Building credit seems like a catch-22. If you’re trying to start building credit and you apply for a credit card, you might get rejected because you don’t already have credit history. How people like college students start building credit if they have never had a credit card before? Do they need to go into debt to get a credit score? As a nonprofit credit counseling agency, we’ll explain the easiest ways college students can establish credit history:
Start Building Credit with Secured Credit Cards
One of the easiest ways to start building credit if you have no credit history is to apply for a secured credit card. These types of credit cards work just like a “regular” credit card, but they have a lower credit limit. They also require a deposit, which is typically what your credit limit is. These credit cards are designed for consumers with little to no credit history. By making small purchases with the secured credit card and paying them off each month on time and in full, you should see your credit score increase over time.
Become an Authorized User on Someone Else’s Account
Another way to start building credit is to become an authorized user on someone else’s account. See if one of your parents is willing to add you on their card. Keep in mind, the credit activity of both you and your parent will impact your score. It’s important to agree ahead of time on a set spending limit so that you keep the credit utilization low. Of the ways to start building credit, this one is risker since you’re relying on another person to be responsible. Financial consequences aren’t the only thing to worry about when being added as an authorized user. Issues or misunderstandings with the use of your credit card could result in a strained relationship between you and your family member who is the primary account holder.
Use Experian Boost
Once you’ve either gotten a secured credit card or been added as an authorized user, you may want to consider Experian Boost. Only having one credit account means you still have a thin credit file. Using a service like Experian Boost can help your credit score by taking utilities and streaming services into account with your score. Normally, only credit cards and loans are factored into your credit score. On time utility payments aren’t considered, but Experian Boost can add them in to help you improve your score. This is especially helpful if you’re just starting to build credit.
For additional questions about credit or debt, please contact one of ACCC’s certified credit counselors at 800-769-3571.