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The Best Ways to Build—and Track—Your Credit

brown walletBuilding your credit, whether it’s from scratch or improving it after a rough financial patch, is a worthy personal development goal. But it can seem like an uphill battle when you need to have credit to get it!

If you want to build your credit, it is possible. It won’t be an overnight process, but with consistency and active work, it will happen!

As your score rises, you’ll find it easier to get better financing rates and higher credit limits. Until then, though, there are a few tips you can use to bump up your rating without paying astronomical interest rates.

Try these five tips to build and track your credit as you continue on your path to financial success!

1. Use Your Credit Card

If you already have a credit card, use it! Just don’t overuse it. Lenders like to see that you can use your credit wisely and pay it off timely.

Go ahead and make small purchases that you can reasonably pay off when the statement comes in.

You might hear the advice that you should use the card, then hurry up and pay it the next day. It’s actually smarter to wait so that the usage has time to cycle onto your credit record, which happens about every 30 days.

It’s possible for those with no credit or a bad score to get a credit card with a low limit, and that’s all you need! Keep using it, but make sure you pay the balance off each month.

2. Make Multiple Payments

As you’re using your credit cards, keep track of how much you’re spending. You’ll have a ‘minimum amount due’ at your invoice date, and then the total balance.

If you can’t pay the entire balance in one lump sum, that’s fine. Making small payments, or ‘micropayments,’ is a smart way to pay off the entire balance that month. It also improves your credit utilization factor, which is a big part of your score.

The goal is to limit how much of your available credit you are utilizing while still making regular payments to show you can manage your money.

3. Pay Attention to Your Credit Utilization Percentage

As you get more credit, whether it’s with credit cards, car loans, or other lenders, be careful how much of your open limits you are using. It’s easy to charge a little bit here and a few dollars there, but it all adds up.

If you have a car loan or a mortgage, that’s taking up a significant chunk of your credit utilization. There isn’t much you can do about those loans except to pay them on time or early. But your credit card utilization can be tracked.

Track your credit utilization by adding up all your open balances, then totaling the credit limits. Divide the two numbers, then multiply by 100. That’s your credit utilization percentage, and that’s what lenders like to look at when they decide if you’re a good risk or not.

In the meantime, you can always check your credit score on free sites like Experian, Mint, and Credit Karma.

4. Add Your Name as a User Where You Can

When you’re serious about being financially responsible, it helps to have a close friend or relative that can help you. If you’re trustworthy and they’re willing, they can add you to their already established credit card as an authorized user.

In this situation, your name is linked as someone who is also responsible for the payment, so it improves your score. The cardholder doesn’t have to let you have a card, or even know the account number, but you still get the benefits.

They are taking a risk that you could get access to their card. You’re taking the risk that they’ll pay the card and not leave you hanging as a responsible payer. When it works out, though, you both benefit.

5. Limit Your Applications

You want to build your credit, but you have to be careful where you apply. Too many denials or applications can seriously impact your score negatively.

Look for secured credit cards, pre-approved programs, and creditors that advertise easy and fast approvals. Once you have one or two cards, use them regularly and pay on time.

As you build your reputation as a financially responsible cardholder, you’ll get more invitations to apply for credit. Then you can begin being choosy, looking for lower interest rates and better deals.

At that time, you could even look into 0% balance transfers and switch your current high-interest debt over to these new cards. Don’t cancel the old ones, though. They help your credit history longevity.

Conclusion

As you build and track your credit score, you’ll find it easier to get higher limits and lower interest rates. Like all good things, patience is necessary. These tips will help you get there faster as you actively work towards a solid financial future!