PIN cards. Rather than signing your name you will be asked to enter your PIN onto a keypad. You must ensure that you keep this number secret. What The Issuer Will Do 1) The issuer should insure you against loss, misuse or theft of your card. 2) The issuer may also insure your purchases for up to 100 days. 3) Your issuer may also provide protection against you being sold unsuitable or shoddy goods. Important Points To Remember:a) Credit cards can be a very useful tool to help you to manage your finances.

b) Choose your card carefully, remembering to read and understand all the terms and conditions before you sign up.

c) Remember to set yourself a budget and decide how much you will pay off each month.

d) Check your statements carefully each month.

e) Look after your card to prevent it being lost or stolen.For a glossary of the terms mentioned in this article please visit the credit card glossary page.

Secured Credit Cards- Consumer Tips

Whether you have no credit or damaged credit, secured credit cards are a good tool for building a good credit history.

Several months ago Tom, a member of CreditBoards.com, filed for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Now he is in the process of rebuilding his credit history. It’s a task that is not easy, but with patient persistence he is seeing progress already. Daily he checks his credit score and is slowly seeing improvement.

1 – In addition to correcting every mistake, even the smallest ones, on his credit report, he is using a secured credit card.

2 – This secured card is an important tool in the overall process of building or rebuilding credit.

Who should consider a secured credit card?

Someone who has no credit history.

Someone with a damaged credit history.

What is a secured credit card?

Secured cards are credit cards opened with a deposit into a savings account, money market or certificate of deposit. The amount of deposit required varies from card to card, but generally minimum amounts range from $250 – $500. These funds are considered your security and will even earn a little interest since they are being held in a savings account. Your credit limit is determined by the amount you deposit into the savings account. Sometimes the limit will be for the full amount of the deposit; other times it will be a percentage of the total.

It is important to keep in mind that a secured card is a credit card, not a debit card. If full payments are not made each month, then interest is charged on the outstanding balance. And the lending institution uses the security money to pay off the debt only as a last resort. Even though the card is secured, it is still possible to damage credit.

What are the benefits of a secured credit card?

Establishing credit. If you have never had a credit card, a good first step in establishing good credit is applying for a secured credit card. Assistant Professor of Economics at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN, Jerry Plummer says, “A secured card is most useful for the person starting out on their credit history, since it says that the person is willing to take the extra step to establish credit.”

Reestablishing credit. If your credit history is damaged, you may only be able to qualify for a secured credit card. Using this secured card appropriately and within the set parameters will help rebuild your credit and qualify you for an unsecured card. If you have had to file for bankruptcy, however, you may not qualify until it has been discharged.

Preset limit cannot be exceeded. If poor spending habits were part of the cause for bad credit, then a secured credit card will help keep spending in check.

Useful for transactions that require a credit card. Hotels and car rentals require the use of a credit card. If you don’t qualify for an unsecured card but you do for a secured card, then you are still able to make the transaction.

What should I look for or avoid when shopping for a secured credit card?

Fees. This is the area you will really want to research when shopping for a secured credit card. Some cards will come with fees that run into the hundreds of dollars, eating away much of the credit you secured with the savings account. Professor Plummer says a card with no fee is the best, but a small one-time fee can be okay. Annual fees for attractive secured cards typically range from $20-$35. Be sure to watch out for hidden fees such as “registration charges” and “setup fees.”

Interest Rate. Just because you have no or poor credit doesn’t mean you have to settle for the highest interest rate. Interest rates for attractive secured cards should not exceed 19%. Shop around and get the most competitive rate available.

Read the fine print. Linda Tucker, Director of Education for Consumer Credit Counseling Service for Arkansas and Memphis, TN, stresses the importance of reading the fine print. Doing so will let you know your exact obligations to the issuing company: for example, the grace period, what happens if you don’t make a full payment, and what fees are attached if you don’t make the full payment. Understanding these details will help make sure you are not further damaging your credit.

Fraudulent Offers. As with unsecured cards you need to watch out for fraudulent offers.The Federal Trade Commission gives the following advice to protect yourself from credit card fraud:

Offers of easy credit. No one can guarantee to get you credit. Before deciding whether to give you a credit card, legitimate credit providers examine your credit report.
A call to a ‘900’ number for a credit card. You pay for calls with a ‘900’ prefix — and you may never receive a credit card.
Credit cards offered by “credit repair” companies or “credit clinics.” These businesses also may offer to clean up your credit history for a fee. However, you can correct genuine mistakes or outdated information yourself by contacting credit bureaus directly. Remember that only time and good credit habits will restore your credit worthiness.

When will I qualify for an unsecured credit card?

It can take several months to see an improvement in your credit history. Bankrate says it’s a good indicator when you start receiving flyers in the mail for unsecured cards that your credit is improving. However, it’s a good idea to continue taking things slowly. Using a secured card will help you learn healthy habits so that when you do get an unsecured credit card you remain in control of your spending and credit.

Where can I find a secured credit card?

Most companies don’t advertise secured cards. But you can visit the Card Reports section of http://www.CardRatings.com to find out where and how to apply. Click on the link entitled “Cards for Consumers with Poor or No Credit”.

Other tips

Tom recommends sticking with only one or two cards and keeping spending to a minimum. The goal is to pay the card off each month.

Tucker emphasizes the importance of paying the amount due each month; otherwise late fees can be charged, interest rates raised, privileges lost, and credit history negatively affected.

Make sure you are getting a credit card as opposed to a gas card or a department store card.

Make sure a reputable bank or credit union, even a local one, is issuing the card. And, don’t automatically assume a bank is issuing the card.

Not all issuers report to the three major credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). It’s important to get a card that does report to all three agencies; otherwise you will be wasting your time. Fortunately, secured cards normally report to the credit agencies just like unsecured cards (you should verify this before applying).

If you have filed for bankruptcy, you may need to wait until it has been discharged before qualifying for a secured card.

Get one only if you cannot get credit, since you have no credit record; or if you have poor credit. Plummer says, “Many companies will not even count them as credit, such as automobile F&I (Finance and Insurance) people, although they will not admit it.” So, if you don’t really need a secured card, you will be doing more harm than good.

Finally, whatever situation you are in, no credit or poor credit, the best way to build good credit is to set up a budget and then stick with it.

1 You can pay membership fees to any one of the three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax- to be able to check your credit score online daily. Visit our Credit Information section for more details. Tom recommends purchasing Microsoft Money 2004, which comes with a one-year membership to Experian (value of $99.00).

2 To find out more about correcting errors on your credit report, read our article How to Correct Mixed or Split Credit Reports.

Find The Best Credit Card Type

There are a variety of credit card types, each claiming to offer you the best possible deal. Finding the programs and incentives that works best for you is key to maintaining a good credit card history.

Each type of credit card offer different benefits. Some are geared toward the individual consumer, while others are set up to work for small businesses. To find the type of card that best fits your needs, let’s review some of the options.

Business Cards

A business credit card offers the business owner an opportunity to keep business and personal expenses separate. The card may offer special business rewards and saving opportunities that go above and beyond what the individual card owner has. Since money management is essential for running a business successfully, this card may offer an expense management service that helps track outgoing money. You can obtain additional cards for employees who may need them for travel expenses and such. You may also have a higher credit limit than you normally would on an individual card.

Student Cards

Many credit card companies will issue student cards with lower credit limits and fewer incentives, helping new card users to keep their spending in check. However, note that many college students now graduate with credit balances averaging from $3,000 to $7,000. With high interest rates, these debts can be a real problem to pay off.

Debit Cards

Prepaid debit cards are 1 type of credit card that has grown significantly in recent years. Although it works like a traditional credit card when making a purchase, that is where the similarity ends. With a prepaid debit card, you actually set the credit limit yourself by depositing money into the debit card’s account. The amount you deposit determines the credit limit on that card. This is a great way to have the convenience of a credit card without the possibility of charging more than you can afford to pay off.

Cards for Bad Credit

Even with bad credit, it is possible to obtain a credit card. These cards come with some restrictions not typically found on other types of cards. Your credit limit will be lower and your interest rate higher. Some may require you to have a secured card, meaning you have to maintain a savings or some other type of account that will cover the expenses on the credit card. Once you have established that you will be responsible in your credit handling, some, if not all, of your restrictions may be lifted.

Cash Back Cards

Many cards will now offer you cash-back incentives for using their cards. Depending on how much your balance is, and how often you use the card, you can earn cash back for your purchases. Some companies offer 1% off your balance while others, like Sears, will offer you cash off purchases made in their store. Either way, if you are planning on using a card, finding one that will offer you a cash incentive is a smart choice.

Low-Interest Cards

One of the more recent additions to the credit card world is the low-interest credit card. These cards offer a significantly lower interest rate than most of the older cards you may already have. As balance-transfer cards, most of them offer you the option of transferring a balance from a higher interest rate card and, for a specified period of time, your transferred balance will be at either 0% interest or something quite low. This can save you a fair amount of money if your plan is to pay it off.

Reward and Incentive Cards

Since credit cards have become such a lucrative business, many corporations have jumped on the bandwagon. Even airlines now offer credit cards that come with a certain amount of frequent flyer miles attached, depending on your balance and purchases. If you do a fair amount of traveling, this can be a real bonus. Along these same lines, reward credit cards are growing in popularity. Competition is stiff, and many card companies are now offering different reward or incentive options for using their cards. Once you accumulate enough points, the rewards pour in. These can be anything from travel insurance to small appliances. If you use a card regularly, finding one with a reward program can really pay off.

Instant Approval Cards

Another form of credit card is the instant approval card. Once you fill out the application, a quick background check will be done and you will have your approval almost immediately. Regular cards can take up to 2 weeks to process. Although you can get instant approval, this does not always mean you can get instant credit. Some companies will supply you with a temporary credit card number and allow you to begin making purchases immediately, while others will not, due to an increase in credit card fraud potential.

Protect Your Credit

Since there are so many options in choosing a credit card, you should do a little research before you apply. Decide what type of card best fits your needs and apply for that one. Don’t go overboard, though. Applying for too many cards will negatively affect your credit rating.

And, above all, once you get your new credit card, use it responsibly.