When you let someone borrow money, you want to be comfortable knowing that they will pay you back; institutions feel the same way and they have some tools to help them reach that level of comfort. One of the most commonly used tools is your Credit or FICO Score.
As soon as you start taking out loans, paying bills under your name or using a credit card, companies called credit bureaus start keeping track of your payment history. Using about 30 different factors related to your payment history, they come up with a number from 300-850 called a credit score or FICO score, which is the quick and easy number lenders will look at to see if you’re credit worthy. Keeping this score high is important because it affects your chances of getting a loan in the future, the amount of the loan and how much interest you’ll be paying.
What if you don’t have credit history? How can you apply for a credit card or a loan? There are several ways to start building history:
1. Apply for Student Loans – Federal student loans do not require a credit history for approval as long as you qualify. And by making regular payments, you can establish/improve your credit score.
2. Apply for a College Card – Although a College card may require you to have a co-signer, if you handle the debt responsibly and make your payments on time, it will help you establish your own credit history.
3. Find a Co-signer – Co-signers are people who have an established credit history and are willing to sponsor your loan or credit card account. If someone with good credit is willing to cosign for you, you can apply for a loan or a credit card using their credit history.
4. Consider a Secured card – Secured loans and secured credit cards are also good ways of starting up your credit history. For these products, you put money in a CD that’s used to pay off your debt if you default.
While you do want to have a credit card handy and possibly some loans to help build your credit, don’t open too many, as that could actually hurt your FICO score. Use your credit cards regularly, but lightly, and make your payments on time.
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