Love it or hate it, your credit score has an impact on your finances. If you have a low credit score, you’ll pay higher interest rates and more for your auto insurance. In fact, according to BankRate, the current difference between a 580 and 700 credit score is 1.581%. That increases the total cost of a $150,000 30-year mortgage by $102,367.
In order to build your credit score, you must borrow money. But in order to borrow money, you have to have some credit. Seems like a catch 22, right?
While they certainly have a laundry list of negatives, nothing can help you build credit more quickly and easily than a responsibly used credit card. Here’s how I used a credit card to build my credit score from 0 to 700+ in 6 months:
1. Apply for an Easy Credit Card
My first credit card was a student card. These are designed specifically for students with limited credit history. Keep in mind that each time you apply for a card or loan, your credit takes a hit. Refrain from applying for multiple accounts until you’ve established at least a year’s worth of credit.
2. Set up Automatic Payments
35% of your score is determined by payment history. If you are late on a couple payments (especially early on), your score will drop significantly. The best way to make sure your credit card bill is paid each month is to set up automatic payments through the credit card website. You can set your account up to automatically pay your monthly bill directly from your bank account.
As a word to the wise (from someone who’s made the mistake): Be sure to make sure you have enough in your bank account to pay off the bill. This will keep you from missing a payment and incurring unnecessary overdraft fees.
3. Buy ONLY What You Can Pay Back
Never buy more than you’ll be able to pay off each month. If you don’t have much in your bank account, just buy something small each month (Netflix subscription, tank of gas, or pack of gum). The last thing you want to do is sink into credit card debt, which will cost you 15%+ in interest and tank your credit score.
4. Use as Little Credit as Possible
FICO considers you more of a credit risk if you use up a more significant portion of your line of credit. For example, if your credit limit is $1,000 you should try to keep your balance below $200-300 per month. If you make a habit of getting close to your credit limit, your FICO score will take a hit.
5. Don't Fall in Love with Your Card
Credit cards have a lot of great benefits like cash back bonuses, reward points, and building credit. On the flip side, they decrease the pain of purchasing (which leads to higher spending) and can trap you into high-interest debt. They are a slippery slope that destroy a lot of financial lives (especially young ones). Be smart.
A Good Starter Credit Card
Student credit cards are great tools for college students and recent graduates. They are built specifically for young people with limited credit history. The Discover Open Road Card for Students (not an affiliate link) gives you 1% cash back on everyday expenses and doubles to 2% for Gas and Restaurants. There is no annual fee.
If you follow this outline, you should be able to get your score at or very close to 740, which will get you the best interest rates and keep your auto insurance as low as possible.
It's your turn! How have you built credit? Has an increasing credit score helped you save money? Leave comments below!
Nathan is the author of Amazon best-seller Dividend Growth Machine: How to Supercharge Your Investment Returns with Dividend Stocks.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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Though this is my first ever going to comment on this forum but I I had to write something based on the question I saw Mandy ask.
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Credit Cards on October 27, 2016:
Thank you so much for the informative guide, can I use rental history to increase my credit score?
Daniel Bryan on September 01, 2016:
Yes, i agree applying for easy credit card and set up automatic payment can assist to build your credit score from 0 to 700. Thanks for sharing it.
Ronald Tucker from Louisville, Kentucky on November 05, 2015:
I had credit scores of 607(transunion) 615(Exquifax) in 2013. I applied for a Capital One secured card in April 0f 2013 and was approved with a $200 credit limit. I would had $100 each month while paying on time and keeping my credit utilization around 10% or lower. After about six months my scores were 640+ across all three credit bureaus. After another six months of responsible use my credit score were 670 to 700(considered by FICO as Good) and in July of 2015 I had credit scores of 750+ (Excellent)across all three credit bureaus at which time I applied for Capital One Quicksilver card and was approved within a week with a $10,000 credit limit. I still keep my utilization under 10% that continually boost my score. Secured credit cards can help one build or re-establish their credit if used responsibly.
Jordan on May 08, 2015:
first credit card ever opened 2 months ago with capital one. I was advised by a family member to use it a lot and pay it off immediately. The credit line is a measly $300, so each month I've been spending repeatedly using it to pay small bills and make purchases, then immediately paying it off. Your advice seems to be different, you're saying I should barely use it at all to avoid approaching $300.
With a credit line this low, any specific advice?
Fred Bohman from Orange County, CA on March 28, 2013:
Automatic payments is something I never thought of telling people who have a hard time paying bills on time. Seems like one of the simplest steps to take when trying to build your credit.
Joy from United States on March 01, 2013:
It is very useful hub for me... just wondering that scheduling an auto payment feature is really good to get good credit score?
digitechdownloadz on January 04, 2013:
Thanks for the heads up!
This is some really cool info. here. If I had known then what I know now!
My finances would be better off!