Pay in full after the statement cuts, you can also pay the balance before statement cut date to minimize the util%, but if you're not about to apply any additional credit, util% doesn't matter that much, just make sure to pay on time and don't miss any payment.
And no, you're not necessarily to carry any balance to show usage, PIF if possible.
If you app for the normal BoA card and are declined, will they use the same INQ when you ask for a secured card?
NO. They pulled twice in my case. I had initially applied for unsecured and got a counter offer for fully secured and then when I accepted it I was told they will pull again and the did.
I would think this as a approval.
Treat it well and keep paying online as soon as you can after transactions post. This suggestion doesn't have any grounds, but I used to do this and they treated me really well.
Another suggestion I have is don't block too much money to get a high CL unless you need high CL (your deposit has no impact on what kind of unsecure CL you will get when you get this unsecured). Again this is my thought YMMV.
Initial CL matters and you're the only one I've seen with such a big CLI upon "graduation". Most ppl receive the standard $500 CLI for unsecuring so a big initial deposit definitely helps.
I agree with your point. I agree that I am probably one of the very few who got such a great CLI from them on unsecuring and also got the AF removed from my account.
but I will like to present another perspective (or probably just my thought)
I feel if a person is gonna get something like 500 CLI at unsecure, chances are, he/she will not be able to get the AF waived off. If you look forward, you will appreciate that after 1 year of secured card with AF, OP may not want BofA with AF (OP will most probably be good for other non AF cards by then). This was my thought behind keeping my deposit at 500. Offcourse, this is again my opinion and may not work for others.
If this is your first (and only) card, I will suggest adding a store card about 3 months from now. There are 2 advantages:
1. You need atleast 2 revolving lines to be able to get good prime cards (1 is too little)
2. Store cards like GEMB ones grow to about 1500CL pretty fast in 7-8 months (a bit before the time when your BofA hits 1 year) and it helps your Util without having to put too much deposit for a high CL.
As always, YMMV