5 Basic Credit Lessons to Teach Your Kids

Your parents may have prepared you as best they could for the financial realities of adulthood, or they could have left you to figure it all out for yourself. But if you were taught the basics of finance and credit before you left the nest, you may have encountered less of a learning curve than your clueless counterparts. No matter your level of understanding, you likely have to do some learning yourself.

But now, if you’re the parent, one of your priorities is to prepare your kids for adulthood. Just as you would teach your children to dress themselves, ride a bike or do their laundry, you may want to impart lessons about credit to them to help them become successful and financially independent.

Here are five credit lessons you may wish to impart.

1. It’s Important to Regularly Check Your Credit Reports & Credit Scores

Credit reports and credit scores may seem like abstract concepts to teach your children. But you can use simple metaphors. School-age children can understand the concepts of grades and report cards, and these concepts apply to credit. The work you put into your credit is reflected in your credit report and credit score, which “grade” your performance. These grades can then be used to help you get “rewarded,” like by getting the best rate on a credit card or a loan, like for a car or home. (You can check out your free credit report summary on Credit.com, which includes grades on how you’re doing in the five key areas that make up your scores.) This brings us to our next lesson …

2. Credit Affects Their Life

Once your child understands the concept of a credit report and credit score, you can demonstrate how credit has affected your lifestyle. Many of your possessions — your home, car or credit card, for instance — were obtained using credit, and are examples of the power of credit. Of course, credit is not just a way to get “things.” It’s a tool that can help provide shelter, comfort and freedom.

3. There Are 5 Main Influencers of Credit

As your kids get older and have a firmer grasp on these concepts, they may be able to better understand how they can make credit work for them. You can show them credit is determined by five main factors:

  • Payment history
  • Debt usage
  • Age of accounts
  • Types of accounts
  • Credit inquires

If you own credit cards, have loans and monitor your credit report, you have teachable moments built into your financial routine. When your children are old enough, you can involve them as you pay a bill or check your credit report, explaining the process as you go.

4. Mistakes Can Cost You

Mistakes can be valuable life lessons for young people. But when it comes to credit, mistakes can be costly and their effects can be long-lasting. One late payment can cause your credit score to drop dramatically. And negative items such as accounts in collections and judgments can stay on your report for at least seven years. To a young person, seven years can be a long time to have difficulty obtaining loans or credit cards. You can also show them how errors on your credit report can be fixed by using this guide.

5. Credit Cards Are Merely Tools

Credit cards are not a magic wand for reckless spending, but they are also not inherently risky items to be avoided. They are tools. They can be invaluable to build credit and financial independence, but they can also be damaging if wielded incorrectly.

It’s no secret that young people can have trouble with impulse control. But you may want to impart that credit cards can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. The results will depend on the user.

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7 Simple Hacks for Building Better Credit

Believe it or not, there are a few things you can do to quickly boost your credit.

Sure, credit-scoring models are complicated (all that algorithm-ing and such). But, when you get right down to it, the secret sauce to building good credit is actually pretty straightforward: Take a whole bunch of on-time loan payments, keep a pinch of debt, stir in some new accounts, and let the thing bake. Seriously — building and rebuilding credit takes some time.

Still, there are a few seriously simple ways to hack your credit. And while they’re no substitute for the good old traditional recipe, these maneuvers could give a so-so credit score a quick boost. (Not sure if you need one? You can see where you stand by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Here are a few ways to hack your credit score.

1. Pay Off Big Credit Card Balances

Because if you’ve got ’em, there’s a good chance they’re messing with your credit utilization ratio. That’s how much debt you’re carrying versus your total credit. It’s recommended you keep that ratio below at least 30%, and ideally 10%, of your limits. So paying off purchases putting you over that threshold — in total and on individual cards — can help.

2. Ask for a Credit Limit Increase

If you can’t address those balances right away or you’re saddled with a seriously low credit limit, you can ask your issuer to up your limit. Some notes before you do: They’ll likely pull your credit to see if you can handle the increase. If your credit is bad, you might be met with a resounding “no.” Whether approved or denied, that credit pull will leave a hard inquiry, which will cost your score a few points. That ding is worthwhile if you get what you’re asking for but less so if you don’t. You can find more on asking for a higher credit limit here.

3. Become an Authorized User

Consider this a credit card with training wheels. Authorized users, who are added to an existing credit cardholder’s account, get credit for using that card, even though they’re not responsible for making payments. In other words: You can capitalize on a loved one’s good credit and, if things take a turn for the worse, you can ask to be removed from the account and have it scrubbed from your credit report.

4. Look for Errors

The hack here, sadly, is that you might have a mistake needlessly bringing down your score. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people do. If you’re among them, be sure to dispute the misinformation with the credit bureau in question (here’s how). Your credit score will likely thank you for it. (FYI: You can do a complete credit check by pulling your free annual credit report from each of the major consumer credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com.)

5. Open a New Account

OK, bear with us here for a second, because we’re not suggesting you take on financing you can’t afford. That’s a terrible idea. We are trying to draw attention to a very important nuance of credit scores: They reward you for responsibly managing different types of credit. So, if all you’ve got is a student loan, getting a credit card could ultimately improve your score. And if all you’ve got is a credit card, taking out an installment loan, like an auto loan or mortgage, could do the same — though in that scenario, you’d definitely be upping your debt load, so it’s best to only add that financing as you actually need (and can afford) it.

6. Group Your Credit Applications

Most credit scoring models group credit inquiries for like financing as one hit to allow you to comparison shop. (It’s technically called de-duplication.) So, if it is time to add a mortgage or auto loan, make sure you keep all applications within a 30- to 45-day window. Credit cards are a different story — each one of those can generally be held against you, though VantageScore does group all inquiries made in a 14-day window.

7. Keep Old Credit Cards Open

It can be tempting to formally close those old credit cards that got you into trouble in the first place. But don’t make that call quite so fast. Closing a credit card can hurt your credit utilization rate and, you guessed it, your credit score. Leaving that card open, on the other hand, could help your score out, especially if you’ve sworn off using its limit. There may be times when closing a credit card is, in fact, the right call, but carefully consider your options (can you simply put the thing on ice?) before officially cutting ties.

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Will I Lose My Credit History If I Change My Name?

Here's how to ensure your name change goes as smoothly as possible.

Thousands of people change their names each year, often as a result of marriage or divorce, and less frequently, just for fun. In fact, one man, armed with $50 and a written deed poll application, secured the moniker Bacon Double Cheeseburger in the United Kingdom last year.

Although Mr. Cheeseburger may be perfectly satisfied with his colorful designation, he and others can experience some bumps after a name change. And while you won’t “lose” your credit history if you change your name due to marriage, divorce or even just for fun, there can sometimes be confusion about your identity if your information isn’t being accurately reported.

In general, your new name is added to your credit reports after you notify your mortgage lender, credit card issuers and other businesses of the change. They report the change, be it a first or surname change, to the three main credit bureaus and your new name replaces the old, which then remains on your credit history similar to old addresses and employers.

How to Smooth Your Name Change Process

Keep in mind that changing your name isn’t an automatic process. It requires lots of paperwork and contacting the necessary businesses to ensure a successful shift. Personal participation is key.

The best way to ensure that your name change is reflected on your credit report is to contact government agencies and credit issuers who provide personal data and account information to the credit bureaus. These include:

  • The Social Security Administration: Applying for a new Social Security card is a good place to begin your name change because it can be used to help verify your identity as you move forward. While your Social Security number (SSN) won’t change, your name will be updated.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): If your name change is the result of marriage or divorce, you may need an original or certified decree before a change is allowed (rules vary by state). Visit the DMV to update your license.
  • Bank & Credit Accounts: Contact your lenders and credit card issuers to order new checks, debit and credit cards, and be sure any business accounts are updated as well.
  • Your Employer: In addition to updating their own records, your employer needs your new name in order to pay Social Security, unemployment and other taxes on your behalf.
  • Medical Providers: Medical bills rarely appear on your credit report unless you fail to pay it, but it’s a good idea to provide your doctors and dentists with your new name.
  • Insurance Companies: Insurance coverage is essential to protecting your home, car, business and other valuables. Make sure your providers have current information.

When you’re finished, it’s also a good idea to contact each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) to alert them of your name change and ensure it is accurately reflected.

Credit reporting isn’t a perfect system, and while changing your name shouldn’t erase or negatively impact your credit history, it’s a good idea to check your reports and scores in the months that follow. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order free copies of your TransUnion, Experian and Equifax reports. You can also view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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4 Mistakes People Make With Their Credit During the Winter

Here are some common credit mistakes people make during the winter.

No matter what seasonal holidays your family celebrates, we’re definitely in the festive season right now — it tends to start with Halloween and ends on January 1.

Over the last month or so, we’ve filled our pantries for Thanksgiving, hit the stores for Black Friday, and stocked up on gifts and food for Christmas or other family celebrations. (Not to mention all the pageants, concerts, get-togethers and parties that come with the season.)

During this time of year, many people get focused on gift giving and accidentally make these four credit mistakes, As we head into the home stretch, here are some not-so-smart spending behaviors to flag.

1. Overspending

‘Tis the season for giving, but some people give so much that they hurt themselves financially by spending more on their credit cards than they can pay back. That $25 gift for a friend that you thought you were getting a good deal on can suddenly cost $40 (or more!) once interest and fees are added onto an unpaid credit card. So be sure in these last few shopping days to stick to your budget. It’s okay to put things on your credit card … as long as you can pay off your credit card right away. (You can see how your holiday shopping has affected your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

2. Not Watching for Fraud

There’s a lot of shopping this time of year – it starts with Halloween candy and costumes for the kids and ends with champagne for a New Years Eve celebration (and maybe a gym membership to go along with your 2017 resolution). Along the way, you’ve probably had your credit card in hand fairly often – shopping for a turkey for Thanksgiving or angling for a great deal on Black Friday or Boxing Day. With all that extra credit card use, it’s important to stay vigilant and monitor your credit card statements carefully for fraudulent charges. Also, be sure to report them to your issuer immediately to have the charges reversed and your card replaced.

3. Lending a Credit Card

If your spouse is running out to pick up some last-minute fixings for the annual family get-together, or maybe some stocking stuffers for the kids, it might be tempting to hand off your credit card to them if they don’t have their own. However, this common mistake can prove costly for so many people every year, because while your family member might be very trustworthy, a simple mistake of leaving behind a credit card they’re not used to carrying could lead to fraud. (Something else that’s important to note: Lending your credit card to someone else, though it isn’t illegal, could put you in violation of your card agreement and make it harder to reverse the charges made while the plastic was out of your hands. You can learn more about how this works here.)

4. Putting Your Credit Review on Hold

I always recommend reviewing your credit report at least twice a year — or even quarterly. But this season can be so busy that people will often put their good habits and responsibilities on hold so they can focus on the turkey, decorations, costumes and shopping that needs to be done. However, skipping a credit report check just once a year (especially during the holidays) can set you back dramatically and make it that much harder to check and clean up your report in the spring. (Remember, you can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.)

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5 Possible Benefits of Changing Your Bills’ Due Dates

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Paying bills is a tedious necessity, and for many, it’s also an ongoing source of stress. According to the 8th annual Billing Household Study from Fiserv, a financial services provider, 35% of consumers paid at least one bill late in the past 12 months, and 65% also paid a late fee.

So, why are these people struggling to meet their billing deadlines? Common reasons include forgetfulness, lack of funds and personal life obligations. If any of these reasons sound familiar, it might be a good idea to consider how your billing due dates factor into the equation. These are five ways requesting a timeline shift from your providers could could really benefit you.

1. Saving Money

Late fees are the immediate consequence of missed payments, but the financial woes don’t stop there. Frequent missteps can lead to increased interest rates on your revolving accounts (like credit cards), driving up your balances and making it more difficult to get out of debt. Paying your bills on time can help you avoid these issues and ultimately save money.

2. Promoting Credit Health

Payment history is the greatest factor considered in credit scoring, and you can’t afford to ignore the effects of late payments. According to Equifax — one of the three major credit bureaus in the U.S. — even a 30-day late payment can damage your credit significantly. In contrast, paying your bills on time can help give you a strong payment history and benefit your credit. Not only that, but keeping your debt level low in relation to your overall credit limit (also known as credit utilization) can benefit your credit scores. Experts recommend keeping your debt below at least 30% (ideally 10%) of your total available credit, which can be hard to do if you’re tacking on late fees. (You can see how your credit is currently fairing by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

3. Removing Memory from the Equation

According to a 2013 Citigroup survey, 61% of people miss bill payments due to forgetfulness. Coordinating your payments to fall on the same days each month — the 1st and 15th for example — gives you a better chance of remembering your financial commitments. If you still fear memory troubles, it might be a good idea to sign up for bill auto-pay to remove human error from the equation. Most credit and service providers offer this option for free, but you’ll want to check with your individual provider to be sure.

4. Streamlining the Payment Process

Fiserv’s survey found that consumers pay bills using a variety of methods and doing so could contribute to making it hard to keep track of all your bills and their due dates. According to Fiserv:

  • Consumers used six different payment methods per month in 2015, up from 2.9 methods in 2014.
  • A reported 21 million households changed their bill payment method on a monthly basis in 2015, a 40% increase from the previous year.
  • Of those who participated in the study, 21% still receive all paper bills, while 54% use a mixture of paper and online/mobile options — 25% consider themselves paperless consumers.

By changing your billing due dates, you may also feel inspired to commit to a consistent method of payment. Doing so could help you track spending and streamline your monthly finances, helping you keep those bills paid on time (and those credit scores in great shape).

5. Preserving Credit Repair

This may not apply to everyone, but to those it does, it’s a big one. Recovering from past credit damage is an extreme challenge, but that’s especially true if you don’t change the behaviors that contributed to the downfall of your scores. In fact, preserving your scores could be more difficult as it improves. Typically, a single late payment made a few years ago won’t still be hurting your credit today, as long as you rebounded and have made consistently timely payments. Of course, on the other hand, a recent late payment could drop your scores.

How to Change Due Dates

Changing your billing due dates can usually be done with a simple request, which can be done online, on the phone phone or in person. Although credit and service providers aren’t legally required to make this type of shift, explaining your reasons and commitment to timely payments could work in your favor.

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Can I Fix My Credit in a Week?

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If you’re getting ready to apply for a car loan, mortgage or credit card, you may have heard it’s a good idea to check your credit before doing so. But, waiting until the last minute to check your credit before applying may have you surprised — if you find you have low credit scores for any number of reasons, you may be wondering just how quickly you can fix your credit.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for credit because it took time for this problem to arise and it generally takes much more than a week to resolve it,” John Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, a Credit.com affiliate, said in an email.

Timing Is Everything

Credit scores are based on information in your credit files, which includes new data about how you handle your accounts reported by your creditors every month, according to Jeff Richardson, a spokesperson for VantageScore Solutions.

This monthly reporting date differs from lender to lender and the monthly date your credit scores update also differs depending on the reporting bureau, which is one of many reasons the cycle for fixing your credit may take more than 30 days, Richardson said.

Another example of timing limitations arises when you attempt to fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit reports, according to Heath. These disputes may include a current account, collection, bankruptcy, public record, tax lien or late payment that can’t be substantiated, isn’t yours, is inaccurately reported or is outdated.

“One of the major rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act grants the credit reporting agencies 30 days to review your challenges to items on the credit report,” Heath said.

According to a 2012 VantageScore report, showing the impact of different positive and negative credit behaviors, you can typically improve your credit scores by 10 to 15 points within a few months with simple credit management techniques such as paying bills on time and paying down debt. For larger score improvements, it can take even longer depending on your specific credit report and account history.

Credit Fixes Accomplished in 30 Days

In general, the negative score impact of running up the balances on your credit cards can usually be corrected by a payoff the next month, according to Richardson.

“Pay down the balance all the way to zero, or at least under 30% of your total available credit, and you may see a credit score bump back up the next month, so long as there are no other negative credit events on your report,” he said.

Again, depending on timing, there might be one way you might improve your credit score in one week, according to Richardson.

“A score increase or decrease will depend upon when the lenders update your file,” Richardson said. “If you can find out when, say, a credit card issuer is reporting to the credit bureaus and reduce your balance significantly beforehand it is possible to see a score increase in a short time period.”

He favors taking a longer view of your credit health and improving your credit before you need to apply for any new credit, if possible.

Heath said you could spend one week reviewing your credit reports thoroughly making sure you recognize all the listings on the report and creating a budget that assures timely payments. Both of these actions, easily completed in one week, go a long way toward improving your credit in the long run.

No matter what steps you take to improve your credit scores — whether it’s to repair errors you discover or simply improve your habits — it’s important to note that these are things you can do on your own. There are also professional credit repair experts who are available to help you, but opting to turn to one for help is not essential.

If you are unsure where your credit currently stands, you can view two of your credit scores for free, updated ever 14 days, on Credit.com.

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How Long Will It Take To Achieve Better Credit?

credit-improvements

Lenders use your credit report and credit score to help them determine how much to lend you, and at what interest rate. That credit report is derived from your credit history — an algorithm of your past credit usage (including how much credit you have, how well you pay it off, and what mix of credit you have access to, among other things).

Since your credit report and credit score are ultimately derived from your credit history, then the question you should be asking is, “How long will it take to achieve better credit?” Or put another way, “How much new history do I need to build in order to achieve a healthier credit report, which will be reflected in my credit score?”

The answer is not a simple one, although I will attempt to give you some guidelines.

The speed of your credit improvement depends on the information that’s in your credit report. For example:

  • If there are several pieces of incorrect information, then you can dispute these, have them removed, and you may see a credit score increase in as little as a month or two. (You can go here to learn about composing a letter of dispute to the credit reporting agencies.)
  • If you have a long history of late payments and a bankruptcy, you may find that it takes longer to make a dramatic improvement on your credit score.

Ultimately, credit scores rise when you do the following:

  1. Get your credit reports and ensure that the information is as accurate as possible. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year on AnnualCreditReport.com and view two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
  2. Maintain good credit habits by paying debt off regularly and on time, and keeping a good mix of credit.
  3. Waiting for some of your older negative credit information to fall off your report.

That’s it — it’s surprisingly simple. The problem is, people don’t always have the diligence to stick with the work involved for #1 and #2, and they don’t have the patience to wait for #2 and #3. But the truth is: It takes work and patience, and the longer you apply both of those two things, the better your credit will be.

You can start to see your credit report increase fairly quickly. If you start with a very low credit score, it could take a while, perhaps even a couple of years, to see your credit improve. That makes it difficult for people to make positive changes because it can seem so easy to extend your bad credit habits for one or two more days. It’s hard to maintain good credit habits for months when you may not see immediate results.

But the results will come! You should start to see results in just a few months (especially if there were errors), and within a year of perfect credit habits, you will likely see a dramatic improvement … and within a couple of years, you can have stellar credit. At the time it might seem like it will take forever, but you will look back at the end and realize that it went quickly and was totally worth it!

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It’s Divorce Season: Here’s How to Keep Good Credit While Splitting

No one ever said divorce would be easy, especially when it comes to your finances. But if you’re contemplating a break, have hired an attorney or have just been served papers, managing your credit should be of utmost importance to you. Your finances, like your personal situation, are going to change, and you’ll need to protect them to secure your financial future.

New research from two University of Washington sociologists shows that divorce-filing rates peak in August, right after summer vacations. Their research was based on analysis of divorce filings in Washington state between 2001 and 2015. To help you get through this uncertain time, we reached out for some advice to John C. Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, which is affiliated with Credit.com. Here are some of the things he said to keep in mind credit-wise as your case wends its way through divorce court.

1. Pull Your Credit Reports

“You’ll want to pull your credit reports and take a look at what’s on them,” says Heath, because there’s a chance you may have joint credit accounts with your soon-to-be ex-spouse that you aren’t aware of, or worse, you’ve been put on accounts without your spouse telling you. If either of those are the case, you’ll want to make sure to address it, whether that means putting the account on ice until things are settled, deciding on who will take what responsibility or having your ex-spouse or yourself removed from the account.

You’ll also want to check your report for any errors, as these can sometimes lower your score, making it hard to secure new lines of credit. (You can learn more about disputing errors on your credit report here and view a summary of your credit report, updated monthly, for free on Credit.com.)

2. Avoid Taking Out New Lines of Credit

“One other thing you won’t want to do is take out any additional credit,” Heath says, because it may wind up affecting your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s credit file. For instance, if you’ve co-signed on a loan for your spouse and decide to apply for a travel rewards card, you could overextend your finances, making it harder to pay for the loan. If you fall behind on payments, or worse still, default, this could impact your spouse’s credit. Taking on more debt than you can handle could also exacerbate an already tense situation where you’re juggling attorneys’ bills with daily expenses.

3. Draft a Budget

Tough as it is, accepting and adjusting to your new financial reality is a must if you want to move forward, says Heath. “You’re going to be entering a time where, if you had a joint account, that money is no longer available to you,” he says.

Your situation may change in other ways as well. For this reason, it’s important to have your own funds set aside, so you can pay bills on time, and in full, without worrying. With things at home changing, you’ll also want to make sure you’re able to afford what you need to get by, be it a car, a home, student loans or anything else.

With your credit in solid shape, you’ll be able to finance an auto loan, a mortgage or whatever other type of loan is necessary for starting your new life.

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I Paid This Judgment. What Is it Still Doing on My Credit Report?

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You’ve worked hard and finally paid off your judgment — congratulations! But the pesky thing is still showing up on your credit reports, and you want it gone. Depending on when your judgment was filed, it may take a while for that to happen.

“A judgment will remain on a credit report for seven years from the date it was filed, whether satisfied (paid) or unpaid,” Barry Paperno, a credit expert who blogs at Speaking of Credit, said in an email.

However, now that it’s been paid, you should make sure you’re getting credit for it, even if it won’t age off your report for a while.

“When paying a judgment, it’s important to follow up with the creditor to ensure the public record has been updated to reflect the satisfaction,” Paperno said. “Otherwise, the judgment could continue to be reported as unpaid, which could jeopardize a future mortgage or other credit application.”

It’s also a good idea to request a copy of your satisfaction of judgment documents for your personal records. You may also want to file a copy directly with the courts to ensure they mark it as paid in full. If you have any other local record authorities who may need to be made aware you completed the payments, like someone managing a lien on your property, it’s a good idea to notify them by sending a copy of your paperwork.

Keeping an Eye on Your Credit

You certainly want to keep track of your credit reports and make sure the judgment is removed when it’s supposed to be. Until then, it’s a good idea to get a fresh copy of your reports to ensure your judgment is marked as paid. You can get free copies of your credit reports every 12 months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also keep an eye out for any changes in your scores by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.

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I Have No Credit History. What Does That Mean?

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In case you haven’t noticed, we get really excited about people checking their credit. We know that when people know what’s affecting their credit, then they will have a better idea of how to make their credit better. It’s not just us — a survey recently came out saying that regularly checking your credit can help you improve it.

But what if you finally decide to check your credit only to find out you don’t have any? It would be confusing, to say the least. One of our readers recently experienced this.

I try applying to a lot of websites to check my credit score and every one of them says I have no credit history. Can someone please explain to me what does this even mean?

A credit history is pretty self-explanatory: It’s a record of how you’ve used credit products, like loans and credit cards. So, if you you’ve never had a loan or a credit card, you’re not going to have a credit history.

Everyone starts out that way, and there are a few ways to take that first step into the credit world. You could apply for a credit card designed for people with no credit or take out a credit-builder loan. You may want to consider asking a trustworthy family member or friend to co-sign a loan or credit card application, or you could ask to be added as an authorized user on one of their existing credit cards. (There are a lot of risks with co-signing, for both people involved, because you’re tying your credit standing to someone else’s financial behavior. It’s important to weigh those risks if you consider going that route.)

For the First-Time Credit Builder

When you’re initially building credit, there are a few things you should know. First, when you’re picking a credit product, take the time to understand the details. For example, if you want to get a credit card, make sure you apply for a card that’s geared toward people with credit like yours (there’s no sense in applying for a “good credit” credit card when you have no credit history because you likely won’t be approved), and take a look at other requirements of the card. Lots of credit cards for people with no credit require cardholders pay an annual fee or a deposit. You may need a bank account in order to open up a credit card, and you’ll definitely need to have a way to pay the bill.

Credit card applicants younger than 21 must show proof of independent income to get a credit card, but consumers older than that can list household income on their applications, as long as they have access to it. Basically, because you have no history of using credit to show that you’ll use your new credit responsibly, the creditor will want to see that you have the means to pay them back if they give you a line of credit.

Once you get a credit card or a loan, be sure to make the payments on time, because payment history has the greatest impact on your credit score. If you’re using a credit card, you’ll want to use as little of your available credit as possible, because that’s really important to your credit score, too. (It’s called your credit utilization rate, and it’s generally recommended that you use less than 30%, ideally 10%, of your available credit if you want to have a good credit score.)

And, of course, when you get started using credit, you’ll want to see how you’re doing with it. You’re entitled to free annual credit reports from each of the major credit reporting agencies, and you can get two free credit scores with regular updates from Credit.com.

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