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How to Create a Good Credit History

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” It’s an old brain teaser, but people find it amusing, because of the supposition that you can’t have one without the other. Frustratingly, young adults and people who want to secure credit for the first time face a similar quandary- in order to get credit, you have to have credit. The good news is establishing a credit history isn’t as impossible as it first seems, but it does take a measure of discipline and determination.

Do your research

The first step in building credit is to research any previous history. You may believe you have a blank slate, but that might not always be the case. Before you do anything else, obtain a copy of your credit report, which you can do for free once a year by going to

Agencies like Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian will charge a fee to provide your credit score, but you don’t need that number for our purposes here. The actual credit report is free as mandated by Federal law, and will detail any problems, such as past due balances or unpaid loans. Using this information, you can correct any inaccuracies and clean up any erroneous entries.

Starting from scratch

It would seem as though someone who paid for everything in cash would be considered a good credit risk by lenders, but the opposite is true. Banks and other lenders want to see that you have a history of responsible credit use. When you pay for things up front in cash, you may show good financial responsibility, but to a bank that’s not necessarily the same thing.

Establishing credit means actively using it, and the easiest way to do this is with a basic charge card. One good idea is to inquire at the bank you use for checking and savings accounts. You’ll already have a history with the bank, and they may offer a better APR than a national brand. A secured line of credit is another option that may be available through your bank. A secured loan or line of credit is backed by collateral, and is an effective method to start building credit in your own name.

Another option is getting a store specific credit card, for example with a department store or gas station. Although it may offer low credit limits as compared to a national brand credit card, it is typically easier to get approval. Many stores also offer special incentives to encourage customers to apply for charge cards.

Similarly, you can use in-store financing to build credit history. This usually applies to a specific purchase, and often includes a no-interest/same as cash option if paid off by a predetermined length time.

Remember that active use of credit is what’s important. You will build credit faster and at minimal cost by observing a few guidelines-

  • It’s better to pay off lots of little charges quickly than it is to pay off one large amount
  • When you pay charges early, you avoid paying extra in interest
  • Stay within your budget, and use credit for things you would already be purchasing

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