How To Start A Credit History

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When you’re young, have little or no income, and want to build a credit history, it’s really difficult. The current credit environment has made it much more difficult so here are a few methods I’ve used, or have seen recommended, in the past in order to build your credit history.

One tip that has been removed from lists like these is the Authorized User tip. In the past, a parent could add a child onto one of their accounts as an authorized user and the child would see credit history benefits. Many people took advantage of that by “renting” out these authorized user slots and so FICO responded by cutting that link. Now, it appears, that authorized users have no bearing. This is the case of people trying to subvert the system for profit and the system, rightfully, punishing everyone. You can read more about the whole authorized user practice here.

Store-Branded Credit Cards

Stores love to push their store branded credit cards because the bean-counters know that people spend more on credit than they do with cash. Those same bean-counters also know that less than 100% of store branded credit card holders will pay off the bill in full, so the store can develop another revenue stream by offering a store branded card. Their greed is your benefit because they are willing to extend a little bit of credit to people with no history. One of my first credit cards was from American Eagle Outfitters (it was a cool looking card with half of it being transparent/clear) with a piddly little $500 limit. The size of the limit was irrelevant, I merely wanted another line of credit on my nascent credit report to help build it out.

College Signup Tables

Many people have written many articles about how those credit card peddlers on college campuses will be the downfall of humanity but those peddlers gave me my very first credit card, an AT&T Universal Card, and sent me on my way to building my credit history. They also gave me a t-shirt, which extended the time between laundry room visits! On the credit card application, the guy told me to put my income as my college tuition, which may have been disingenuous, and I was approved a few weeks later.

I believe many college campuses have made this illegal, but you can still see these types of tables at sports arenas, airports, and other high traffic areas. In fact, given the stories I’ve read about these tables potentially stealing identity information (can you really trust a random guy who just set up a plastic table?), I’d be more trusting of tables at sports arenas and airports because they are vetted. For example, you know the person behind the Southwest table at the airport is a Southwest employee… otherwise they would’ve been booted by now.

Co-sign A Loan

Even though the authorized user hack has been made moot, you can still have the no credit history person co-sign a loan with a good credit history person. A prime example of this is a car loan, where the bank won’t approve the loan unless someone with good credit is willing to vouch for the no credit person and put themselves on the hook in the event of non-payment. This isn’t a tactic that one would generally use as a means of building credit, though I suppose a child could always piggyback on a loan ultimately designed for the parent, but it’s certainly a way to get a revolving account on one’s history. An account like this one, large balance with a history of on-time payment, is exactly what lenders and credit bureaus like to see. Oftentimes though, this co-signing is out of necessity.

You can get a copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus each year, meaning you can get three total (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax). This is a good practice regardless of how good, bad, or non-existent your credit history may be. Keeping tabs on your score and the accuracy of your report is paramount. is a program run by the government, don’t go anywhere else for a free copy of your report (they will provide no actual “score” though).

Does anyone have any good tips to help someone starting out with no credit history?

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “How To Start A Credit History”

  1. Traciatim says:

    Why not team up with a friend and use to hack yourselves a credit score?

  2. Marcia Tomas says:

    Please send me more information on this and how it works,

  3. I think that paying your utilities bills on time can help.

    Also, if you have an apartment, or a car, get renters / car insurance. I think that helps as well.

    • Jason says:

      This previous answer here was not true… utilities don’t report to the credit bureaus..this answer was false…

      the federal housing authority has a program in which you can convert utilities into “aternative tradelines” only for house puchase or refinance

      • michelle says:

        Paying your utility bills will not get reported to your credit report, but NOT paying them WILL. The biggest influence in your report is whether you pay your (credit) bills on time as well as if you have any collections in your name.

        Insurance, and utilities do not directly show up on your report unless you do not pay them. Only secured/unsecured credit items.

  4. Jesse says:

    PAying your utility bills most definitely DOES help. I had a credit score of over 700 before I ever had a credit card. To those above me saying to use prosper: I find that terribly inefficient to use prosper, it costs money to close the loan. Why not get a low limit credit card (anyone can get the lowest limit ones assuming you have no credit history) and use it to pay bills then pay it off monthly instead?

  5. Margo says:

    What about the old fashioned way?

    A secured credit card.

    Typically offered by your bank, you agree to “freeze” a portion of your savings equal to the limit on the card. Make purchases on the card and pay them off each month, and after a year it will roll over into a regular unsecured card and the bank will “unfreeze” the money from your savings account.

    • Evangelina says:

      i need to talk to you more about this never heard of it. im 20 years old and im now starting off been a dispatcher as my first job. i deff dont want to mess up my credit.

  6. jim says:

    Margo you are so right, I can’t believe I completely forgot about that one!

  7. Dana says:

    I ran across mention of this website while skimming through a personal finance book at Barnes & Noble. I don’t remember the book title but as I recall, it was aimed primarily at African-American female readers. It seems that this is another consumer credit reporting agency, but unlike the Big Three they can potentially report on whether you pay ordinary bills on time, such as your rent, your utilities and your phone bill.

    It’s free to set up your account and free to get reports but they may ask to verify that you are an account holder with any of these entities and that would cost you money. I don’t know how much because I haven’t tried them yet. Alternately, you could sign up for one of their partnered online billpay services in lieu of verification, which I guess costs less or nothing.

    I’ve been putting off trying them out because it seems like I’m late paying utilities most months but they’re worth a shot to someone just starting out, especially if credit cards make you nervous.

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