7 Ways to Build Credit if You Have No Credit History

A group of students looking at a laptop, learning about building credit.

To view important disclosures about the Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account & Debit Card, visit experian.com/legal.

Finding a lender to approve you for a loan can be an uphill battle if you're new to credit, or "credit invisible." Credit invisible consumers don't have enough payment history reported to the credit bureaus to produce a credit score.

It's no secret that credit is key when it comes time to finance big purchases, such as a car or a home. But even if you don't see yourself borrowing in the immediate future, having no credit history can be a barrier to accomplishing everyday tasks. Credit can come into play when you're renting an apartment, opening utility accounts, buying insurance and even looking for a job.

Fortunately, it's possible to build good credit from scratch—and getting started today could put you in a better position to meet your financial goals of tomorrow. Here are seven ways to start building credit now.

1. Become an Authorized User

If you don't have a history of managing credit accounts, it can be difficult to get approved for loans or credit cards. Becoming an authorized user on a family member's or friend's credit card is one way to build credit that doesn't involve applying for your own credit card. As an authorized user, you'll be added to the primary cardholder's account and get your own card you can use to make purchases. The credit card account, and its payment history, will appear on your credit report, helping you establish a credit history and score.

Before asking a family member or friend to add you as an authorized user, it's important to make sure that the lender reports authorized user accounts to the credit bureaus. If payments aren't reported, this strategy may not do you much good.

2. Try a Credit-Building Debit Card

If you're thinking about opening a new checking account, the Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account & Debit Card can help you build credit without debt by automatically linking to Experian Boost®ø, which gives you credit for eligible bill payments after three months of payments. Payment history is the most important factor in calculating your FICO® Score , so Experian Boost could help you make strides in your credit.

Beyond connecting you with credit-building features, the Experian Smart Money Digital Checking Account has other benefits. You'll also pay no monthly fees for Experian Smart Money, have access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs worldwide** and could receive your paychecks up to two days early when you enroll in direct deposit.

You can get an Experian Smart Money Account through a free or paid Experian membership, which also gives you access to your FICO® Score, Experian credit report and more. See terms at experian.com/legal.

3. Apply for a Secured Credit Card

Applying for your own secured credit card can be an excellent way to build credit. A secured card is typically easier to qualify for than a traditional unsecured card because it requires a deposit upfront that "secures" your credit line.

The deposit you'll need to provide varies depending on the credit card. Credit limits can also differ, but they are often equal to the amount of your security deposit. Some secured cards may charge an annual fee and other additional fees. If you're considering a secured card, shop around to see which credit card best fits your needs. Experian can help you find secured cards that may be right for you.

Once you establish a positive payment history on the secured card, you may get your deposit back and the opportunity to upgrade to an unsecured card.

4. Apply for a Credit-Builder Loan

A credit-builder loan is a type of installment loan designed to help borrowers build up a positive payment history. Unlike a personal loan, where borrowers receive a lump sum of money and pay it back over time, a credit-builder loan deposits monthly payments into an account each month.

Beyond helping you build up a positive payment history, credit-builder loans have the added benefit of leaving with a chunk of savings. At the end of the loan term, the borrower gets their money back—minus any interest or fees the lender charges.

Rather than reviewing your credit history, some lenders may look at your banking history or income to determine whether to grant you approval. That could make these types of loans a good option for borrowers with no credit. Missing a payment damages your score, so you should only pursue this option if you're confident you'll be able to afford to make on-time monthly payments.

5. Apply for a Store Card

Credit cards offered by stores are generally easier to qualify for than other traditional unsecured credit cards. If you frequent a certain store often, signing up for the associated store card could help you build credit while you do shopping you planned to do anyway.

One thing to be aware of, however: Store cards tend to charge higher interest rates than other cards. If you decide to open a store card to build credit, the best strategy is to pay off the entire balance each month. This way, you can avoid high finance charges.

6. Have Rental Payments Reported

If you pay rent on time each month, those payments could also potentially help you build credit. Like utility payments, rental payments are typically not included in your credit report. But you can ask your landlord or property management company to report your on-time payments. You could also get credit for rental payments using Experian Boost.

7. Establish Credit With Experian Go™

Experian Go is a free program offered to consumers with no credit report. It allows you to sign up for a membership account and create an Experian credit report so you can begin your journey to credit visibility.

Building Credit Takes Time

Building credit from scratch usually doesn't happen overnight. After opening your first credit account, it could take several months before enough payment history is reported to generate a credit score. That's why it's a good idea to start working on your credit before you actually need it.

While working on your credit, remember that slow and steady wins the race. If you keep account balances low and pay on time consistently every month, you'll be on your way to attaining the credit you need to achieve your financial goals.