How to build credit from nothing

By Izzy M
Modified on April 26, 2023
how to build credit from nothing

An established credit score allows you to borrow money, but excellent credit helps you save money and get better financial opportunities. If you don’t have a credit score yet, know that there are plenty of ways to start building credit! There are secured credit cards, joint loans, or even a No Credit Check Loan. Learn how to build credit from nothing and practice good credit habits. 

What Are Credit Bureaus?

If you’re ready to build credit from scratch, it’s crucial to first learn about credit bureaus. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three credit bureaus that collect financial information. 

Credit reporting agencies collect positive and negative information from lenders and creditors that report your financial activity. Certain financial activities, such as late payments, will remain on your credit reports for a prolonged period. Negative information on your report can decrease your credit score and affect your borrowing.   

Take a look at how long negative information stays on your report:

  • Late Payments – Seven years from the original delinquency date.
  • Collection/Charged-Off Accounts – Seven years from the missed payment date.
  • Bankruptcy – Seven to ten years, depending on the type of bankruptcy.  
  • Repossessions – Seven years from the date of stopped payments.
  • Foreclosures – Seven years from the date of the first missed payment that led to foreclosure. 

Each credit bureau provides a credit report, and consumers are able to get one free report annually. Credit reports are available online, by phone, or by mail. Suppose you want to review your Experian credit report online. In that case, you can access it through the Experian or Annual Credit Report website. 

Financial institutions, businesses, and yourself can see your credit reports. But the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires business entities to have a legitimate purpose for viewing your report without permission. But you have the option to freeze credit reports for all three bureaus. A freeze means business entities cannot access your reports until you lift the freeze.  

Financial Options To Build Credit Scores

You have options available if you want to build credit scores from nothing. Specific loans are available to help people with no credit access emergency funding. Consider your options and decide what type of financial commitment you’re ready to make.   

Apply for a Credit Builder Loan

A credit builder loan is just what the name implies! Credit builder loans help you build credit by allowing you to make consistent monthly payments until the loan is paid off. The lender will set up a savings account or a certificate of deposit (CD) with the loan money. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), most credit builder loans provide between $300 to $1,000. Your monthly payments will go towards paying off the loan amount. After you make your final payment, you can access the savings account!  

Secured Credit Card

Secured credit cards work like regular credit cards, except that you must provide the total loan amount. Credit limits for secured cards are dependent on the borrower’s deposit. Suppose you have $600 available to spend. After you provide that money to a credit card issuer, you will receive a secured card with a $600 credit limit. Secured cards allow you to build a payment history while you spend money.    

Personal Loan

A personal loan is a flexible installment loan option that you can pay off over a few months or years. The amount you can get with a personal loan depends on your credit history and income. However, many lenders offer flexible qualification requirements. You can start borrowing money as soon as you have access to reliable income. By applying for no credit check loans, same day approval is possible! 

Become an Authorized User

An authorized user is a person that a credit card user can add to their account. Authorized users receive their own credit cards but are not responsible for payments. Suppose your mom is financially responsible and has no missed payments. By being an authorized user, you can benefit from her financial activity without applying for your own credit account. Being an authorized user is a great option to build credit as a college student because you don’t have to do anything!   

Use a Cosigner

If you struggle to get a loan or credit card with no credit, you can try applying with a cosigner. A cosigner lowers the lending risk for the financial institution and increases your chances of getting better loan terms. Anyone with a decent credit history can be a cosigner, which means you can ask family members or friends. A cosigner shares financial responsibility with the primary account holder, so ensure you can afford to pay off the loan. If you fail to repay the loan, the cosigner is obligated to pay any remaining missed payments.

How To Build a Good Credit History

Financial institutions use credit histories to make qualifying decisions and determine loan terms. Getting and maintaining a good credit score takes effort, but it can provide numerous benefits. If you don’t have a credit score yet, you may ask, “What’s the best way to build a credit history?” Learn how to build and maintain good credit scores below. 

Pay Bills on Time

Making monthly payments on time is one of the best ways to build credit. Many lenders refer to FICO scores, and your payment history makes up 35% of your total FICO score. Missing payments can decrease your credit and appear on your credit reports. But consistent debt payments make you a great borrower! An excellent payment history can help you get lower rates, more money, and better perks. 

When a borrower has multiple missed payments, the lender may turn to a debt collection agency for help reclaiming the unpaid balance. Suppose a debt collector has contacted you. In that case, you may wonder how long it takes for a collection agency to report to a credit bureau. Financial institutions are the ones who report late payments every 30 days to the bureaus. Two negative accounts will appear in your credit reports if your debt is sold or transferred to a collection agency.    

Limit Your Accounts

Applying for too many loans or credit card accounts can prevent you from building a good credit score. A lender does a hard credit check when you apply to borrow money. Hard credit checks can decrease your score by as much as five points. Hard inquiries also stay on your credit reports for two years. 

Too many inquiries within a short period can indicate to financial institutions that you have poor financial management. If you don’t have credit, it can be hard to get approval for loans. But you can limit the number of applicants you submit by applying for secured credit accounts and other credit-building options. 

Don’t Close Old Accounts

Once you obtain financial accounts, keep them open for extended periods. A closed account affects the average age of all your accounts. Keeping financial accounts open for years can help you build good credit that looks better to lenders. Being able to manage your financial accounts successfully shows that you are a reliable borrower. However, keep in mind that some financial institutions close accounts that go unused without warning.   

Maintain a Low DTI 

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio will significantly affect your credit score once you start building credit from nothing. A debt-to-income ratio represents your financial capability because it is the difference between what you owe and what you earn. To calculate your DTI ratio, add your total monthly debts and divide the total by your monthly gross income. The result is your DTI ratio, which can help you determine your financial standing. Ideally, you want to keep your DTI ratio below 35% to avoid unmanageable debt. Low DTI ratios can help you get prime financial opportunities to save money.   

Check Your Credit Reports

Once you get a credit score, make sure to check your credit reports at least once a year. Keeping an eye on your reports helps you better understand your credit position and spot mistakes. Unfortunately, errors on a credit report are not rare, and your credit may be negatively affected by a wrong balance amount or incorrect payment date. You can get free annual reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. 

How Long Until I Get a Credit Score?

Suppose you got approved for a personal loan without an existing credit score. How long do you have to wait to get a credit score? 

According to Experian, consumers typically need three to six months of financial activity to get a credit score. Contrary to popular belief, consumers do not start with a zero credit score. Your first recorded credit score depends on your financial activities since consumers do not start out with the same base score.   

The Bottom Line: Building Credit From Nothing 

You can start building credit from nothing by applying for credit-building loans! Secured cards and credit builder loans are fantastic options allowing you to “borrow” your own money. But you can also apply for traditional loans, such as a personal loan. The choice depends on your financial goals and your desired contribution. 

Remember to pay all your bills on time, no matter what type of loan you choose. Are you a forgetful person? You can still build an excellent payment history with automatic payments. Most lenders allow you to sign up for automatic payments, so you never have to worry about late payments! 

How Long Does Information Stay on My Equifax Credit Report?│Equifax
How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Score After Opening an Account?│Experian

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