Age 18 or bankrupt, building credit takes commitment

Whether you’re 18 years old or just declared bankruptcy, building credit is going to be a challenge. You’re feeling the itch to establish yourself and no one will give you a chance.

It’s frustrating, but start small.

Plant a seed with secured credit that allows you to spend the money you have, while reporting positively to the credit bureaus at no risk. If you do get unsecured credit, pay it off before the due date and you won’t be assessed the annual percentage rate.

So if you’re APR is 26% you’re not paying fees.

Consider a credit monitoring service like Credit Karma or if you are one of the 147 million Americans whose data was exposed in the Equifax data breach, consider taking the free credit monitoring and free credit reports for 10 years.

The service could provide a life-changing way to a better credit score that goes much further than the $125 you’ll probably spend in one day.

New adults, establish a budget and stop having your parents pay your bills. It’s only helping them build their credit. If you must let them pay for you, ask to be an authorized user on the account. Just having your name on the bills could earn you credit points.

Don’t ask for a card. You won’t need it (and they probably won’t give it to you anyway).

Make sure you choose a reliable family member who makes sound financial decisions. If your mom or dad or sibling is struggling financially, it’s best to find your own way to build credit. Also, make sure the credit card company reports activity for all listed card users.

A positive payment history is a good, simple way to boost your score.

If you are able to get a secured or unsecured credit card, don’t wait to make payments until after the due date. Keep the balance low — now isn’t the time to waste credit.

Free services such as CreditKarma are simple and they will tell you about derogatory comments on your credit scores. This credit monitoring agency will report to Transunion and Equifax. It will allow you to easily dispute one account at a time. You should be checking your credit to find out when credit falls off, and what is bringing you down.

NOTE: If you have an old debt that is close to falling off, don’t contact them about the debt unless you plan to pay or negotiate a settlement. Contacting them could reset the date the debt would otherwise fall off your credit report, usually after 7 years.

Try not to apply for a lot of loans. If you are looking for a car, wait until you plan to purchase to let them make a hard inquiry into your credit. If you go to multiple dealerships, try not to spread the inquiries out over a month. Keep them within a two-week span.

Ultimately, they will fall of your credit report at the same time.

Shop around for credit. Don’t feel like you have to take the first offer you get. When a purchasing a car, don’t limit yourself to your city. There are places in bigger metropolitan areas that are more competitive for customers. They may offer you better deals and more choices.

Don’t buy something you don’t want. It’s worth waiting for if you have the time.

You won’t feel stuck in a vehicle you don’t want.

Also, if you are purchasing a car, consider that after five positive payments you might be able to refinance it with a better score. This is something to consider if you plan to buy a car with a high monthly payment. You might be able to cut costs after showing the ability to pay on time.

Be disciplined with payments. This is your chance to change your ways.

So, whether you are 18 or just filed bankruptcy, the time to improve your credit starts now and starts small. A positive financial trail will lead to bigger and better credit.


Sherry Ellis