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6 Ways to Establish Credit When You Are Starting Out
When you’re first starting out, life can be exciting. You probably have big dreams – a new car or a house. But there may be one thing standing in your way of making your dreams a reality: your credit score.
Yes, that magic number impacts everyday life and can determine how much of a security deposit you’ll pay on an apartment lease or phone, your chances of landing a big promotion, the interest rate you’ll pay on a loan or credit card, and if you’ll qualify for a mortgage. But if you’re just starting out, you won’t have much of a credit history that determines your credit score. Here are six things you can do to establish your credit history and a good credit score.
1. Pay Your Bills on Time
This tip really shouldn’t surprise anyone, but paying your bills on time is one of the best things you can do to establish credit. How you manage your money is a quick way of establishing a credit history. If you’re late on a payment, do your best to get it paid before it becomes 30 days late. That’s when the lender can report your account to the credit bureaus, negatively affecting your credit history and your credit score. And you’ll also want to make sure you keep up on your monthly bills. Having an account go into collections will cause your score to slip and can stay on your credit report for seven years.
Pro Tip: Set up automatic payments on your accounts to ensure you never miss a payment. Just be careful not to overdraw your checking account!
2. Ask Family to Let You Be an Authorized User
One option to quickly build credit is to become an authorized user on a family member’s credit card. Essentially, an authorized user is an additional cardholder on an established credit account. Becoming an authorized user will give you a credit card with your name on it, but you won’t be the primary account holder. In terms of building credit, this option gives you the ability to start building your history off the back of someone with established credit. A quick word of warning: if the cardholder has problems making payments, it will affect your credit score, so find someone you know who has a good payment history.
Pro Tip: Before becoming an authorized user, have the account holder check with the credit card issuer to see if they report to all three credit bureaus.
3. Use a Secured Credit Card
A secured credit card works just like a regular card, with one major exception: you secure the line of credit with a cash deposit you pay to the card issuer. The deposit lowers their risk, making it more likely for you to get credit, and the deposit acts as your credit limit. You can use a secured credit card like any other credit card. Just remember to make your payments on time.
Pro Tip: You don’t have to start with a large credit limit. Even $200 can help you establish your credit as you get started.
4. Get a Credit Card in Your Name
If you have set up checking and savings accounts with your financial institution, apply with them for a credit card. Because you have a banking relationship established, your chances of being approved for a credit card are higher.
Pro Tip: Be smart and pay your balance due in full each month. That not only helps increase your credit score, but it saves you money on interest fees.
5. Be Mindful of Your Credit Use
How much revolving credit – credit that automatically renews when paid off – makes up about 30% of your score. And it can have the biggest impact on your credit score. With all your revolving credit, such as credit cards, personal lines of credit, or home equity lines of credit, try to keep your use below 30% combined on all of it.
Pro Tip: If you have a $500 credit limit, try to carry a balance of less than $150.
6. Check Your Credit Reports
Your credit report has information about your credit accounts and payment activity. That data is what influences your credit score. The three credit bureaus must give you one free credit report per year. You should take advantage of this each year, whether you’re just starting out or someone who has established credit. Review all three each year and if you find any inaccuracies, contact the credit bureau to correct them.
Pro Tip: Remember to get your free credit report for each of the three nationwide credit bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com and don’t forget to do it each year!
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