iMac (Late 2009) Hard Drive Replacement

Your iMac is slow, frequently freezing over a short period of time. The spinning beach ball of death! You know something’s going on and sure enough, your computer dies and you find out you need a new hard drive! There used to be a time when buying an Apple computer meant having a working computer for many years. Well, not anymore…

After my hard drive died, the second one since purchasing my iMac in 2010, I made an appointment at my local Genius Bar to see if I could get it replaced. This time I was told my computer was now considered “vintage”, and they do not service it anymore. I guess they’re hoping that by labeling it vintage, I will spend another $1800 on a new computer. The truth is, I can’t afford to pay for expensive labor even less purchase a new computer. I also can’t afford to be without a computer, my only option then, is to replace the hard drive myself. But which hard drive should I get? I sure would like to stay the hell away from another Seagate drive (the brand that came stock with my iMac and the same drive Apple used later as a replacement). Also, I have never replaced an internal hard drive before. So here comes Google…

After doing some research, I found out that Segate’s 1TB, 2TB and 3TB Barracuda internal hard drives have a high annual failure rate. Apple was aware these drives were defective as my first hard drive was replaced through one of their hard drive replacement programs. I don’t need any more proof. I’ve now had two 1TB Seagate Barracuda drives die on me, I’m definitely ready to try a different brand. Or so I think., a cloud backup company, reported earlier this year that the 3TB Seagate Barracuda drives in their data center had an annual failure rate of 43.1%. Not good! On the other hand, all their 4TB hard drives (WD, HGST or Seagate) had the lowest annual failure rates. Their Seagate 4TB Desktop HDD.15 hard drives had a low annual failure rate of 2.6%. This Seagate model is also the cheapest option within the 4TB drives (the HGST 4TB drives priced a little higher, had an even lower failure rate, but not enough of a difference to be a big factor according to them). This is the only reason I’m giving Seagate one more chance. At least this time I have some sort of data to backup my decision. So here comes Amazon…

Along with the 4TB Seagate drive I purchased from Amazon, I ordered an upgrade kit from OWC. OWC has an installation video on youtube that proved to be extremely helpful. The installation was not as hard as I though, you just have to follow each step carefully and make sure you make the right connections. It took me about an hour, but I was able to do the installation myself, upgrade to a 4TB drive and stay under a $200 budget. The OWC kit came with the necessary installation tools and a thermal sensor cable that “eliminates fan noise and maintains proper system fan control”, a known problem with this iMac model. This sensor cable got rid of the horrible fan noise problem I had since Apple replaced my hard drive. The OWC kit also “fixes firmware incompatibility issues with third party hard drives”. This means you can install whichever hard drive brand you prefer.

If you are looking for a hard drive replacement for your Late 2009 iMac (I have the 27 inch model), you have several options: the Seagate ST4000DM000, WD Green WD40EZRX, HGST Deskstar 0S03664, among many others (just make sure you get the OWC kit). If you do buy a Seagate, go for the 4TB model (stay away from the Barracuda models).

It has only been a few weeks since I installed the 4TB Seagate HDD.15 internal hard drive in my “vintage” iMac. Only time will tell if this one will last…

MMS and Data Working on Straight Talk After iOS 7.0.3 Update – TFW Carrier Update

tfwI just updated my iPhone 4s to iOS 7.0.3 and was a little worried about losing data or picture messaging. I brought my out of contract iPhone from AT&T to Straight Talk less than two weeks ago and I didn’t want to go through setting mms again using the SIM swap method. I’m glad to report that everything seems to be A-ok. Both mms and data are working as they should after the upgrade.

After rebooting, I was given an option to update the phone’s “carrier settings”. Upon doing so, my status bar changed from “HOME” to “TFW”. Also “Network” and “Carrier” now read “TFW” instead of “AT&T” (it’s great not to see the AT&T name on my phone anymore). For those of you who might be wondering what TFW means, it stands for TracFone Wireless. Tracfone offers services under various brands including Straight Talk, NET10 Wireless and Simple Mobile.

I’m curious to know if somebody has any problems to report after the 7.0.3/carrier update? Please leave me a comment if you are experiencing any issues.


Some people with the old Straight Talk SIM card (the one using att.mvno APN settings) are reporting they’ve lost mms and data after the TFW carrier update. In the other hand, people with the new Straight Talk SIM (using tfdata APN settings) are reporting both mms and data work without doing anything else. This means NO MORE SIM SWAPS required with the new carrier update for people with the new Straight Talk SIM card. Great news!

If you lost data and/or mms after the carrier update, this is what you’ll need to do:

1. Double check you are on iOS 7.0.3 and carrier update TFW 15.6.
2. Call Straight Talk customer service at 1-800-299-7784 from a second phone line (you’ll need to reboot your phone during the process).
3. Let them know you are having technical problems and that your SIM needs to be provisioned for the new tfdata settings. Straight Talk will provision your account to accept the new carrier settings. MMS and data should start working again after this (if the customer service representative doesn’t seem to know what you are talking about, ask to be transferred to a more technical department).

If you don’t feel like calling customer service, here are two other options:

– For $6.99 you can order a new AT&T SIM from Straight Talk or Walmart, these will use the new tfdata APN. You can then activate the new SIM online or by phone.
– SIM swap and change back to the old att.mvno APN settings.

I recommend either calling Straight Talk or getting the new SIM. It looks like they have finally fixed the bug that caused data and MMS not to work with Straight Talk iPhones and these two options offer a permanent solution.

Instructions on How to Switch Your iPhone from ATT to Straight Talk

straight-talkI’ve been an unhappy AT&T customer for years and I have decided it is time for me to leave. Paying more than $200 a month for a two iPhone family plan with limited minutes is just ridiculous. Gladly, there are now other options. I’ll be saving 50% or more on my cell phone bill so I’ll definitely give Straight Talk a chance and see what they have to offer. I can always leave if it does not work out, but whatever happens, I will not do business with AT&T again.

I’ll be porting my number and requesting AT&T to unlock my iPhone 4S (the same instructions apply for the iPhone 6, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c or iPhone 3GS, read below for more details). I’m not a computer programmer or hacker, so if I can get this thing working, I’m sure you’ll be able to do it as well. I will be updating this post during the following months to report on Straight Talk’s iPhone service, so make sure to check back every now and then to ask questions or post feedback.

What You Will Need

1. A Straight Talk AT&T Compatible SIM Card (Amazon links provided)

2. A Straight Talk Plan (two options)

My phone: AT&T iPhone 4s (iOS 7.1.2)
Last blog update: May 2015
Straight Talk Service Review: I’ve been on Straight Talk since October 2013 and so far my experience has been great. By switching I was able reduce my cell phone bill by 50% and I haven’t noticed any difference in my service. I will never return to ATT!

UPDATE: After updating to iOS 7.0.3, I’m glad to report both data and MMS are working as they should. This means that with the carrier update provided with iOS 7.0.3, switching your AT&T iPhone to Straight Talk should be a lot simpler than it was before. After activation, insert the SIM and you should be ready to go! Read steps 1 & 3 for instructions. Step 4 “updating data settings” is no longer needed and you can ignore it.

Here are the steps I’ve taken to switch from AT&T to Straight Talk. This is a guideline of what you’ll have to do. If you are thinking about switching or are in the process of doing so, I’m sure you’ll find it helpful. Straight Talk will provide detailed instructions on the activation process.

These are the steps I followed:

  1. I ordered a Micro Sim Card from Straight Talk. You can also order it from Amazon. You’ll need an “AT&T compatible SIM”. If you have an iPhone 6 plus, 6, 5, 5s or 5c, you’ll need a Nano SIM Card. If you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, you’ll need a Micro Sim Card. iPhone 3G and 3GS users will need the Standard Size SIM (used for older phones). You can buy the “AT&T Compatible Micro SIM + Unlimited Plan” or just the Micro SIM by itself. You’ll have a chance to pay for the plan with a credit card when you do the activation if you only buy the SIM. I purchased mine directly from Straight Talk as there was no other option back then. Shipping was free and the SIM was delivered in 3 days. NOTE: AT&T will NOT pro rate your final bill, so make sure you switch before your new billing cycle starts.
  2. (OPTIONAL) I waited until my AT&T contract ended and requested my iPhone to be unlocked at If you switch companies before your contract ends, AT&T will charge you Early Termination Fees. To request an unlock from AT&T, your phone needs to be out of contract or you should’ve paid early termination fees. You DON’T need to unlock your AT&T iPhone for it to work on Straight Talk, but as of now, you need to unlock it to have picture messaging working (MMS). A few minutes after requesting the unlock, I received an email saying: “We have received your request to unlock your AT&T Mobile device” and later, another email later saying “We have reviewed your request and confirmed that the device may be unlocked. Please allow 24 hours upon receipt of this notification to complete the unlock process“. Check here to read Eligibility Requirements for Unlocking All AT&T Mobile Devices. You will need to restore your phone via iTunes to complete the unlock (make sure to backup your data first).
  3. I followed the instructions on the Straight Talk Activation kit. You’ll be activating your SIM either by phone or online. I did my activation online at Choose the activation option that fits your needs. If you want to keep the same number you had with AT&T, make sure to select “Activate my Straight Talk Service with a number from another company” (have your AT&T account number ready). After completing the activation request, wait for your current AT&T service to stop (“No Service” status). When your service has been disabled, you can then insert your new Straight Talk SIM. Surprisingly, for me this only took about 10 minutes, though the instructions say activation can take up to 48 hours. Once you have your new SIM installed, your status bar should now display “HOME” instead of “AT&T”. Test your phone by making a phone call. If this works, you are now on Straight Talk.
    NOTE: If you want to port your number, DO NOT call to cancel your AT&T service before activating your Straight Talk SIM. Once the porting process is completed AT&T will automatically cancel your account and send a Final Bill.
  4. (NO LONGER NEEDED. SKIP THIS STEP!) I updated my data settings. You need to do this in order to get your data (internet) working. While on Wi-Fi, open Safari and type in Tap “Install” then tap “Install Now. Enter your pass code if prompted, and tap “Done. At this point exit your browser, turn the Wi-Fi off, and re-boot your phone. With the Wi-Fi off, access Safari to ensure your data connection is working.
  5. Troubleshooting: If online activation didn’t work or if you encountered any issues, call Straight Talk at 1-800-299-7784 for assistance (you can also post your question below and I’ll try my best to answer it).
  6. That’s it your’re done!

(NO LONGER NEEDED. SKIP THIS STEP!) Enabling MMS/Picture Messaging

This process is a little more involved but it’s doable. It requires you to buy a T-Mobile SIM card to enter the correct data settings for your Straight Talk service. APN settings are “hidden” in AT&T iPhones (’cause they want to keep you as a customer forever), so you need to briefly insert a T-Mobile SIM card in order to access and update the APN settings (not hidden for T-Mobile customers).

Which are the correct APN settings for your iPhone? You can check them here by inputting your SIM’s serial number:

Here’s a basic guideline of what you’ll need to do. Check the provided links for step by step image/video instructions.

1. For iPhone 4S, order a T-mobile Micro SIM like this one from eBay or purchase one at Target (for iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c purchase a Nano SIM).
2. Remove your Straight Talk SIM and Insert your T-Mobile SIM.
3. Go to: Settings-> Cellular -> Cellular Data Network (or wait for Cellular Data Network to show up and then select Cellular Data Network, this is why you got the T-Mobile SIM for)
4. Go to Home and open Notes.
5. Insert your Straight Talk SIM again. Wait for phone to change from “NO SIM” -> “Searching” -> “HOME”.
6. Double Tap and go back to the Cellular Data Network page.
7. Enter Your Cellular Data Settings. These are the data settings that worked for my iPhone 4s, which are the settings for the newer Straight Talk SIMS:

Leave fields not listed here blank. You might have to re-enter some of the settings again as you’ll see they’ll go back to their default values when you scroll down.

APN tfdata
MMS APN: tfdata
MMS Proxy:
MMS Max Message Size: 1048576

8. Go back to Cellular -> Settings. Reboot your phone (Turn OFF then ON).
9. Try sending an image text. If it works, you’re done!

Enabling MMS Links (Pre iOS 7.0.3):

PayPal Smart Connect Review

I applied for the Paypal Mastercard a few days ago, but was approved for the PayPal Smart Connect line of credit instead. As some of you know my credit is not that great, but I’ve been able to gradually bring my scores up. I’ve been approved for an Ally Auto Loan and now this line of credit since I started rebuilding with two secured cards (CapOne and BOA), about a year and a half ago.

Why I chose Paypal? I’ve been active as an occasional eBay buyer and seller for the past ten years and I use PayPal every month to pay for different services (from domain name renewals and online memberships to sometimes accepting payments associated with my occupation). I thought either the Paypal Mastercard or PayPal Smart Connect would be a great option for me to continue rebuilding. It would also help my credit mix as I currently do not have any retail cards and I didn’t want to get just any retail card for the sake of having one.

For those of you who haven’t heard about it before, PayPal Smart Connect is an online credit line offered through GE Capital Retail Bank (GECRB). It’s not an actual credit card, but a line of credit that’s linked to your PayPal account. It has no annual fee and can be used anywhere PayPal is accepted. If you have a Paypal debit card, you can link this line of credit as your backup fund and pretty much use your debit card as a credit card. Aditionally, your PayPal debit card will earn you a 1% cash back from every purchase (not a lot but at least something).

PayPal Smart Connect has a pretty high APR (26.99%), but as I said before, I will use it to keep rebuilding and will pay in full every month, so I don’t really care about its APR. Also, I’ve read comments from other people with PayPal Smart Connect saying you can request credit line increases every four statements. This is an automated request done through the phone with no hard pull, so I’m looking forward to that. I appreciate when banks let you grow and reward you for being responsible.

Now for the details:

Application Date: Late May, 2012
Account Type: Retail Card/Credit Card
Credit Report Pulled: TransUnion
My Score when Approved: 656 (Experian)
Line of Credit Approved: $500
Current Line of Credit: $3500

2012 Timeline

  • June: Applied for PayPal’s Mastercard.Approved for PayPal Smart Connect instead. $500 CL.
  • August: Received $300 automatic increase after using it a lot during first 2 statements. New credit limit: $800.
  • December: Requested a credit line increase through their automated phone service. Received a $500 increase for a new credit limit of $1300.

2013 Timeline

  • April: Requested a credit line increase through their automated phone service. Received a $200 increase for a new credit limit of $1500.
  • August: Requested a credit line increase through their automated phone service. Received a $2000 increase for a new credit limit of $3500.

PROS: Got an automatic credit line increase after only two statements. After this, I’ve been approved for credit line increases every 4 statements. GE is known to be generous about giving credit line increases and apparently you can request one every 4 months/statements. This is all done through their customer service number. It’s automated, painless and they only do a soft pull.
CONS: No physical credit card given, but line of credit can be linked to your PayPal debit card which can then be used as a regular credit card.

OVERALL REVIEW: I was initially approved for a $500 credit line. This was my first unsecured credit approval in years. I’ve had this line of credit for a little over a year and my credit line is currently at $3500. Along with a couple of other credit cards, this PayPal card offered by GE has helped me rebuild and re-establish my credit. I use PayPal Smart connect often for eBay purchases and other PayPal payments. I’m hoping that eventually I’ll be able to product change this card to a PayPal Mastercard (but at the moment it looks like this is not possible).

I will update this review again when or if I have something new to add. Please feel free to ask questions, add comments or share your experience with this line of credit.

Bank of America Secured Credit Card Review – Credit Diary Part III

After my credit score had not improved in months, I started to realize that the only secured card on my report was not going to be enough and that I needed a second credit card with a higher limit to boost my score. Since I am in the process of rebuilding credit, the chances of getting an unsecured credit card like this were almost zero (specially since I had some past delinquencies on my report), so after considering other options, I decided to go with Bank of America’s Secured Card. I already have a checking account with them so I figured it would be easier to get approved. I also applied for this card in person. I’ve heard that not everybody gets approved, so I guess these two things worked well for me.

If you are interested in checking the progress I’ve had with my first secured card please read: “Capital One Secured Credit Card Review – Credit Diary Part II“. The following timeline will give you an idea of the progress I’ve had with the Bankamericard Fully Secured Visa. It will be updated often so make sure to check back regularly. If you are using or have used this card in the past, feel free to post your feedback. If you are considering applying, don’t hesitate to post your questions.

You can read more about this card and other related topics in our forum, which can be accessed here: I am not a credit expert, this is my personal experience dealing with Bank of America and using their secured credit card to try to rebuild my credit.

Credit Score:

  • Starting Credit Score: 636 (Experian)
  • New Credit Score: 665 (Experian)


  • Keep credit card balance below 30% and pay in full each month
  • Take care of negative items on credit report
  • Take advantage of the cash rewards this card offers


  • November 2, 2011: Credit score went from 579 to 636 after paying off two collection accounts on my report (a 57 point jump!). I had been stuck on the same score for months.
  • November 3, 2011: Applied for card in person at Bank of America. Was denied for an unsecured card but approved for a Cash Rewards Fully Secured Credit Card with a credit line option of $300 up to 10,000 depending on my deposit. After 12 months the account will be reviewed and If everything goes as planned, it will be unsecured and I will get my deposit back. Made a $4k deposit. I didn’t even know that a cash rewards secured card existed. I’m hoping that the larger limit will help my score
  • November 4, 2011: Not even 24 hours after opening this secured card, it’s already showing on my report as “Current”. My score improved 29 points just for opening this new account. My new Experian score is 665! I couldn’t be happier (86 points in two days)
  • November 10, 2011: Received my card in the mail.
  • November 12, 2011: Made an extra 1k deposit over the phone which was applied to my account on the same day. I had to give all my information again to do this, but noticed they didn’t do a hard pull as I had read on other forums (probably because they still had my application and report on their system).
  • January 7, 2012: I have paid first two statements in full and on time. I’m trying to take advantage of the cash rewards so I pay everything I would pay cash with this card and then pay the balance.
  • November 11, 2012: My card graduated after using it and paying it on time for one year. I called the bank at the one year mark and my card was unsecured, my security deposit refunded.
  • Current Status: My credit score improved 29 points right after opening this account. At exactly the one year mark my card was unsecured and my security deposit refunded.


  • Current Rating: This is an excellent secured card and I would recommend it to anyone looking to rebuild or establish credit. It’s the only rewards secured card I know of and eligible to unsecure after only 10-12 months.

Useful Links:

Problem Solved: WordPress Fatal error Out of memory allocated (1and1)

After some weeks of being unable to upgrade one of my WordPress blogs using the automatic update, I was finally able to find a solution. If you are trying to upgrade to WordPress 3.2.1, using the automatic update and 1and1 is hosting your blog, then you should try the following (make sure you have tried doing the update after disabling all your plugins first):

1. Open your text editor and copy the following code:


2. Save your file as: php.ini

3. Upload (FTP) to: the root directory of your blog (exactly where your wordpress blog lives)

4. Upload (FTP) again to: wp-admin (for example: wp-admin/php.ini)

5. You’re done! Try the automatic upgrade again and hopefully it will work this time.

There is a simpler method to try to get this working but it DID NOT work for me, but apparently worked for others:

1. Add this to your wp-config.php file:

define ('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M' );

2. Try the automatic upgrade again

My Experience Settling a Credit Card Debt with Citibank: Paid, was a charge-off

If you are looking for information on settling a credit debt with Citi, then you are probably familiar with the following:

“The above referenced account has placed with our company for collection. We’ve tried to reach you in an effort to discuss the account but have been unsuccessful in that effort. Your account however, remains in an active collection status…”

You are also probably trying to find out the best way to proceed in this situation, so I thought I’d post my personal experience here. In fact, I should have done what you are doing right now, I should’ve researched before I tried to settle this debt. Unfortunately I didn’t.

Citi’s Platinum Select Master Card, was my first credit card. I got it when I was a struggling college student and as you now can imagine, I didn’t handle credit wisely back then. I’m now trying to clean up this mess as much as possible. Hopefully, my experience will shed some light on what you should or should not do when calling a collection agency.

This debt had been haunting me for a long time. When I finally called to settle, my card had been delinquent for more than a year and a half. I had received a letter by a collection agency called Protocol Recovery Service, Inc., in which they proposed four different settlement offers: one reduced lump sum payment or three different monthly payment plans (ranging from 2 months to 10 months). The 10 month payment option was the longest but also the most expensive, four times more than the lump sum option. The lump sum amount was 50% less than what I think I originally owed Citi (I say “think”, because after all this time I was not sure anymore exactly how much I owed, though I had an idea).

Initially, I started by calling Citi Cards to see if I could deal with them directly and avoid dealing with a collection agency. Unfortunately it was too late for this, my debt had been sold to “Protocol Recovery Service”. So, I gave them a call. I did what all the articles that I read later on recommend NOT TO DO: I didn’t negotiate the amount to be paid, I didn’t ask for a permanent deletion of my debt from my credit files, I didn’t ask for anything in writing and I paid over the phone by check. As I was about to pay, they informed me there was an extra charge because the settlement offer they had sent had already “expired”, and I fell for it. I said ok and paid. I was told I was going to receive a letter stating that I had settled this debt, but I never received anything.

I was anxious to just get this over with and was glad that I was able to pay off my debt. I chose to pay the lump sum, which in the end was the cheapest option. Not a bad deal, but knowing what I know now, I would’ve been glad to pay in full in order to get the collection off my report altogether. The account now shows on my report as “Current Closed” and “Paid, was a charge-off” (a charge-off is one of the worst things that can be on your credit report, a paid charge-off looks a little better, but still nothing to rave about). If I had known, I would’ve tried to have the “charge-off” deleted from my files, though from what I’ve read, most people say that Citi will never agree to this. I was not aware there were other options, I guess you’ll never know unless you try. Months later and after finally doing some research, I tried calling this collection agency back, but of-course I wasn’t able to convince them to take the charge-off from my report. Too late, they already had my money.

UPDATE: I’ve been able to successfully remove two other delinquent accounts from my reports by negotiating with the respective collection agencies, so I can confirm this is possible (a “Pay for Delete” as some people call it).

So, what should you try to do when calling a collection agency to settle a debt? Here’s what a lot of experts recommend:

  • Get a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus and find out which collection agency is reporting your debt.
  • Before you attempt to settle a debt, check how old your debt is. A negative mark on your your credit report will disappear after seven years.
  • It’s usually best to negotiate with collection companies via regular mail, so you have written proof of all your actions.
  • Negotiate the amount to be paid, most companies pay literally pennies on the dollar for the debts on which they are trying to collect.
  • Ask for a permanent deletion of the debt from your credit report (a deletion is possible, but that doesn’t mean all creditors will agree to it).
  • Get everything in writing. If you don’t have it in writing, it’s like it never happened!

Don’t forget to keep researching about this until you are ready to make a move, here are a couple of good articles on this subject: How to settle with a debt collector and Debt Settlement Advice. Also, don’t forget to leave me a comment with your story or progress on this!

Capital One Secured Credit Card Review – Credit Diary Part II

The following timeline will give you an idea of the progress (or lack thereof) I’ve had with the Capital One Secured Credit Card. It will be updated often, so make sure to check back regularly (last update: April 2013). If you want to know why I chose this card, please read: “Repairing my Credit with a Secured Credit Card – Credit Diary Part I“. I decided to write this article and keep an online diary to have a record of my progress and get feedback from others that are using this card, or have used in the past (or are thinking about applying). If you would like to comment please do so below.

I am not a credit expert and I don’t work for Capital One. This is my personal experience dealing with Capital One and using their secured credit card to hopefully improve my credit.

Update: Due to the large number of comments and questions, I have created a forum section where we can discuss more about this card and other related topics. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have over there. You can access the forums here: (you need to register in order to comment).

Credit Score:

  • Starting Credit Score: 568 (Experian)
  • Last Credit Score: 711 (Equifax FICO)


  • Always pay on time
  • Keep credit card balance below 30%
  • Take care of negative items on credit report
  • Increase my credit limit

2011 Timeline:

  • January 9: Applied online and got approved for the Capital One Secured Master Card. Sent my online deposit of $49 plus $150 to raise my credit line from $200 to $350 (please read the security deposit section below for more info).
  • January 14: Received a confirmation letter in the mail from Capital One that my application was approved and that I should receive my new card in 7-10 business days.
  • January 25: Received an email from Capital One with subject: “we’ve shipped your new card”. The email said: “Your new credit card was mailed yesterday, and you should receive it within 7 business days. Thanks for being a Capital One customer.”
  • January 27: Received credit card with a $351 credit line (I was initially approved for a $200 credit line with a $49 deposit, but added $150 to increase it). Enrolled in online banking after completing card activation ($29 annual fee showed as a transaction on my account). Made first purchase without trouble.
  • January 30: Called to enroll in CreditInform (owned by Capital One). Was told I should receive a package within 5 to 7 business days including my user and login information. It took less than 5 minutes and operator was friendly and efficient.
  • February 14-17: Received the CreditInform handbook containing my credit report and credit score, as well as my login information to register online. Credit score shown is 619, which is already an improvement over the 568 I had seen on my last report a few months ago (please read July 29 post for an eye opening update on this). Registered at (offered free of charge with Capital One’s secured credit card).
  • March 4: Paid first statement balance in full. Online payment took 2 days to get posted on my account and it was easy to set up (purchases seem to take a few days to appear online).
  • May 12: CreditInform update. My score dropped 10 points (from 619 to 609). Not great news, but I’m still positive that my next report will show an improvement. I think it’s too soon to see any major changes on it as I’ve only had the card for less than 4 months (please read July 29 post for an update on this).
  • July 11: My credit score on my monthly report at CreditInform went from 609 in june to 639 in july (please read next post for an update on this).
  • July 29 : Realized that credit scores provided by are what they call “FAKO” scores, which are not real credit score. Most creditors or lenders will look at a FICO score and not a FAKO. I’ve been comparing my Experian score, which is one of the “Big Three” major credit reporting agencies, with my CreditInform score for two months, and they differ substantially. While my credit score with CreditInform has been improving and it’s now a 639, my Experian credit score is 588, only 20 points more than my starting score almost six months ago (568). For this reason I’ll stick to posting scores provided by either Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.
  • August 18: First credit line increase! Received an email from Capital One saying:

    “Sometimes being a responsible customer pays off—like right now! We’ve increased your credit line by $100. This increase is unsecured and provided automatically, so you don’t need to send an additional deposit to cover it”

    Not a lot, but a confirmation that I’m heading in the right direction. My new credit line: $450.

  • September 5: Added a forum section to the site so people can post their reviews and timelines. You can access this section here. Everyone is welcome to join!
  • September 9: Checked my Experian credit report. My score hasn’t improved in months (still in the 580’s) and I’m starting to realize that a single secured credit card with a $450 credit limit will not be enough to get me out of this hole. I need to take care of all the negative items on my report if I want to see real improvement. Negative items include: 2 accounts in collections (unpaid medical bills), 1 “Paid Charge-Off” (case closed), 2 closed cards that were past due more than 60 days (1 credit, 1 store card). Currently in the process of taking care of the 2 collections. Will open a second secured card soon (considering Citi, Orchard Bank or Bank of America secured cards). I’m curious to see the impact of these on my report in a couple of months.
  • September 15-27: Made an additional $50 deposit to increase credit limit to $500. Deposit was posted on my account about 10-12 days later and I received a letter on the mail confirming my limit increase.
  • November 2: Credit score went from 579 to 636 after paying off the two collection accounts on my credit report (a 57 point jump!). I had been stuck on the same score for months, so I’ve been working to clean up my report and it’s paying off.
  • November 3: Opened a 2nd secured credit card with Bank of America with a 4k credit limit. I applied for this card at the bank not online. They offered me the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card. I didn’t even know that a Secured Card with cash rewards existed. I’m hoping that the larger limit will help boost my score and get things going a little faster.
  • November 4: Not even 24 hours after opening the BOA secured card, it’s already showing on my report as “Current”. My score improved another 29 points for a total of 86 points in two days. My new Experian score is 665! I couldn’t be happier.
  • 2012 Timeline:

  • January 18: I’m getting close to the 1 year mark with this card and received my 12th statement a few days ago. I’m still waiting for a second line increase but who knows if it will happen. I haven’t been using the Capital One card as much since I opened a cash rewards secured credit card with a larger limit.
  • January 26: My Experian credit score increased by 11 points from 662 to 673 after a paid medical bill was removed from my report.
  • February 15: Called Capital One after a year of having this account in good standing. I wanted to see if I qualified for a better card, a limit increase or an upgrade. An “account specialist” encouraged me to apply for an unsecured card with them but told me they could not increase my limit, upgrade or graduate my secured account. My only option was to apply for a new card and close the other one or leave it open if I wanted. I decided not to apply as I do not see the point of having two credit cards with the same bank, nor I want to close an account that’s already a year old as this will affect my credit.
  • 2013 Timeline:

  • April 2: Emailed Capital One’s CEO and requested that my secured card be product changed to an unsecured card and my deposit refunded. About ten days later y received a letter stating this was not possible.
  • April 19: Called to close my Capital One Secured card after having it for more than two years. This took about 5 minutes. The representative was helpful and didn’t try to convince me to keep the card or apply for a new one (which I thought was a good thing). He said my deposit will be refunded within two billing cycles, though I’ve heard it takes less than that. I’ll update as soon as I receive my refund. When I log in to my account online, I can see a message right below my account name saying “This account is currently closed”.
  • April 26: Received my security deposit refund check today, just one week after closing my account. My account had a zero balance with no pending charges and I called one day before my statement cut, so I’m sure that helped.
  • Current Status: This account is now closed. I had this card for more than two years. I always paid on time and never went over my credit limit. My credit line was increased once by $100 at around the 8 month mark. I didn’t receive any more line increases after that. After one year I called and asked for my account to be unsecured but I was told I had to apply for a new account instead, as they do not graduate cards. After two years I emailed a CEO and received the same response. Ten months after opening this account, I opened a 2nd secured card with BoA. At fourteen months I was approved for a car loan and just before closing my Capital One, I was approved for a Chase Freedom card. After opening the BOA card, my CapOne card didn’t get much usage. My credit score improved more than 100 points since I started this whole process. Removing two delinquent accounts from my reports as well as paying my secured card on time and letting my other credit accounts age, was key for improving my credit.

Overall Review:

  • In one sentence: A great card to establish credit but once you have done this you will move on to better cards. Capital One is a good option for those looking to establish or rebuild credit. They will most likely approve you even when other banks will not (however a few people do complain about being declined for this card). It is a good starter card, but will not grow with you over time. This means that it will never graduate to an unsecured card and you will have to close your account to get your deposit back. Credit increases are few and not generous when and if they happen. Once you have established some history with Capital One, you can apply for an unsecured card with them or another bank. This is a great card to establish credit history, but once you are able to bring your scores up, you will most likely close it and apply for better cards. The Capital One Secured card would be even better if Capital One offered graduation and returned security deposits to people that prove to be responsible and serious about handling credit.

Security Deposit:

  • Initial Security Deposit: $200. I was initially approved for a $200 credit card with a security deposit of $49. I sent an extra $150 to get a $350 credit line. After 6 months with the card I was given a credit line increase of $100 for a total of $450. I later sent an extra $50 for a $500 CL. A few months before closing my card I brought my credit line up to $3k. This was helpful as other banks matched this credit line when I applied and was approved for other cards.
    If you are going to apply for this card and are thinking about making a big deposit, you need to be aware of Capital One’s refund policy. This is what the Customer Agreement document that I received states:

    “I may not withdraw funds or request a refund of my funds at any time, other than by paying all of my obligations to Capital One and closing my account”

    If you are in the market for a secured card that requires a small security deposit, then Capital One is a great option (you can’t beat $49, $99 or $200). If you are looking to put in a bigger deposit to get a higher credit line and would like to get your money back in a fixed number of months, then you should consider other secured cards, like the ones offered by Bank of America (refunds your deposit after 12 months) and Citi (refunds your deposit after 18 months).

Useful Links:

Repairing my Credit with a Secured Credit Card – Credit Diary Part I

Related Article: Capital One Secured Credit Card Review – Credit Diary Part II.

After 10 years of using credit irresponsibly, I have finally decided to do something about it. The two credit cards I had were closed about a year ago by the issuing banks, and I found myself in a position of not even being able to get an Old Navy credit card after that. Now that I’m married with kids, have graduated college and have a job, I have come to the realization that I’m in no position of getting a loan to buy a house. To make things worse, being self-employed makes qualifying for a loan even more difficult.

Ruining my credit was a combination of being a struggling college student, and not being well informed about the repercussions of mishandling a credit card (paying late, or not paying at all when I didn’t have the money). I decided to keep an online diary of my progress (or the lack of it), so it can be useful to other people in the same situation as well as getting some input from those who can give advice. So, if you are reading this and would like to post a comment, please do so. I am not a credit expert, nor I am interested in selling you anything, and I don’t work for any of the banks named here. I’m just a regular person with bad credit.

After doing some research, I decided to get a secured credit card to hopefully improve my credit score. I’m also trying to clean up my credit report as much as possible by taking care of the negative items on it (still a work-in-progress). To follow a timeline of my progress please read: “Credit Diary Part II“.

These were the three secured credit cards I considered:

1. Orchard Bank Secured MasterCard
2. Wells Fargo Secured Card
3. Capital One Secured MasterCard

I ended up applying for the Capital One Secured Master Card and I will tell you my reasons. Let me start by saying that I was not shopping for the best credit card in the traditional sense, but the best credit card that can get me out of the hole I am in as effectively as possible (hopefully!). Having said that, the different APR’s offered by these banks differ substantially, but are all the same to me. I’m really not interested in a low APR card as my plan is not to buy “things” with it, but to make small purchases and pay everything in full each month so I can improve my credit. Later on, when I have achieved this, I can shop for regular credit cards and will definitely consider the APR as a deciding factor.

The three cards mentioned should probably work well if used properly, but I had to choose one of them. The Wells Fargo card was the first to be erased from my list as it requires you to have a checking account with them or Wachovia, and I don’t nor I want another checking account, thank you (if you do have an account with them, it looks like a good card so check it out). The Orchard Bank card looks attractive, the $35 annual fee is waived the first year and there is a $200 Minimum Security Deposit, which seems reasonable (you do have to mail your application along with the deposit and I would have preferred doing everything online, ’cause it gets things moving faster). So I had to go with the Capital One Card, which though the $29 annual fee is not waived, you can qualify for a $200 limit with only a $49 refundable deposit. This is what their site says:

Credit Line: $200–$3,000. Minimum security deposit gets you a $200 line. Deposit more to increase your line.

I applied for the card online and got approved immediately:

You’re approved – almost done! Just make a $49 refundable deposit and your card will be on its way.

I understand that you can be approved and asked to pay more than $49, so I was happy with the deal. I then proceeded to make this minimum deposit plus $150 in order to get a $350 credit line (if $49 gets me a $200 credit line, adding $150 more will get me a $350 credit line, or so I think). Another positive thing about this credit card, they give you 80 days to make the deposit, and you can make the deposit in full or over time, as longs as you make it before the date given (they’ll give you a date range once you get approved). Also, they give you free enrollment in CreditInform, which supposedly lets you track your credit information (we’ll see about that, I’m sure there’s a catch, but I’ll report on this later). So, this was a no brainer for me.

– Automatic reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
– Track your credit free enrollment in CreditInform
– Earn credit line increases. You may earn credit line increases based on your payment and credit history.

I have to say that I read lots of bad reviews about this card online and was a little nervous about the whole thing (most people complained about bad customer service and being charged extra fees?). I then spoke to a good friend who’s had a Capital One credit card for eleven years, and told me she has never had any issues with them. She always pays on time, so it makes me think that I should be ok if I manage my card in a responsible way, which I intend to do.

To check out the progress (or lack of it) I’ve had with the Capital One Secured Credit Card, please read: Capital One Secured Credit Card Review – Credit Diary Part II.