Top 10 Ways to Start Building Credit Today
Are you wondering how to start building credit? It can feel like a Catch-22: If you want a loan you need a good credit score, but to get that score you need to prove you can meet loan repayments. In practice, it’s a little more logical and there are numerous ways you can build credit with or without a good FICO Score.
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Check Your Credit Score Report
Stop rolling your eyes! We know you’ve probably seen this “tip” before and we understand why you might be tired of seeing it. But you may also be surprised to know that millions of Americans don’t check their credit scores regularly and many have never seen them at all.
You wouldn’t apply to a job without thoroughly checking your CV, and by the same extension, you shouldn’t apply for credit without checking your credit report. It’s free, quick, easy, and it will give you invaluable insight into your financial situation.
Apply for a Secured Credit Card
A secured credit card functions much like a prepaid card: You load your money onto it and then you use the card to spend that money. It is “secured” against your deposit, which means the provider doesn’t take a risk and you can acquire one even if you have no credit or bad credit.
Most providers report to the major credit bureaus and offer additional perks several months down the line, including unsecured credit cards.
Focus on What you Have
There are numerous ways you can build credit without applying for any additional loans or credit cards. You will need to have existing credit, however:
- Increase Limits: Nearly a third of your score is calculated based on credit utilization, which is your available credit versus your used credit. A quick way to improve this aspect of your score is to increase credit card limits. Contact your provider to make this request. They will run some affordability checks and then make an offer. There should be no extra charge or penalties, and that additional credit (providing it’s not used) will increase your score.
- Pay-Off: it’s an obvious one, but worth mentioning nonetheless: The higher your repayments, the less your debt and the higher your score. You should always meet minimum repayments, that’s a no-brainer, but by paying additional amounts every month, or as a lump sum, you can build your credit faster. It will improve your used credit ratio and reduce your debt, massively impacting your credit score.
- Avoid Rash Decisions: Debt settlement, bankruptcy, and consolidation loans are great if you need them and are struggling. But they’re not for everyone and shouldn’t be seen as a Get Out of Jail Free card. Only use them if you need to and exhaust all possibilities before you reach that point as they can damage your credit for years to come.
Become an Authorized User
You can increase your credit limit, and thus improve your credit utilization ratio, simply by adding yourself as an authorized user on a partner’s/relative’s account. You don’t need to actually use the card. Just find someone who is responsible and happy to help out and ask if you can be added.
Make sure they have a good credit history and are not heavily in debt, otherwise it may do more harm than good.
Get a Co-Signer
Parents, grandparents, friends, partners—anyone who is financially responsible can help you by becoming a co-signer. The co-signer essentially assumes all responsibilities should you default on the loan, which means you get a line of credit that may otherwise be refused.
Your odds of being approved will greatly increase but you will need to find someone who trusts you and is prepared to make a potentially risky decision to benefit you.
Get an Auto Loan
Auto loans are some of the easiest to acquire because the lender can use the car as collateral. If you don’t meet the repayments, they’ll simply take back the vehicle and leave a big, ugly mark on your credit report. If you do, then your score will gradually improve.
If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, shop around and get yourself a low-interest rate installment plan. It may feel like flushing money down the drain, especially if you had planned to pay in cash, but it will help you to build credit and make future credit applications much easier.
Make Sure Your Repayments are Reported
Credit isn’t built automatically. Your credit report compiles information from lenders and updates on a monthly basis. If those lenders don’t “report” to the credit bureaus, then that information won’t be available and won’t appear on your credit report.
If you’re paying a debt or an installment plan that isn’t shown on your credit report, then contact the lender and ask them to pass the information on. All credit cards and loans should be reported regardless, but the same can’t be said for utility companies and landlords.
Try a Lending Circle
There are a multitude of non-profit lending circles that can help you build credit. They provide small loans to borrowers on low incomes and they report payment histories to the major credit bureaus. You can get the money you need for a major purchase as well as a guarantee that your repayments will be recorded and your credit will improve.
Apply in Batches
Hard inquiries should be avoided where possible as they can reduce your credit score for up to 12 months. However, if you apply for multiple loans in a short space of time it’s dismissed as “rate shopping” and your score will take just a single hit. So, if you’re applying for a new personal loan, credit card, auto loan, or mortgage, make sure it takes place within this time period.
Protect Yourself from Fraud
Many credit reporting agencies now provide fraud detection as a premium service. Last year, Americans lost close to $1.5 billion to fraud, an increase of more than a third from the previous year. It’s much more common than you might realize and if it happens to you then it can destroy your credit.
Some users don’t discover they are the victims of fraud until several years after it has happened, which is why it’s important to stay on top of things. A fraudster can steal your identity and use it to take out loans, credit cards, and more. All of this will hit your credit report and undo all of your hard work.
Fraud detection services can warn you when this is happening and help to put a stop to it. They can also detect when your name, address, email, and other personal details are being sold on the Dark Web.