Credit cards can be one of the main tools to use if you’re trying to build or rebuild your credit. This can make things difficult if you’re someone who doesn’t like credit cards or you don’t trust yourself to use them wisely.
It’s actually a popular misunderstanding that credit cards are the only way to build credit. Read on to explore some of the other ways you can boost your score without using plastic.
Can I build a credit score without a credit card?
Yes. While secured credit cards are a good way to build or rebuild your credit with responsible spending, they’re not the only way.
Other types of credit contribute to a solid credit history or even flesh out a limited one, including personal loans and financing you might pick up at the counter of your local furniture store.
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Typically, any financing product that reports to the credit bureaus can help you establish credit. Without solid creditworthiness, however, you might want to focus on unsecured options.
No matter the type of credit or financing you take on, commit to paying your bills on time. Late payments can quickly undo your hard work.
1. Car loans
In most cities, you need a car to get around. And many of us don’t have the cash sitting around to buy one outright.
Car loans are among the most popular types of financing, and they’re a great way to build credit. Because most loans treat the car you’re buying as collateral, you’ll typically get a competitive rate over other borrowing options.
2. Personal loans
Personal loans can be used for just about any legitimate purpose. But many use them to refinance or consolidate other debts, making them a popular tool when you’re building stronger finances.
If you aren’t able to get a loan on your own, look for lenders willing to accept cosigners to help you land a more competitive rate.
3. Authorized user on a credit card
If the reason you don’t want to use a credit card to build your credit is because you can’t qualify for a card yourself or simply prefer not to take on the full responsibility, you might be able to piggyback on somebody else’s plastic.
A trusted loved one may be willing to add you to their credit card account as an authorized user. You won’t even have to use the card to reap the rewards. Instead, arrange payments based on whatever you and the cardholder agree upon.
However, not all card providers report spending and payments for authorized users, and the cardholder’s activity could end up on your credit report too. Only pursue this method with somebody you trust.
4. Credit-builder accounts
Many banks and credit unions offer loans to help you build credit. The bank secures the loan by placing the money you qualify to borrow into a certificate of deposit (CD) or savings account. You make payments to settle the loan and, after it’s paid off, you get access to the full amount of the loan.
Some banks also offer GIC loans. These loans are based on the balance of your GIC or savings account, locking your account until you finish repaying the loan.
Because they’re designed to build or rebuild credit, these tools are typically accessible to those with weak scores.
Rebuild your credit
5. Student loans
Paying back your student loans can be stressful. But if you’re in a position where you need to finance your education, there’s a silver lining: These loans can do a lot of good for your credit score.
Like with other borrowing, the key is to repay your loans on time to contribute to a positive credit history and increase your score over time.
6. Rent-reporting services
Some services allow you to report your responsible rent payments to credit bureaus, building up your credit history. In some cases, your landlord might already report your payments.
Otherwise, look into services that let you pay your rent online. Companies like RentTrack allow tenants to schedule rent payments that it processes through your bank account, reporting the transactions to the credit bureaus and ultimately boosting your credit score.
If you own a home, your mortgage may already be strengthening your credit. The significant debt you take on when buying a home could decrease your score, but a consistent history of on-time payments can improve it over time.
8. Peer-to-peer loans
Peer-to-peer (P2P) loans are ways to avoid dealing with big lenders, like banks. With a P2P loan, you’ll borrow directly from an individual “investor.” These investors impose varying credit requirements, making it easier for people with poor or no credit to qualify.
While P2P loans aren’t processed through financial institutions, they’re often backed by reputable services designed to support these legitimate loans.
Check your credit report for errors that could damage your score
You can dispute an error on your credit report directly with the credit bureaus. It can take months before you see the fruits of your labour, but you should follow up about a month after filing. Don’t assume that your request has been taken care of – reach out to both bureaus and confirm that your report has been fixed.
Get your credit score
You don’t have to rely on credit cards to rebuild your credit or improve your credit score. If you aren’t able to qualify or don’t trust yourself to use them wisely, consider other financing options that report your responsible spending to the credit bureaus.
No. Because debit cards draw payments from money that’s already yours, they don’t help build or rebuild your credit.
You might be able to leverage your debit card to make payments on loans, rent and services that ultimately help build your credit, however.
No. Payday and short-term loans typically don’t require access to your credit score, and payments generally aren’t reported to the bureaus. But your credit history will include any payday loans you default on, negatively affecting your score.
The time it takes to improve your credit score depends on many factors, primarily the work you put into it and the reasons for your low score. In some cases, you might be able to see improvement in a month or 2. If you’re in a crunch and don’t have time to wait for results, you could look into a credit repair service to help you speed up the process.
Kyle Morgan is a writer and editor for Finder who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.
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