MOVED No Credit? No Problem: Building Credit Has Never Been Easier

Posted by Elizabeth Aldrich on Dec 30, 2019 4:00:00 PM

New credit card companies and ways to boost your score are opening up access to credit.

It can be tricky to get a loan or open a line of credit without a credit history. It's the notorious credit-building Catch-22: You need to access credit to build good credit, but you need to have good credit to access credit.

Folks with no credit will be excited to learn that this maxim may not ring so true anymore. Thanks to new technology, lenders can now draw on additional information like your banking behavior and bill payment history to evaluate you as a potential borrower. This means that you don't necessarily need to show that you've used credit before in order to access credit.

Trio of women in flannels and construction helmets looking at a credit card.

UltraFICOTM and Experian Boost give you credit for paying the bills

Most lenders rely on your FICO® Score to make lending decisions. The problem for many consumers is that there's more to their financial picture than this score alone. And so, new services like UltraFICOTM and Experian Boost have developed algorithms that fill in some of these missing pieces with additional data. 

Both services incorporate data from your bank account to provide a more holistic picture of your habits as a borrower. They make credit opportunities more accessible by expanding the information that determines your credit score. 

UltraFICOTM looks at your checking, savings, and money-market accounts and considers factors like account age, balances, overdrafts, and bill payments. Experian Boost pulls payment information from your bank account for bills like utilities and telecom services, often improving your credit score if your bills are consistently paid on time.

Experian Boost and UltraFICOTM are both free services, which you can opt in to if you want these additional factors to be reflected in your credit score. They may be helpful for consumers with no credit, but they can also help push borderline consumers over the edge into good credit. 

New no-fee credit cards make building credit easier and cheaper

Although the services above can give you a credit boost, they aren't going to catapult you to excellent credit on their own. Getting excellent credit requires a lengthy history of on-time payments.

One of the best ways to do this is by using credit cards strategically.

If you're starting from scratch, secured credit cards have long been the way to go. These low-limit credit cards are easy to qualify for, and will help you build a payment history. You'll need to provide a refundable security deposit of anywhere from $50 to $500. 

Secured credit cards are a great starting point, but they are limited due to their security deposit requirements, low credit limits, and lack of benefits or rewards. They aren't meant to be a long-term solution -- you'll eventually want to transition to an unsecured credit card with a higher credit limit.

The great news is that  secured cards are no longer the only option for consumers who need to build their credit. New credit card companies are popping up that look at alternative data (information outside of your credit score) in order to approve consumers for starter credit cards. In fact, several of the new cards geared toward consumers with no credit are even better than secured credit cards. They come with no annual fee, no security deposit requirement, and upfront terms. Some even offer rewards.

Although building your credit is important, credit cards are a serious responsibility that should only be used to pay for purchases within your means. You should also always plan to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid interest fees.

A good credit score should never cost you money either, meaning that you shouldn't have to take on debt just to build up your credit score. Instead, focus on taking small, consistent steps that move your credit score up the scale over time.

With so many new ways to build your credit, having no credit is no longer the long-term barrier that it used to be.

Topics: Credit Cards, 0% APR & Low Interest

MOVED 3 Money Mistakes I Made With My Kids

Posted by Dana George on Dec 30, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Part of being a parent is regretting the mistakes. Here are some of the financial mistakes I made with my kids. 

I love being a mom. Even if I lived to be 125, I could still never string together a combination of words that would adequately describe the joy of motherhood.

Speaking of 125 years: That's also about how long it would take to list the idiotic ways I fouled things up as a mother. I may have enjoyed being a mother, but I sure made a ton of mistakes, some of them financial. Here are the money mistakes that strike me as the most egregious:

A child cries while her mom looks distressed and guilty in the background.

1. Teaching them that money grows on trees

We never wanted our boys to know that we were struggling to cover our bills, including  newly acquired student loans. This made sense when they were 2 and 4. No little kid should have to deal with their parents’ issues. But as they grew, we should have taught them about money. Even as we madly juggled bills so we could pay our student loans, we made sure they had no idea what was going on. Soccer camp? Sure! Another new pair of ridiculously overpriced tennis shoes? Why not? Dad hasn't purchased a new pair of pants in 10 years, but that's because he doesn't enjoy shopping. 

I set a horrible example by charging anything I could not immediately pay cash for to my credit card, including school clothes, weekend trips, and over-the-top holidays. In an effort to create a world for them that did not actually exist, I mortgaged our future. 

My advice to younger parents is to start young. Don't wait until your kids are about to fly the coop to show them your family budget, discuss the differences between wants and needs, and teach them how to balance their own budget. Teach them about credit cards and how to use them responsibly. Your good example is the best personal finance teacher they could ever have. 

2. Advising my children not to work

My parents didn't want me to have a job when I was a teenager because I "had the rest of my life to work." I insisted on taking a job at Royals Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium because the uniforms were just so darned cute. I adored those jobs. I liked meeting new people, being part of something big and exciting, and receiving a full $14 per game.

When my boys were the same age, I told them that I wanted them to focus on school and their extracurricular activities because "they had the rest of their lives to work." You know how I could have taught them about money? I could have allowed them to earn some of it for themselves. 

If I had it to do over again, I would insist they work -- at least part-time. Working teaches kids what it takes to have money in their pockets, how to deal with different kinds of personalities, and it can also grow their confidence. 

3. Making them believe things will take care of themselves

We always knew that the boys were going to college. They wanted it and we wanted it for them. We had their undergraduate tuition worked out but had no idea how they would pay for graduate school. The hope was that they would get through grad school and land jobs so great that they would never have to worry about the impact of those student loans.

We talked to the kids about everything under the sun, but never once discussed student loans. Most of the mistakes I made as a mother were the result of on-the-job-learning and a naturally goofy personality. But the decision not to discuss finances with them when they were old enough to be in graduate school pricks at my conscience. And while I'm on the topic of really bad decision-making, we also told them that we would only pay for their undergrad if they immediately started a graduate program afterward. I feel guilty every time I think about it. 

We had our big "talk" the year each of them finished grad school. It was very late in the game and made the financial reality of their situation more difficult. Today, my sons are both amazing money managers and wise investors, but the fact that we only taught them what they needed to know in the 11th hour was a lot like teaching a passenger to swim while the Titanic was sinking. We're fortunate that they took the lessons to heart. 

Begin to teach your kids about money when they're young by explaining how much money is in their piggy bank and not allowing them to spend a penny more. Require them to do chores for their allowance, encourage them to take a part-time job when they're old enough, and let them have a peek at your monthly bills so they get an idea of what adulting looks like. Above all, encourage them to ask questions.

Parenting is many things, but above all, it is humbling. We do our best and hope it all works out. The fact that we're supposed to teach them to say no to drugs, about the birds and the bees, and how to be good people is firmly instilled in us. It may be time to add the importance of introducing our kids to how money works. It seems to me that it's the topic they're most likely to call and thank us for covering. 

Topics: Credit Cards, 0% APR & Low Interest

MOVED How to Read Your Credit Card Statement

Posted by Kailey Hagen on Dec 28, 2019 4:00:00 PM

You might be surprised about what you can learn from a close read.

You probably get at least one in the mail every month, but how well do you really understand your credit card statements? Yes, they tell you how much you owe and when you have to make a payment, but there's a lot more hidden in those pages than that. Here's a closer look at what you'll find in a typical credit card statement and where to look for certain information.

Young man sitting on his couch while on the phone and looking at his laptop screen in total confusion.

Credit card statement example

Every credit card statement is laid out a little differently, so yours might not look exactly like the one below, but you can expect to find more or less the same information in any statement, regardless of your card issuer.



Images source: Kailey Hagen.

Glossary of credit card statement terms

Here's what each of the labeled sections in the images above means.

1. Account summary

Your account summary is an overview of your credit card statement for the month. It tells you all about your monthly credit card usage and how much you owe. Yours may not include all of these things or it may list them in a slightly different order, but usually, an account summary will list:

  • Account Number: This is your credit card number which you can use to identify yourself if you contact your card issuer.
  • Previous Balance: Your credit card statement typically shows your last month's balance for reference.
  • Payment Credits: This is how much you paid toward your credit card balance last month. If you paid the balance in full, this amount should be the same as your Previous Balance.
  • Purchases: This is the total dollar amount of purchases you made with your credit card during the billing cycle.
  • Balance Transfers: This is the total dollar amount of balances transferred to this credit card from another credit card during the billing cycle. Your card may not include any mention of balance transfers if the card does not permit them.
  • Cash Advances: This is the total dollar amount of cash your credit card issuer advanced you during the billing cycle. Your credit card statement might not include this if your card doesn't permit cash advances.
  • Fees Charged: This lists the total amount of fees you've incurred this billing cycle, including things like late fees, balance transfer fees, and cash advance fees.
  • Interest Charged: If you carry a balance, this will tell you how much that balance accrued in interest over the billing cycle.
  • New Balance: This is the new amount that you owe the credit card company based on your purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers from this month plus any balance you have been carrying on the card.
  • Past Due Amount: If you haven't been keeping up on your credit card payments, this will tell you how much you are behind on paying.
  • Credit Access Line: This is a fancy way of saying your credit card limit -- the maximum amount you can charge to your credit card.
  • Available Credit: This is your credit access line minus your new balance. It's how much more you're able to charge to your credit card.
  • Cash Access Line: If your card allows cash advances, this will tell you up to how much you can borrow.
  • Opening/Closing Date: This tells you which dates are included in this billing cycle. Purchases before the opening date or after the closing date will appear on your previous or next credit card statement, respectively.
  • Days in Billing Cycle: This tells you the number of days in your billing cycle. It will usually be around 30.

2. Credit card statement balance and payment information

The payment information section provides you with the most important information about your new balance and your monthly bill, including:

  • New Balance: Though it's listed elsewhere on your credit card statement, the card issuer lists it here, too, so you can't miss it.
  • Minimum Payment Due: This is the minimum amount of money you must pay to the credit card issuer this month to avoid a late payment fee.
  • Payment Due Date: This is the date your payment must reach your credit card issuer by to avoid a late fee.

3. Late payment warning

The late payment warning tells you the maximum dollar amount that you could be required to pay if you don't pay your credit card bill on time. Card issuers usually don't charge you this amount for a first offense. Check your cardholder agreement for more information on late payment penalties for your first and subsequent late payments.

4. Minimum payment warning

The minimum payment warning usually includes a table that helps you understand how long it will take to pay back your balance if you make only the minimum payment. Often, that period is several years -- and that's if you don't charge any more to your card in the meantime. It may also include a comparison section showing how much faster you could pay off your balance if you paid more than the minimum. Some credit card statements also include a phone number that borrowers can call for credit counseling if they are struggling with their credit card debt.

5. Rewards summary

Your credit card statement should have a rewards summary if your card offers rewards. This section contains the following information:

  • Previous Rewards Balance: This is how many rewards you had prior to this billing cycle.
  • Rewards Earned This Month: This tells you how many rewards you earned during this billing cycle.
  • Bonus Rewards: If your card offers bonus categories, it might break out the number of bonus rewards you earned for the month and list them here.
  • Total Rewards Available: This is your new rewards balance, including any rewards you earned this billing cycle.

Visit your online credit card account or contact the card issuer by phone to see how much those rewards are worth and what you can spend them on.

6. Important changes to your account

This section highlights changes your card issuer plans to make to your account in the near future. These might be changes that apply specifically to you, like triggering a penalty APR because you've made a number of late payments, or it could be things that apply across the board to all cardholders, like an increase to the APR

It should tell you which of your transactions these changes will affect and when the changes will take effect. If you have any questions, you can contact your credit card issuer for more information.

7. Payment coupon

If you pay your credit card bill by mail, cut off this payment coupon and include it with your check. You must also list your payment amount on the coupon. This helps speed up the process and ensures that your payment gets applied to the right account. If you pay your credit card bill online or you have the money debited from your bank account every month, you don't have to worry about the payment coupon.

8. Account activity

The account activity section lists all the transactions you made during this billing cycle, including the date of the transaction, the merchant name, and the dollar amount. Some credit card issuers also attach a reference number to each purchase. That way, if you have questions about a purchase or you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft, you can quickly tell the card issuer which purchase you're referring to.

Those who carry a credit card balance from the previous month and those who did a balance transfer or took a cash advance will find a more detailed breakdown of the fees and interest they incurred in this section as well.

9. Fee and interest totals to date

Your credit card statement may include a brief table summarizing how much you've paid in interest and credit card fees for the year to date. Let this serve as motivation to you if you're trying to pay down your credit card debt.

10. Interest charges

The interest charges section gives a more detailed explanation of how the card issuer calculates your interest. It may have separate sections for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances if they all have different APRs. You'll also find information on promotional APRs here, if they apply to your account, including expiration dates.

You might see symbols, like (v) or (d) after the interest charges in this section. These are a sort of mini glossary. Some of the most common terms and symbols you might see include:

  • Promotional APR: This is a lower APR than the standard APR and it only lasts for a certain number of months after you open the card. It may apply to purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances, or only one or two of these.
  • (v): This stands for variable. It means that the card's interest rate is tied to the prime rate or a similar benchmark that may change over time. If it does change, your interest rate may decrease or increase accordingly. The card issuer does not need to notify you about this in the Account Changes section because this relationship is outlined in your cardholder agreement.
  • (d): This means your card issuer uses the Daily Balance Method to calculate your interest charges. This method totals up your actual daily balance on every day of your billing cycle and multiplies this by the daily rate, which is 1/365 of your APR.
  • (a): This means your card issuer uses the Average Daily Balance Method to calculate your interest charges. This is where it takes the average balance on each day of your billing cycle, adds them up, and multiplies them by the daily rate.

Frequently asked questions about credit card statements 

Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions about credit card statements.

How can I view my credit card statement online?

You can view your credit card statement online at any time by logging into your online credit card account and navigating to the statement information. If you've opted to receive electronic statements, your card issuer should send you an email every month when your new statement is available. It should contain all of the same information as the paper statements detailed above. 

If you prefer to get your credit card statements by mail, you can choose paper statements instead, though you may have to opt in as more and more companies are transitioning to online statements to save paper.

What happens if I pay my credit card bill before I get the statement?

You can pay your credit card bill at any time during the billing cycle, even before you receive your monthly statement. On your statement closing date, which is usually at least 21 days before your payment due date, your card issuer will calculate your interest charges for the month and your minimum payment. It also reports your payment to the credit bureaus.

If you pay your balance off before this date, your payment will reduce or eliminate your balance and give you more credit to spend in the second half of the month. Making a payment will also lower your credit utilization ratio because credit bureaus only see what the credit card issuers report once per month. When your credit card bill arrives, it should show all of your purchases for the month, plus your first payment. Your New Balance should list your remaining balance for the billing cycle.

If you pay after the statement closing date but before you actually receive your statement, you can calculate what you owe by subtracting what you already paid from the new balance on your credit card statement when it arrives.

Credit card statements admittedly aren't the most exciting reads, but there's a lot of important information packed in them. Hopefully, this guide helps you better understand yours.

Topics: Credit Cards, 0% APR & Low Interest

MOVED Which Generation Has the Best Credit Scores?

Posted by Christy Bieber on Dec 28, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Most Americans have good credit, but some generations do better than others.

According to recent research from The Ascent on average credit scores, most Americans have fair or good credit. In fact, the average VantageScore in America was 694 in the first quarter of 2018 -- which is a score most lenders would view as reasonably good.

But while credit scores have been trending upward and the average American is doing OK when it comes to their credit history, some generations of Americans are definitely doing better than others. 

An older woman and a younger woman looking at a laptop screen together.

So which generation is winning in the credit score game? 

Which generation has the highest credit scores?

According to The Ascent's research, the silent generation has the highest average credit score of any generation. Members of this older demographic group had an average VantageScore of 729 in 2017. This was a full 26 points higher than the generation with the next highest score. 

As the table below shows, scores went down from there, with baby boomers beating Gen Xers, who had a higher average score than members of Gen Y. But Gen Y members beat out the youngest group, members of Gen Z.  


Average 2017 VantageScore

Gen Z


Gen Y


Gen X


Baby boomers


Silent generation


Data source: Experian.

Why does the silent generation have better credit than other generations?

It should come as no surprise that older Americans generally have better scores than younger ones, nor that scores improve with age. 

Older Americans have had more time to pay down debt, which helps to keep their credit utilization ratios low. They've also had a longer period of time to develop a strong credit history, simply by using their credit cards for longer, and to take out different kinds of loans. All of this affects credit scores, which are calculated based on payment history; amount of available credit used; age of credit; mix of different kinds of credit; and amount of new credit applied for.

As people get older, they also often become more financially stable, which makes them more able to be financially responsible. Silent generation members, for example, are very likely to be retired and collecting Social Security and pension or investment income. They're not dependent on a paycheck to pay their bills, so they may be insulated from, say, unemployment or underemployment that could lead to a missed payment or a maxed-out credit card.

Younger generations have also faced unique financial burdens that many of their older counterparts didn't have to deal with. These include high student loan balances and a changing economy that makes it far less likely they'll get a stable long-term job with ample employment benefits. All of these factors can make it harder to engage in the types of borrowing behavior that can lead to great credit. 

So as you can see, there are many explanations for the increase in average credit scores as people get older, and why older generations have higher average scores than younger ones. 

You can improve your credit score

Whether your credit score is on par with others in your generation -- or is a little better or a little worse -- there's likely room for improvement, unless of course you have a perfect score. Practicing good borrowing behavior, including keeping credit balances low and making payments on time, can help you to ensure your credit score is one you can be proud of.  

Topics: Credit Cards, 0% APR & Low Interest

MOVED Why Do I Have So Many Credit Scores?

Posted by Kailey Hagen on Dec 25, 2019 2:00:00 PM

You have a lot of credit scores, and they're not all the same.

It's not difficult to get a free credit score these days. And if you check your score in a few different places, you might find that the numbers don't always match up. That doesn't necessarily mean that any of them are wrong. It probably means the scores are based on different credit reports or a different scoring model. 

The truth is, if you have a loan in your name or a credit card in your wallet, you have dozens of credit scores and one isn't necessarily more correct than another. Here's a closer look at what credit scores are and why you have so many of them.

Bespectacled young man looking at the numerous credit cards in his hand with confused disbelief.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number that's essentially a financial grade. It's based on the information in your credit reports. These contain details of current and past credit accounts in your name, including payment history, balances, and information from public records. Everyone has three credit reports, one for each credit bureau -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- so you effectively have three credit scores for every scoring model, one corresponding to each report.

There are several credit scoring models in existence because each one weighs the factors in your credit report a little differently. The goal of credit scores is to help lenders more accurately predict how a person will handle borrowed money. Lenders want to protect themselves from losing money to borrowers who go bankrupt. Credit scoring companies constantly analyze data from millions of borrowers. If they spot new data that could help them predict risk more accurately, they might create a new credit scoring model that incorporates this information to give them better results.

FICO® Scores and VantageScores

The two most commonly used scoring models are the FICO® Score and the VantageScore. If you're going to look up your credit score, you should check one of these since lenders are most likely to look at them when checking your credit. Both FICO and VantageScores have a few different versions, but they all use the same scoring system of 300 to 850, with a higher score being better. 

They look at pretty much the same factors, though VantageScore gives a stronger weight to payment history while FICO cares more about your credit utilization ratio -- the ratio between the amount you charge to your credit cards each month and the credit you have available to you. Other factors that both scoring models consider include the average age of your credit accounts, which types of credit you have on your account (credit cards, mortgages, etc.), and how often you apply for new credit.

There might be a slight variance between what you see and what lenders see. This depends on which version of the scoring model your lender is using and which credit report the score is associated with. Your credit reports all have largely similar information, but some financial institutions may only report payments to one or two of the credit bureaus instead of all three, resulting in slightly different scores even when using the same version of the same scoring model.

Other credit scoring models

Unless a company specifies that the score it's providing you with is a FICO or VantageScore, it's probably neither. Some companies develop their own educational scores using proprietary scoring methods. These may have different scoring ranges, too, so while a 600 might not be a great FICO or VantageScore, it could be a good score in a different model. 

These educational scores aren't used by lenders, so they're not that useful if you're trying to estimate your odds of success when applying for a new loan or credit card. But they can still provide valuable information on steps you can take to improve your credit. These educational scores may come with insights on how you can improve your credit score, like making efforts to pay all your bills on time in the future. Following those tips can help improve all of your credit scores.

How to raise your credit score

You'll never know exactly which version of which credit scoring model your lender is going to look at, so you must take steps to raise all of your scores if you want the best odds of success. This sounds intimidating, but it's really not that bad when you know that all scores consider the same basic factors.

Payment history is always the most important element, so paying your bills on time is critical. Set up automatic payments or reminders for yourself if you tend to forget. Your credit utilization ratio is the other major factor in your score. Try to limit yourself to 30% or less of your credit limit each month. A higher ratio indicates a heavy reliance on credit and suggests you may not be able to handle taking on more debt without falling behind on your payments.

Limit how often you apply for new credit and be careful about closing old credit accounts, as these are both things that can negatively affect your score. Applying for new credit generates a new hard inquiry on your report, which drops your score by a few points, while closing a credit account can hurt your credit utilization ratio by bringing down the total amount of credit you have access to. 

Time may seem like an enemy because negative marks on your credit report stick around for seven to 10 years, but it can also be your friend because a consistent, responsible payment history can help your score improve. Be patient and stay committed to demonstrating your financial responsibility and your score will rise over time, regardless of the credit scoring model. 

Topics: Credit Cards, 0% APR & Low Interest

MOVED 9 Ways Having No Credit Score Makes Life Harder

Posted by Elizabeth Aldrich on Dec 24, 2019 10:00:00 AM

...and how to build good credit from scratch.

If you don't have a credit score, you're not alone. A recent study on credit scores done by The Ascent shows that nearly 1 in 5 Americans are "credit invisible" or "credit unscorable". This means they either have no credit history with the main credit bureaus or there is insufficient information to generate a credit score.

Unfortunately, having no credit score makes your life harder in a number of ways.

Stressed-out bespectacled man looking at document.

1. It's difficult to buy a car

Without a credit score, it'll be hard to qualify for anything other than predatory auto loans with sky-high interest rates. Unless you can provide a cosigner or pay in cash, you'll end up paying a premium to buy a car. 

What's worse, because cars depreciate in value quickly, it's easy to end up upside down on an auto loan. If you take a loan with a high interest rate, you could wind up owing more money than the car is worth. If you were to wreck your car in this situation, your car insurance would only cover the current value of your car, meaning you'd be stuck paying back an auto loan for a car you can no longer use.

2. It's almost impossible to buy a house

Having no credit makes it nearly impossible to buy a house unless you can afford to make a huge down payment and pay astronomically high fees. At the very least, the process of getting approved for a home loan will be extremely lengthy and involve lots of additional documentation, as you don't have a credit score to prove to lenders that you can borrow responsibly.

These barriers make it much harder to invest in property, meaning folks with no credit score have limited access to one of the most popular methods of asset building and wealth generation.

3. You might struggle to cover emergency expenses

We all have to deal with unexpected expenses from time to time. While it's always best to have cash reserves on hand to cover them, sometimes it's not possible. People with good credit can access low-cost financing tools in these situations, such as low-interest loans and 0% APR offers on credit cards

People with no credit, on the other hand, will have to rely on secured credit cards or high-interest loans, which are extremely costly. They can even start your credit score off on the wrong foot -- high interest rates make it more likely that you'll miss a payment -- and with no other credit history, bad marks will be hard to combat. If you have no credit score, it's even more important that you build a generous emergency fund.

4. It can be harder to find a place to rent

Landlords usually run background checks on potential renters, and these often include a check on your credit history. Good credit shows you're likely to pay your rent on-time, while no credit provides no such proof. 

If you have no credit, a landlord might require a bigger deposit or a cosigner. In bigger cities with high demand for housing, they might not give you a chance at all.

5. You won't be able to get a better rate on student loan debt

College students tend to have no credit as they've either never borrowed money before, or they're just getting started with student loans. The problem with graduating from college with a slim credit file and student loan debt is you won't be able to qualify for the best student loan refinancing.

If you build your credit throughout college, you might be able to refinance your student loans soon after graduation. This can lead to a significantly lower interest rate, which often means lower monthly payments and less money spent on interest fees.

6. It'll be hard to qualify for a credit card

You might not need a credit card now. However, there are situations where they come in handy. For one, some businesses, such as hotels and rental car agencies, won't let you make a reservation without a credit card.

Credit cards can also offer lucrative travel and cash-back rewards, and they're even more generous when you've got excellent credit. With a high enough credit score, you can even travel for free with credit card points.

7. Your insurance rates might be higher

Credit history is a factor for some car insurance companies when deciding how much to charge you for an insurance policy. While bad marks such as overdue payments are worse than not having credit at all, many still consider a short credit history to be a negative.

If you have no credit, be sure to shop around for the best rates on car insurance. Some policy providers take credit scores into consideration more than others.

8. You might have to pay a security deposit on utility contracts

Utility companies typically run credit checks before offering you a contract. This includes companies offering electricity, water, gas, cable, internet, and phone service, so it's not something you can simply forgo.

If you have no credit, you'll likely be required to pay a security deposit before signing up for utilities.

9. You won't get the best deals on cell phone contracts

Most cell phone providers will check your credit before offering you a contract for a cell phone and/or cell phone service. While it's still possible to get a new cell phone with no credit, you might not be offered the best deals on new phones.

Many carriers will also require you to put down a deposit of a few hundred dollars on a cell phone contract if you don't have good credit.

How to build a credit history from scratch

One of the easiest -- and cheapest -- ways to consistently build credit is to use credit cards regularly and always pay them off. Secured credit cards are one way that people with no credit can gradually build up a payment history. They require you to put down a deposit, which is usually equal to your credit limit, and allow you to spend and make payments. The best secured credit cards have low or no security deposit requirements and no hidden fees. Just make sure to pay off your bill in full each month to avoid interest charges. 

There are now a number of credit cards that will approve you, even if you have no credit history at all. While there are many downsides to not having credit, the good news is that building credit has never been easier.

Topics: Credit Cards, 0% APR & Low Interest

MOVED Are You "Credit Invisible"? Here's How to Build Your Credit Score

Posted by Christy Bieber on Dec 24, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Around 11% of U.S. adults have no credit score. If you're one of them, here's what you need to do. 

Having a good credit score is really important -- and recent research from The Ascent shows the average American has a pretty good one. But while the average FICO® Score hit 704 in 2018, there are still millions of Americans who don't have the credit they need to be able to borrow. 

In fact, a surprising number of Americans are considered "credit invisible," which means they have no record with the major credit reporting agencies and no credit score can be generated.

A man sitting on a bench looking out at a wintry lake and fading into physical transparency.

Having no credit record can make it difficult to rent an apartment, get a credit card, or borrow money for big purchases. And it can lead to the use of expensive non-traditional forms of credit such as payday loans.

If you're a credit invisible, you don't have to stay that way forever. There are some simple things you can do to help you build your score. 

How many Americans are credit invisible?

The Ascent's research found that as many as 26 million consumers in the U.S. have no record with credit reporting agencies and so are considered credit invisibles. This is about 11% of the adult population of the United States.  

The same research showed that a further 19 million consumers -- about 8.3% of all adults -- in the U.S. have a record with the major credit reporting agencies, but their credit record is too thin to receive a credit score.

How can you build your score if you're one of them?

Unfortunately, being credit invisible can be a big problem as many companies check your credit -- not just lenders. Auto insurers, landlords, cell phone companies, and utility companies all review your credit history when deciding on the terms of doing business with you. And some employers do a credit check too.

If you have no credit history, these companies and individuals don't have an easy way to tell if you're trustworthy and likely to stick to your financial commitments. They may be less likely to rent you an apartment or may charge you a higher deposit to get connected to water and electricity. 

The good news is, developing a credit record isn't hard. You just need to start by building a payment history. 

The easiest way to build a payment history is to get a credit card. And while you may have difficulty getting a traditional card, there are plenty of secured cards out there you can start with. A secured card requires you to put down a deposit equal to your credit limit. You can then make small charges on your card and pay them off in full each month. Your credit transactions will be reported to the credit reporting agencies and you'll develop a credit record that -- over time -- enables the credit reporting agencies to give you a score so you'll be invisible no more. 

Store cards may also be easier to qualify for and can also help you to develop that all-important credit history. Try applying for one at your favorite store, making periodic small purchases with it, and paying them off right away. 

You could also ask someone in your life who has good credit to cosign for a credit card or a loan for you. This would enable you to get approved and get your credit history started. Asking a loved one to add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards would work too. This would enable the account to be listed on your credit history, even though you wouldn't be responsible for paying the credit card bill.

Getting credit will open up your credit report. Then, you need to make sure you exhibit responsible borrowing behavior by keeping your credit balance low (try to use less than 30% of your available credit) and always paying your bills on time. 

You don't have to be credit invisible anymore

If you don't want to be credit invisible any longer, the tips above can help make sure you build a positive credit history so lenders will be eager and willing to do business with you. Get started ASAP because it takes time to build credit. Now is the perfect time to stop living in the shadows and make sure you're seen. 

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