If you are a legal adult U.S. resident, somewhere there is a three-digit number between 300 and 850 with your name on it. Your credit score measures your creditworthiness, which is the likelihood that you will pay your bills.
Establishing good credit has never been as important to your life as it is today.
You need a good score to get decent mortgages rates, finance a car, get a good job, rent an apartment and find affordable insurance. The way you handle your money has been found to be a very good indicator for how you handle other areas of your life.
A low score doesn't necessarily mean you are a total deadbeat when it comes to handling your money. It could mean you are young and your credit file has your name on it, and that's about it. Here are reasonable ways that you can build a killer credit score quickly.
1. Review your credit report. You need to make sure that all of the information in your credit file is correct. This information is available free at the only government-sanctioned credit-reporting-agency-operated website, Annualcreditreport.com, or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Dispute anything on your report that is not correct. If you want to get a copy of your FICO credit score, you'll have to pay a few bucks to get it at www.MyFico.com.
2. Open both a checking and savings account. You receive credit points for financial stability, and having open and working bank accounts contributes to that, even though banks do not report account activity to the credit reporting agencies.
3. Apply for credit while you're in college. Card companies mostly waive their typical qualifications for college students, which makes it easy to qualify for a credit card.
4. Get a secured credit card. If you can't qualify for a traditional credit card, apply for a secured account. You will have to deposit money with the lender, which will be held in a savings account. Find a list of available secured cards at indexcreditcards.com.
5. Piggyback on another's good credit. If a family member, like a parent, is willing, have that person add you as an authorized user on his or her credit card. Doing this will have that person's credit activity on that one card placed on your credit report.
6. Pay your bills on time — all of them, even those that do not report to credit bureaus.
7. Respect the 30% threshold. Don't charge up your card close to the limit at any time during the billing cycle, even if you pay the balance in full each month. Keep your use below 30% of your available credit at all times. Crossing that will cause your credit score to drop like a stone!
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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