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Improving Credit Score Without a Credit Card

Dear Experian,

How can you improve your credit score if you don’t have any credit cards?

– HQB

Dear HQB,

Credit cards aren’t required to have great credit scores, but having one or two can help build your credit scores a bit faster.

When you use a credit card you decide how much to charge and how much to repay each month. Because you make those decisions, a credit card gives some additional insight into how you make independent credit management decisions.
For that reason, a credit card or two can weigh a bit more heavily in credit score calculations.

Building Credit Without a Credit Card

You can build a good credit history and have strong credit scores, without a credit card. Consistently making on time payments on installment loans, such as a car loan, demonstrates that you are a reliable borrower.

A rich history of on-time installment loan payments will be reflected in good credit scores, even if you don’t have a credit card.

Qualifying for A Credit Card Account

Here are some options if you would like to open a credit card account but have been unable to qualify for a traditional card on your own:

  • Open a joint account. If you have a close friend or family member with established credit, ask if they would be willing to cosign for you. As joint account holders, the account will appear on both of your credit reports and impact both of your credit scores, so be mindful of the risk your cosigner is taking. Make all payments on time and keep balances low. In time, you may be able to qualify for an account in your name only.
  • Ask to be added as an authorized user. You can also ask a friend or family member to add you as an authorized user to an account they already have. As an authorized user, you can make purchases on the card, but you won’t be responsible for repaying any debt. Although many credit card lenders report authorized user accounts to the credit reporting agencies, some may not, so be sure to ask before being added.
  • Apply for a secured credit card account. With a secured account, you put a certain amount of money down as a deposit in exchange for the ability to charge against the card. If you make all your payments on time and use the account responsibly, the lender may be willing to convert the account to traditional unsecured credit card account after a period of time.
  • Thanks for asking.
    – The “Ask Experian” team