Debt

How to Easily Build Your Credit and Not Lose Your Mind

March 9, 2017
This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure policy here.

 

In this article, you will learn how to easily build credit so you can do more important things…like make money.

 

Learning how to build your credit can quickly become a chore. There’s so much advice out there on what you should do when sometimes all you want is just some simple quick ways to do it without losing your damn mind. 

Trust me, I understand.  See, I never understood the importance building credit the right way.

That’s until I had $34,420 worth of credit card debt standing between me and my sanity — and more importantly, my dreams.

Take it from someone whose credit has been shot to hell and back, it is critically important you responsibly build your credit.  But, I also believe in keeping it simple! 

So, today I’m going to equip you with some quick and easy ways to easily build your credit.  Best of all, you can start implementing them today.

 

 

 

How to Easily Build Credit without losing your mind

1. Easily build credit by using a credit card to pay a small monthly subscription.

The worst thing you can do when building credit is to use your credit card to finance a bunch of your wants. A credit card isn’t free money and if you want to go into debt, charging stuff you don’t need is the quickest way to do it.

However, if you approached it from the other end – only purchasing things you need or can afford, you will have better success.

For instance, instead of charging that Michael Kors purse you didn’t plan on purchasing, charge a small monthly subscription. Let’s say you’ve cut your cable cord and subscribe to Netflix. Charge your monthly subscription fee to your credit card.

Next, set up an automatic payment to pay your credit card for the full Netflix subscription. Do this within a few days of the subscription payment to avoid paying any interest. By doing this, you are establishing a habit of paying your credit card in full and on time.

 

2. Pay more than the minimum on larger balances.

If you have a balance of $3,000 on your credit card and your monthly minimum payment is $20, pay more than the minimum. As a matter of fact, pay twice as much.

Credit card companies have designed the minimum payment to keep people in debt longer so they can make more money. You’re going to pay hundreds of dollars in interest if you do it this way.

If you avoid charging more than you can afford, you can avoid this problem altogether. But if you’ve already got the debt, there’s no need in crying over it.

Just focus on paying down that debt as quickly as possible. The best way to do that is to pay more than the credit card company requires each month.

 

4. Double up on your monthly payments.

If you think you can’t afford to pay more than the minimum on your credit card, trick yourself. Simply pay twice a month.

Let’s use the previous example. If your credit card company requires you to pay $20 per month and you want to pay $40 per month, simply pay them $20 two times per month.

You can even pay them every week if you want to! Pay $10 a week until you reach your goal.

There’s no rule saying you can only pay your credit card on the due date. Most credit card companies have an online portal that allows you to schedule as many payments as you want.

 

4. Search for your own credit opportunities versus using the credit offers that come in the mail.

The offers that come in the mail are rarely in your best interest. These companies want your money and they know how to create great copy that will get your attention and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

If you really want to get the best rates and conditions, search for your own credit offers. You can start with your own bank or search for credit cards suitable for your credit rating.

 

5. Check your credit report annually.

Each year, you can request a copy of your free credit report from ALL three credit reporting agencies. This is different from knowing your credit score.

Your credit score won’t let you know if anyone has fraudulently opened up a line of credit in your name (unless you’ve signed up for additional credit monitoring). A credit report will allow you to look at the entire picture.

If someone is using credit in your name or if there are errors on your report, a credit report is usually the best way to identify these issues.

Request your annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com for free, or you can use a service like myfico.com for additional credit monitoring.

 

6. Know your credit score.

These days it’s easy to find out your credit score. Many credit card companies offer this information for free to their cardholders.

By knowing your credit score, you will be empowered to seek the best deals if you’re ever in need of a mortgage or auto loan. 

There is a FREE website that allows you to obtain your credit score from one of the credit reporting agencies. Sign up for Credit Sesame today to keep tabs on your credit score every month.

 

7. Build credit by maintaining a proper credit utilization ratio.

Your credit utilization ratio is an important part of your credit score. It makes up 30 percent of a score and can be determined by dividing your total debt by the total amount of credit available to you.  

The higher your utilization rate is, the more risky creditors perceive you. A high utilization rate often indicates a higher chance of not paying debts. Creditors like to see some credit being used; however, typically not more than 20 percent.

 

8. Don’t open a bunch of credit cards at one time.

A portion of your credit score (10 percent) is determined by new credit inquiries, better known as hard inquiries. Each hard inquiry lowers your score by a few points and it can take several months to recover these points.

Each hard credit inquiry stays on your credit report for one or two years. If the inquiry is of the same type (ex: a mortgage loan), these inquiries are treated as the same and won’t negatively affect your score.

However, multiple credit card inquiries are usually an indicator of adverse financial risk to credit lenders.

 

Wrapping Thangs Up

 

If you don’t take away anything else from this post, take away this — credit is not a free loan.

You will pay for credit in the form of interest. If you don’t pay it back, you risk the possibility of future employment opportunities, your ability to get insurance or obtain affordable rates on auto and home loans.

Your decision to max out your Macy’s card today can cost you more money than you planned to spend (I would know).

For me, it cost me years of a less than desirable credit score, a disrespectful interest rate on my car note, years lost of investing, and the freedom to take employment that would have better suited my personality.

It affects many parts of your life, not just your money. Debt takes away your freedom to choose! I’ve been through the bankruptcy and I’ve recovered financially, but if I knew then what I know now, I could have avoided all the headache that accompanies making poor credit decisions.

Make the choice today and if you’ve already made some mistakes — it’s never too late to easily build your credit.

 

Latoya Scott
CFEI/Social Entrepreneur
Latoya Scott is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and personal finance writer with a mission to help millennials learn how to stop living paycheck to paycheck so they can become financially carefree.

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  • Chonce February 15, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    #3 is a great tip for people who have credit card debt. I’ve been on a journey to build my credit for the past few years and can’t wait until 15+ inquiries fall off my report this spring. I would say if you have to finance something like a car, go to a credit union first because dealerships will run your credit dozens of times while shopping around for your rate and they won’t even care.

    • Latoya S February 16, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      Hey Chonce,

      This is true! If my husband and I could do our car search over, we would have definitely sought out our own financing with our bank because even though our interest rate is really low on our car, I believe it could have been a smidge lower and they only would have had to run my husband’s credit once. And I know what you mean about those credit items falling off!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money February 16, 2016 at 12:49 am

    This tip – “Build credit by maintaining a proper credit utilization ratio” is such an important one because I feel like a lot of people who have their first credit card don’t know this rule. The issue is when you get your first card you only have, say, $500 spending limit. It’s easy for an adult to put on close to $500 a month on their card and only pay it off once a month. In reality it’s best to make multiple payments a month to keep it as far below the 30% as possible.

    • Latoya S February 16, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      That is a great and often overlooked tip! Thanks for sharing:)

  • Shirria February 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I never understood “credit card utilization” until recently. Unfortunately, the unknown has affected my credit score. To get out of debt I make substantial payments twice per month to get the balances low.

  • Latoya S February 16, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Shirria, neither did I and it’s actually kinda funny how I learned about it. I was actually shocked when I saw my credit score and saw that it was so high considering my bankruptcy hasn’t dropped off of my credit report ( I have about 2 more years). It’s because my credit utilization was kicking butt. I have a lot of credit available to use and I’m using less than 10 percent of it. It’s gotten my score into the high 700’s despite my bankruptcy and I know that making those payments on time and beyond the minimum are contributing to it as well. We all learn at our own pace, the important thing is that we do learn!

  • Emily @ JohnJaneDoe February 17, 2016 at 10:27 am

    I know my own credit card problems got out of control with car repairs…I didn’t have the money to pay off some pretty big repairs (no emergency fund) and my debts spiraled from there because I didn’t adjust the rest of my spending to pay them off. So the interest spiraled, eventually out of control. The small charges added up, but the big ones were the knockout. I would have been better off to wait a while to get a credit card, but in the 80s it was easy for college kids to get them.

    • Latoya S February 17, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Emily, It was still easy in the early ’00 as well. I’m glad that it’s more difficult these days for kids to get credit cards.

  • Nate Matherson March 9, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Great article! Helpful tips.. especially for Millennials. Millennials have a adverse reaction to credit cards. According to Bankrate, “whopping 63 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 29) don’t have a credit card”. That being said, credit cards can be a great tool for building credit.

    • Latoya Scott March 10, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Nate, they sure can. Younger millennials are experiencing the effects of the Great Recession from a different perspective than those of us over the 30-year-old age bracket. It is true that many younger millennials don’t have credit cards. They have been hit hard by student loans and the inability to get good employment.

  • Talisa March 10, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    This article is so timely. My credit is thankfully a-ok but there’s nothing better than going from good to great. Thanks for the tips!

  • Kemkem March 10, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    All great points. We have been using number 4 to pay down our only debt, mortgage. Great post!

  • Ayak March 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Gems I wish I knew earlier. My new favourite blog! Thank you Latoya

  • Jay Colby March 11, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    This is important information that our whole community is in lack of. Not understanding money or better know as “money literacy” is a huge challenge we all face. But by you sharing this information is key to helping us learn and prosper.

  • Tanya March 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Girl, this is some great information! If only I knew all of this in my teens/20s, my life would be so different right now.
    Tanya recently posted…Women of Action of Charles County’s A Day Without A WomanMy Profile

  • Aija March 12, 2017 at 12:21 am

    Paying more than the minimum is the best advice. It really helps in building up your score. Minimizing inquiries. Other thing I learned was that you should find a card and stick with it if possible. The length of time your account has been open impacts your score too
    Aija recently posted…Day 11: BossChix Network 31 Day Goal-Getter ChallengeMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott March 12, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      Yes, old credit can help boost your score a lot!

  • Felecia Monique March 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Sadly I work in Banking and finance and ignore these rules. I’m a work in progress.
    Felecia Monique recently posted…The Joys of Single MotherhoodMy Profile

  • Kirstin Fuller March 13, 2017 at 1:11 am

    As always, great advice! Another way to build your credit and be happy is to not extend it for others. I like the doubling up on payments and/or paying twice a month. That’s a great idea.
    Kirstin Fuller recently posted…More Nonda Smart Car Charger News!My Profile

    • Latoya Scott March 13, 2017 at 11:26 am

      Now ain’t that the truth! Definitely don’t co-sign.

  • Elle (CleverlyChanging) March 13, 2017 at 10:28 am

    My personal belief is that if people can’t be disciplined enough to pay off their balances in full each month, than they should probably use cash. Credit cards interests rates will eat up any good deal people think they received.

  • Lauren Gay March 13, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    As always great information. I wish I knew this stuff much earlier in life.
    Lauren Gay recently posted…Cayo Costa State Park Solo Camping AdventureMy Profile

  • Jonna March 14, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    These are some really great tips! I didn’t realize how great my credit score was but I still recently got an consolidation loan just to reduce my interest rate and pay off my credit card balances.
    Jonna recently posted…5 Signs Your Dog is Lonely and How to HelpMy Profile

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