How and Why You Need to Build Credit

Here's a look at credit-building tools, and how to use them to earn a good credit score.

By SAGE Scholars — November 8, 2022

How and Why You Need to Build Credit

Your credit score has a huge impact on the quality of your life. With good credit, you will have more opportunities to build a solid financial foundation and accumulate wealth. Without credit, lenders can't gauge if you are a reliable risk. This is why having no credit history is just as bad as having a bad credit history.

Everyone needs to learn how to build credit. Here is a step-by-step guide to developing a positive credit history.

  • Sign up for a store credit card. Retail credit cards often come with higher interest rates, but you can qualify with less-than-perfect or no credit history. That makes store cards a good starting point for students or people who want to improve or build their credit history. Gas credit cards are also easier to qualify for if you have a car.
  • Use a secured credit card. Secured cards require a cash deposit that serves as a credit limit to obtain a line of credit. Putting up a deposit to obtain a line of credit might seem unfair, but it is an easy way to get credit in your own name. Your payment history is reported to the major credit bureaus, contributing to your credit history. Once you establish a positive payment track record, most secured cards will return your deposit and increase your credit limit.
  • Become an authorized user. Becoming an authorized user of someone else's credit account is an excellent way to build credit. As an authorized user, information from that person's account — like the credit limit, payment history, and card balance — shows up on your credit report. That means your credit can improve due to being added to a credit account that someone else keeps in good standing. To be added as an authorized user on someone else's credit card, the cardholder must contact their bank or card issuer and request for you to be on their card account.

In addition to using credit cards, there are alternative ways to build credit. Rent often makes up the largest expense, but it doesn't generally count toward your payment and credit history. While lenders and creditors report mortgage, auto, and credit card payments to credit bureaus, your rent payments aren't reported to bureaus.

While there is no direct way to report your rent payments, you can use one of several reporting services which send information about your monthly rent payments to credit bureaus. Before signing up, ensure you know how much they charge and which bureau the service reports.

If your landlord works with Experion's RentBureau, your rent payment data can be reported to Experian for incorporation into your credit report. If your landlord doesn't report through RentBureau, you can sign up through a rent payment service that does, such as RentTrack, PayYourRent, or Cozy.

All three credit bureaus will include rent payment information in your credit report if they receive it. A better way to improve your credit score with rent is to pay your rent with a credit card if your landlord offers the option.

Another alternative way to boost credit scores is to use Experian Boost, a free feature from Experian that aims to boost your credit score instantly. The service allows you to add your utility, telecom, and streaming accounts to your credit report. Experian requires you to have at least one active credit account, but it also lets you add the following services to your credit reports:

  • Cable and satellite
  • Cell and landline phone
  • Gas, electric and solar
  • Internet
  • Streaming services
  • Trash and water

It's important to note that Boost does not include late payments or negative information in its scoring model, so you have nothing to lose by using the service. Building good credit often takes time. If you apply these tips and strategies, you will see an improvement in your credit score in just a few months. By continuing to use these strategies, you will see increased credit limits, lower interest rates, and a host of other benefits that come with good credit.

SAGE Scholars

SAGE Scholars

At SAGE Scholars, we deeply believe in the value and quality of private higher education. Our mission is to provide access to affordable college opportunities while bringing together families, colleges & universities, and benefit providers to create college funding solutions. Since 1995, SAGE Scholars has bridged the gap between students who want a quality private college education and colleges that will work closely with member families to ensure affordability — all at no cost to the families.
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