Like it or not, credit plays a big role in our lives as consumers. Whether we’re applying for an apartment rental, switching cell phone carriers, or shopping for a car loan, our credit score affects our ability to get approved and land the best terms and rates.
It can feel like an unfair game. Sometimes your credit takes a hit because something unfortunate happens and you fall behind on your payments. But other times it might be simply due to the fact that you’re young and haven’t had much time to build a solid credit score.
So how can you build credit if you don’t have much of a credit history? Besides the obvious tactics, like making on-time payments and having a diverse credit mix, there are lesser-known strategies that could help you go from a not-so-great score to a stellar one:
Review your credit report
Correcting an error on your credit report could help improve your score. According to a study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 1 in 5 Americans have a mistake on their credit report that makes them appear to be more of a risky borrower than they are.
Common errors on a credit report could include typos in your personal information, the wrong name on your report, or the wrong home address. There could also be duplicate accounts, and accounts reported as having missed or late payments which you actually paid on time. The status of an account could be incorrect, as well as the start and closing dates.
You can order a credit report for free. Just visit AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the instructions. You’re able to order one report from each of the three credit agencies — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — every 12 months.
Spot an error? To get it fixed, you’ll need to file a dispute with the credit bureau that made the mistake. The bureau has 30 days to review it and get back to you.
Get a secured credit card
If you’re nervous about carrying too high of a balance, a secured credit card could be a good option for you. You can usually sign up for one through a bank, credit union, or credit card issuer. You’ll need to put in a cash deposit to serve as backup. Your limit is usually the same as your deposit. So if you deposit $250, that’ll be the limit on your card. Should you have trouble making payments, the credit card issuer will draw from the money you deposited.
When shopping around for a secured credit card, look closely at the APR and fees. It couldn’t hurt to play it safe. Start with a low limit, and at the very least make the minimum payments.
Become an authorized user on a card
Know someone who has a longstanding credit history and solid credit score? If you can hop on someone’s credit card as an authorized user, the payment history will also show up on your credit file. When the primary cardholder makes on-time payments, that’ll help you build a solid score.
If you’re worried about another bill to pay, note that you won’t be the one making payments. That responsibility falls on the main account holder. However, because you aren’t on the hook for making payments, you won’t build credit as quickly as you would if you had opened the card in your name.
Report less traditional information
If you don’t have much of a credit card history or many loans to build your score, it might help to know that some companies let you report your cell phone or rent payments. If you’re a Dave Banking member, we’ve partnered with Level Credit to report your rent payments to the three credit bureaus. While it’s normally $100 a year, it’s free if you set up direct deposit.
Fun fact: On average, if you report your rent payments, credit scores that are 579 or less increase 28 points after 2 months, and 70 points after 2 years. So if you don’t want to take out loans or credit cards, reporting other types of payment information can give your score a bolster.
You don’t have to take out any loans or more cards than you can handle to boost your credit. By tapping into these surprising tactics, you can level-up your score without needing to open more accounts.