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You can have a credit score—even a good or excellent one—without a credit card. Any credit product that is reported to the credit bureaus in your name can help put you on the credit radar.
Read on to find out how you can begin your credit journey without applying for a credit card.
How to Build Credit Without a Credit Card
A credit card is just one way to demonstrate creditworthiness and earn a credit score. There are others, including:
- Experian Boost®ø: Experian Boost is a free service that gives you credit for on-time payments for telecom, utility and some streaming services. When you connect the bank account you use to pay bills, Experian finds those payments and adds them to your credit report; credit scoring company FICO then factors those payments into your scores or uses them to calculate a score if you don't have one.
- Rent reporting: On-time rent payments are viewed positively, but most landlords do not report them. Rent-reporting services are a way to have them added to your credit report. You can sign up independently or check to see if your landlord reports rent. (A caution: Do this only if all your payments have been on time.)
- Student loans: If you borrowed money for school and have started paying it back, that student loan activity may be on your credit reports and will help you become scoreable.
- Car loans: Car loans can be relatively easy to qualify for without strong credit, because the lender has collateral—property they could take back if you don't pay as agreed. Without strong credit, however, you may be charged a high interest rate on a car loan.
- Credit-builder loans: Credit-builder loans exist to help people get a track record of managing credit. Most of them work like a traditional loan in reverse: The money you borrow goes into a savings account that you cannot access until you repay the loan. You may receive nominal interest for the savings account, but it is typically less than the interest you pay on the loan. You can find credit-builder loans at some credit unions or online, but make sure the lender reports to the credit bureaus (not all do). Also check on fees; they can vary significantly.
- Using a cosigner: If you need a cosigner to get approved for a loan because you don't have a credit score, your score isn't high enough or your income isn't high enough for you to be approved on your own, the cosigned loan will appear on your and your cosigner's credit report.
- Authorized user: As an authorized user on a credit card account in good standing, the account's status and on-time payments are added to your credit report. If you are unable to qualify for a credit card on your own, a friend or family member adding you to their account as an authorized user could help your score. You don't have to use the credit card or even have a physical card for it to help.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Credit Score?
Most scoring systems can generate credit scores within three to six months. FICO, whose scores are used by 90% of top lenders, may require a credit history of six months. VantageScore®, FICO's competitor, can generate a credit score with as little as one month of history. To be safe, assume it may take up to six months of account history before a credit score can be calculated
Best Practices for Building Credit
Over time, good credit habits result in good credit scores. For that reason, you'll want to guard against mistakes. That means:
Pay Bills on Time Every Time
A payment that is more than 30 days late will be reported to the credit bureaus. Late payments can badly damage credit scores.
Consider Getting Rent Payments Reported
If you routinely pay rent on time, you may be able to use that to improve your scores.
Choose Payments You Can Afford
Money can be stretched only so far. Payments that push your budget should be made only if you have a plan to take care of unanticipated expenses that can easily turn into late payments. If payments are too high, see if the loan can be renegotiated or refinanced to avoid late payments.
Check Your Credit Reports
Checking credit reports can help you spot inaccuracies that could be holding down your score, or they can alert you to potential fraud or identity theft. You can dispute errors to get inaccurate information removed or updated.
The Bottom Line
You can have a credit score without a credit card. Products like credit-builder loans and other options exist to help credit newbies get on the credit radar.
If you're not sure if you have a credit report or score, Experian offers a free way to check. If no record of your credit can be found, you can have a credit file created with Experian Go™, a credit-building resource offered through the Experian app. Once Go is set up, you can begin to have financial records added using Experian Boost, which can help generate a score.
On-time payments for student loans, rent, utilities and more can help you demonstrate that you are a good credit risk and can help you establish a good credit score. If you prefer not to have a credit card, it doesn't have to stand in the way of a good credit score.