Almost everyone needs credit. If you are renting an apartment, applying for a mortgage, applying for a car loan, or even applying for a job, you will need some type of credit history, as credit decisions are often based on your prior use of credit. If you are a young adult or are still in college, you have a unique opportunity to start building a solid credit history that can serve you for many years to come. By carefully building credit and avoiding credit mistakes, you can insure a strong credit history.
Although you may not have credit yet, you should try to get a copy of your credit report for the credit bureaus, so you can check if there is any inaccurate information. Additionally, you will want to make sure that you haven’t been a victim of identity theft, with someone using your name and trashing your credit. The three bureaus are: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, and they can be contacted online, as well as by phone and mail.
One of the first steps to building credit is to open a checking and a savings account in your name. You may already have an account, and it is something many lenders will look at, as it show stability. If you only have a checking account, you may also want to open a savings account as well, which can be used as collateral for a secured loan, if necessary.
You should also have as many bills as you can listed in your name, such as your telephone and cellular bill. Make sure you pay all of your bills on time, as this is a major factor in your credit score. If you can, try to establish the accounts in your name only.
The next step would be to get a credit card. If you are a student, you may be bombarded by credit offers on campus. Its a good idea to get one credit card, so if you find one available with low interest rates and a low or no annual fee, you may want to apply. Student credit cards are mainly designed for people with no prior credit, and they accept a large percentage of applicants. However, don’t get more than one card, as its too easy to start running up balances, and it also looks better for your credit if you don’t open a number of accounts in a short period of time.
If you are unable to get an unsecured credit card, you still have some options to establish credit with a credit card. If you have a savings account, your bank may let you apply for a secured credit card tied to your savings account. Over time, once you make regular on time payments, you should be able to qualify for a non-secured card. You should also make sure your payments are reported to the credit bureaus, otherwise you won’t be building your credit history.
Another option is to get a co-signer. If someone has good credit, that will extend it to you, by putting their name as being jointly responsible for your limit on your card. This will help your credit history if you pay off the loan in a responsible way. If you do have a co-signer, you have a serious responsibility to make sure your payments are timely, or you will hurt their credit as well as your own.
With some foresight, it can be relatively easy to start building credit. Once you get a credit card, its important to keep the balance low, and to make regular, on time payments. The card should be used as a tool for credit building, not as a additional spending money. Over time, you credit will start to look better and better.