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How to Build Credit Quickly (With or Without a Credit Card!)

Leon Han
WRITTEN BY
UPDATED
November 25, 2021

As the world emerges from its stay-at-home shell of the pandemic, cashless payments are on the rise. Some people are applying for loans to rebuild their lives; others need new jobs after lockdown.

 

How easily you can do all this is tied to one thing: your credit score. In this article, we’ll be talking about WHY credit score is important and HOW to build a good score.

 

 

Although credit score is more relevant in the United States, good credit habits can only help you stay strong financially, especially if you’re a freelancer or small business owner!

 

The Quick And Clean Of Credit Score

 

Credit score simply means: Are you worth lending money to? Do you pay it back on time?

 

Score comes into play when applying for insurance, loans, credit cards, homes, phones, and even jobs.

 

Companies use the score as a baseline measurement so it’s a good idea to keep it in the green.

 

What is a good credit score?

 

Used predominantly in the US, FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) credit scores range from 300 to 850.

 

In general, the scores are tiered as follows:

 

table of fico scores with ratings

 

The scores are calculated with the following weights:

 

how is fico score calculated

Image from FICO.com

 

Looks complicated? Not really! Essentially, you want:

 

  1. A score of 670 or more
  2. That is gained through 6 months or more of effort

 

Luckily we have a few ways to get you to that level. Read on!

 

Why you need a good credit score

 

As we’ve mentioned, 670 and up is good.

 

It means you are less likely to have problems in applying for credit-oriented financial products:

 

  • Need a bank loan? You may qualify easily and get better rates.
  • New credit card? Applications are easy and you can get better cards.
  • Want to rent an apartment? Confident landlords may require smaller deposits.

 

If you’re a freelancer used to being paid in cash and lacking a paper trail, a nonexistent or bad score will deny you many of these opportunities outright, which will certainly put a crimp in both lifestyle and growth.

 

Here are some examples of what can happen with bad scores:

 

  1. Many credit card companies require a FICO score of 670 for new applicants.
  2. A conventional loan needs a score of 620, with higher interest charges or upfront deposits for lower scores.
  3. You may find it difficult to rent a home due to lack of history.
  4. Bad scores mean higher car and health insurance premiums.
  5. Even getting a phone or salaried job can be more difficult!

 

Now you see how a bad score can become an exponentially more expensive and troublesome problem.

 

You could run away from bad credit, but that’s not the easiest thing to do, either.

 

How do I check my credit score?

 

Check credit score

Check your credit score to help keep it in the green.

 

There are 3 ways to get your credit score:

 

  1. Your credit card, bank, or loan company may list your score in your statements.
  2. You can buy credit scores directly from credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  3. You can Google for sites that give free credit scores – results will vary.

 

How fast is credit built?

 

In the world of credit score, “fast” is about 3 to 6 months, while most scores take a year or more to get to.

 

Look out for “Scorebuilder Tips” throughout this blog for method-specific advice on maxing score building.

 

Now – let’s get on with the actual advice!

 

 

How To Build Credit WITH A Credit Card

 

The easiest way to build a credit history (aka score) is with a credit card! Duh.

 

But what’s the best way to do it?

 

1. Pay your bills on time, every time

 

From FICO’s chart, payment history has a 35% weight in score calculation.

 

This means paying your debts on time, every time, impacts your score the most. If you miss a payment, it will make a huge dent in your score.

 

When it comes to credit cards, make sure you regularly keep track of your total credit usage – not having the cash to pay off debt can lead to a downward spiral of bad.

 

Score-building tips:

  • Make sure you set up payment reminders so you’re aware of when bills are due!
  • One easy thing to do is to link all your bills to a credit card for easy, one-stop payments.
  • Missing a payment deadline? Contact your creditor immediately to negotiate your payment – one bad report will lead to a serious decline in score.
  • Auto-billing means you only need to remember to pay off the credit card instead of a dozen different things. This has an added bonus of even more credit history! #selffive

 

2. Utilize 30% or less of your credit at any time

 

utilize 30% or less of your credit

Use less of your credit allowance.

 

Amounts owed (or credit utilization) makes up another 30% of your credit score.

 

How much credit you have vs. how much you actually use gives you your credit utilization ratio, expressed in percent.

 

Using $2000 in credit with a $10,000 limit? You’re utilizing 20% of your credit.

 

The key takeaway here is to avoid using more than 30% of your credit to build a good score. Maxing out your credit every month will make for a slower score gain; missing a payment will be bad.

 

Score-building tips:

  • A lower utilization of around 10% is the best. Pay off your credit card bills more frequently to reduce utilization.
  • Every card or credit account has its own utilization – pay off the highest ones first to ensure the fastest gains
  • Finding yourself hitting the limit often? Request for higher limits from your card issuer.

 

3. Have multiple credit cards? Keep them active

 

keep multiple credit cards active

Having more active credit cards can help (just exercise self control!)

 

Having more active credit cards means you have a higher amount of credit to utilize. Credit bureaus look at each credit account when calculating your score.

 

It may be a good idea to cycle small purchases through each card to keep them active. Multiple cards also means you can balance your credit utilization percent between them.

 

Score-building tips:

  • Make sure to minimize any transaction or annual fees. It’s not worth it to have fees draining your funds!

 

Can’t qualify for a normal credit card?

 

If your credit score is bad or fresh (as is often the case with cash-oriented jobs), it may be difficult to qualify for a typical credit card.

 

One solution is through acquiring a secured credit card!

 

“Secured” means that you need to put up cash as collateral when getting the card. Your transaction limit will generally be limited up to the deposited amount, but it will build score like a normal card.

 

Keep in mind that these cards may have higher fees!

 

 

How To Build Credit Score WITHOUT A Credit Card

 

build credit score without a credit card

No credit card? You can still build your credit score.

 

Building credit without a card is more complicated but still relies on your history of being a trustworthy, reliable debtor.

 

The good news is that most of us have such histories.

 

1. Loans

 

good loan history helps build credit

Having a good loan history can help

 

Good standings in student, auto, and home loans are a plus in your score for up to ten years from the point it was paid off.

 

To capitalize on this, make sure your loan payments are being reported to the bureaus. Ask your loan providers about it.

 

Score-building tips:

  • No loans to speak of? A credit-builder loan from a community bank or credit union may be just what you need!
  • Keep in mind that this method isn’t free: Administrative fees, interest rates, and having to lock your funds for 6 months or longer are some of the things to consider.
  • The way it works is you first pay an upfront deposit much like a secured credit card. You make monthly payments (with interest) that generate history and therefore score over time.

 

2. Rentals

 

pay rentals to build credit score

Rent is a regular payment that can help build your credit.

 

Today, most major credit bureaus include reported rental payments in your credit file. The important thing is to request your landlord to send their report to the bureau for filing.

 

Unwilling landlord? You can engage with third party rent reporting agencies to put the rental history to work.

 

Score-building tips:

  • Perch is a new credit score-building app that reports recurring expenses to credit bureaus in a safe, fast, and FREE manner. The convenience and ease means even fresh scores can see a significant increase quickly.
  • Experian RentBureau is a second rent-oriented credit program that is a little less user-friendly than Perch.

 

3. Utilities and other monthly bills

 

pay utility and monthly bills to build credit

Use your monthly bills to your advantage.

 

That Netflix subscription will come in handy here.

 

Utilities such as phone bills, cable bills, streaming sites, and other monthly recurring expenses are another way to build score.

 

Free programs such as Experian Boost collect that payment history to build it into the credit scores they calculate.

 

4. Apply for store credit at your favorite retailers

 

Another oft-ignored method of building credit is in applying for and using credit accounts with local retailers. Each store or brand has its own schemes as well as conditions; you need to keep an eye out for offers and ask about them.

 

Credit accounts are different from credit cards as they are tied to a particular brand. The history is still reported to a bureau so it may be useful for you.

 

5. Become an “authorized user” of someone else’s credit card

 

become authorized user of other credit card to build credit

If someone you know is willing, get your name on their credit card

 

If every method listed before this is unavailable, this is a possible last solution. You need someone who:

 

  • Has a credit card
  • Trusts you (and vice versa)
  • Has a good score aka pays bills on time, every time

 

Adding your name as an authorized user means the credit account will be calculated into your score. As long as you’re responsible and/or don’t use the credit, your person can rest easy.

 

Credit cuts both ways though; if your person is delinquent in payments, the bad credit will follow you too!

 

How to build credit FAST!

 

Trust takes time to build. Even with the best habits and methods, a good score takes at least 6 months to build.

 

Aside from our Score-building Tips above, you may also try out UltraFico from FICO, another FREE program that leverages your existing checking and/or savings account data to boost your scores.

 

This is useful for people who direct debit from their accounts and maintain a healthy balance while avoiding overdrafts.

 

 

Good Credit Habits And What To Avoid

 

Whew! Now that you know several ways of building credit, maintaining a good score is a combination of good habits and avoiding bad decisions.

 

Here are some things you should do to keep it in the green:

 

1. Check your credit report regularly and dispute errors

 

check credit reports regularly

Make it a habit to check your credit report periodically.

 

Everyone in the US gets 1 free FICO credit report every year from AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

Use that report to spot for any errors or missed payments and rectify them ASAP. Any of these errors can drop your score.

 

You can also find other free reporting sites or purchase more throughout the year to stay up to date.

 

2. Keep your personal information secure

 

keep personal information secure

Take measures to protect your personal data.

 

Getting hacked is no joke. A stolen credit card or login details can lead to a gigantic deficit in your credit, which drops your score deep into the red.

 

Keep all your login info stored in a secure location and NEVER login to financial services on public WiFi (that’s a whole other story – you can read up on it here).

 

3. Plan your expenses and credit applications carefully

 

plan expenses and credit application

Monitor ALL your expenses.

 

Applying for credit is easy these days; too bad applying for many at once drops your score a bunch!

 

Budgeting for investments and expenses is a great way of ensuring you have the money you need at all times, rather than relying on new credit applications.

 

Read more here on how to start a realistic budget.

 

4. Set up payment reminders

 

set payment reminders

Set notifications to remind you when you need to make a payment.

 

It’s easy to forget about a pending payment these days; we just have so much to do.

 

Luckily it’s just as easy to set up a payment reminder on your favorite app (I use Google Calendar) to notify about potential payments.

 

Add a unique, attention grabbing color so the entry pops out!

 

5. Be ready to contact your creditors if your payment is delayed

 

contact your creditors if your payment is delayed

If you’re late on a payment, inform your creditors.

 

A lapse in memory or a lack of funds can sometimes lead to a missed payment.

 

Contact who you owe to show them you are aware of the problem and negotiate a plan on when to pay it. This may convince them not to report the missed payment which can affect your score.

 

Wrap Up: Building A Good Credit Score

 

Now you know how best to go about building a credit score. It will take time, but rest assured that it will be worth it.

 

From improved loan terms to better chances of getting credit, having good credit will give you an easier time of working and living in this world of digital currencies.

 

Before you go – check out the rest of Bitcatcha’s articles on better money management.

 

 

Leon Han

About The Author

Leon is a Malaysian-based copywriter with vested interests in music, trading, and crypto. A voracious appetite for reading has given him knowledge over a wide variety of topics and industries.