Congratulations on knocking out that debt. You’ve taken a huge, definitive step in the right direction. I would suspect your long journey to get rid of that credit-card debt began with a strict budget and a commitment to living within your means – spending less than you earn. Keep that up.
The first step I recommend is that you review your credit report to ensure that it accurately reflects your current standing. You can do this for free at www.annualcreditreport.com. While you’re checking to make sure the record is straight, for a few dollars more you can request your actual credit score. This three-digit number will give you an idea of how deep a ditch you dug for yourself during your financial troubles. Hopefully, it won’t be too bad. If you made payments on time every time and didn’t max out the cards, you may be all right, but it’s good to know either way. If your score is below 600, know that most lenders will consider you a credit risk.
This may sound odd, but to continue on that path of financial responsibility, you should apply for one credit card. To have good credit, you must use credit (responsibly). If your score is low, expect a high interest rate. Regardless, sign up for it, use it responsibly and consistently pay it off each month. That good management should move your score up over time.
If your application is rejected, look for a “secured” credit card. This type of arrangement would allow you to utilize a credit card secured by a deposit, a Certificate of Deposit (CD) for example, at the institution issuing the credit card. This gives them assurance that you’ll use the card responsibly, and all the while you’re rebuilding your credit. If you have a low credit score, this may be the only way to get back in good standing.
Have you noted a theme throughout this discussion? Responsibility. Continue demonstrating the discipline that has allowed you to eliminate all of your credit-card debt, and you should be in good shape.