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

Sept. 21, 2021
8 min read
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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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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.

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."

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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 image by (Photo by Dayna Bolden)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more