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How to Build a Credit History and Establish Credit

Building a good credit history is important. If you have no reported credit history, it may take time to establish your first credit account. This problem affects young people just beginning careers as well as older people who have never used credit. It also affects divorced or widowed women who shared credit accounts that were reported only in the husband's name.

If you do not know what is in your credit file, you may order a copy of your credit file online. If you prefer, you may order a copy from each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies, or you may check with your local credit bureaus. Most cities have two or three credit bureaus, which are listed under "Credit" or "Credit Reporting Agencies" in the Yellow Pages. For a small fee, they will tell you what information is in your file and may give you a copy of your credit report. For more information, see article How and where to obtain your credit report.

If you have had credit before under a different name or in a different location and it is not reported in your file, ask the credit bureau to include it. If you shared accounts with a former spouse, ask the credit bureau to list these accounts under your name as well. Although credit bureaus are not required to add new accounts to your file, many will do so for a small fee. Finally, if you presently share in the use of a credit account with your spouse, ask the creditor to report it under both names.

Creditors are not required to report any account history information to credit bureaus. If a creditor does report on an account, however, and if both spouses are permitted to use the account or are contractually liable for its repayment, under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act you can require the creditor to report the information under both names. When contacting your creditor or credit bureau, do so in writing and include relevant information, such as account numbers, to help speed the process. As with all important business communications, keep a copy of what you send.

If you do not have a credit history, you should begin to build one. If you have a steady income and have lived in the same area for at least a year, try applying for credit with a local business, such as a department store. Or you might borrow a small amount from your credit union or the bank where you have checking and saving accounts. A local bank or department store may approve your credit application even if you do not meet the standards of larger creditors. Before you apply for credit, ask whether the creditor reports credit history information to credit bureaus serving your area. Most creditors do, but some do not. If possible, you should try to get credit that will be reported. This builds your credit history.

If you are rejected for credit, find out why. There may be reasons other than lack of credit history. Your income may not meet the creditor's minimum requirement or you may not have worked at your current job long enough. Time may resolve such problems. You could wait for a salary increase and then reapply, or simply apply to a different creditor. However, it is best to wait at least 6 months before making each new application. Credit bureaus record each inquiry about you. Some creditors may deny your application if they think you are trying to open too many new accounts too quickly.

If you still cannot get credit, you may wish to ask a person with an established credit history to act as your cosigner. Because a cosigner promises to pay if you don't, this can substantially improve your chances of getting credit. Once you have repaid the debt, try again to get credit on your own.

You may apply for a loan or credit card online. Check out the resources on our website. The process is very simple, can done in the comfort of your home or office, and in most cases you, will know within minutes if you are approved!

 


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