How this mom and business owner improved her credit score from 550 to 800

Sep 21, 2021

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If your credit score is less than ideal, you’re not alone. Lifestyle blogger Dayna Bolden graciously shared her financial journey with TPG — initially off to a rocky start, she held a credit score of 550 due to missed payments on her first credit card.

Almost a decade later, Dayna left her corporate job at Under Armour to become a successful business owner, and she successfully worked her way out of bad credit (and bad habits). Now, she has an excellent credit score of over 800, is a mom of two, and resides in Atlanta with her family.

(Photo courtesy of Dayna Bolden)

One of Dayna’s passions is financial literacy, and her credit journey is an integral part of pursuing her dream to work for herself full time. After hearing about her path to financial freedom and entrepreneurship, I was inspired as I talked to Dayna about all things credit and small business-related.

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In This Post

Credit mistakes early on

Dayna’s success wasn’t linear. She opened her first credit card as a college student: The Capital One Platinum Credit Card. With no credit history beforehand, the Capital One Platinum is an easier card to get approved for and even comes with a preapproval tool to see in advance if you’ll qualify.

Leveraging these tools (and CardMatch) allows you to check your approval odds through a soft inquiry, which won’t have an impact on your credit score, unlike creating an official application.

While this card offers a line of credit for those who may have a challenging time seeking approval from other top rewards credit cards, the annual percentage rate is quite high. With a 26.99% variable APR, the Platinum Mastercard comes with one of the highest interest rates — which brought Dayna into trouble as she missed payments early on in her credit journey.

Person Looking at Credit Card Bills
Avoid paying interest by making sure you pay in full on time. (Photo by Pormezz/Shutterstock)

“My biggest mistake was keeping high balances,” said Bolden. “I kept my credit card balances at almost 100% maxed out, and I only paid the minimum. But now, I want to educate everyone that paying on time is absolutely crucial, and you’ll never want to keep those high balances.”

If you’re new to credit — or perhaps you’re rebuilding your credit if you’ve fallen victim to similar mistakes — you’ll want to review TPG’s 10 commandments for credit cards. While all the commandments are essential reads, the first one is the most crucial: “Thou shalt pay thy balance in full.”

Credit cards can be an excellent tool to earn rewards and build your credit history, but they can be just as harmful if you bite off more than you can chew, miss payment after payment, and add unwanted interest to your balance.

Opening a student credit card

While Dayna wasn’t informed about points and miles back in the day (her Platinum Mastercard didn’t offer rewards). Capital One actually has several student cards in its lineup that offer easy approval for college students and the opportunity to earn rewards at the same time. Dayna has even partnered with Capital One to share the recent release of the two new student credit cards, the Capital One SavorOne Student Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Quicksilver Student Rewards Credit Card.


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A post shared by Dayna Bolden (@daynabolden)

The Capital One SavorOne Student offers a limited time offer of $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months and 3% cash-back rewards on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target) and 1% on all other eligible purchases. On the other hand, the Capital One Quicksilver Student offers limited time offer of  $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months and a simple 1.5% cash-back rewards rate on other eligible purchases. Both cards have no annual fee and even waive foreign transaction fees if you’re a college student thinking about studying abroad.

The rewards aren’t the only persuading aspect of these two student-centric cards. Dayna also shares Capital One’s free resource hub for money management, offering dozens of articles that help consumers learn how to check their credit scores, pay off debt, and more.

“I’m able to share and educate my community — whether they are college students or if they’re parents of college-aged kids,” said Bolden. “I’m able to properly educate them of financial wellness based on my own experiences and mistakes.”

Starting her business

(Photo by Dayna Bolden)

Years later, she worked on rebuilding her credit but learned to manage her finances better thanks to checking her credit score right on the Capital One app and setting up autopay. She also kept her utilization ratio low and was steadfast about never missing a payment — which helped her see gains in her credit score.

“Once I got to the credit building stage and wanted to open my business, I applied for a business bank account through Capital One because of my long-standing relationship with the bank,” said Bolden. “I also opened a Capital One business cash-back card, which helps me earn cash-back rewards on all my business expenses, again because I was comfortable and trusted the issuer since I started with bad credit.”

Dayna loves using her cash-back rewards to treat herself or her family to a nice dinner or help with travel expenses. While it took her almost a decade, her determination to always pay bills on time and in full has paved the way to a fantastic credit score — all of which are important for securing mortgages, business and car loans and so much more.

Bottom line

Your credit is one of the pillars of financial excellence, and Dayna’s story demonstrates how it’s never too late to get back on the right track. Brian Kelly, The Points Guy himself, started on a similar path with bad credit. With patience and hard work, Dayna not only raised her credit score but was eventually able to become a full-time entrepreneur. Now, she’s earning cash-back rewards that help her family offset those extra expenses or buy something fancy, all thanks to various tools and resources that helped her reset.

Featured photo by Dayna Bolden.

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