Whether it’s finding a home for your growing family, financing your dream car, entering a career or even attempting to acquire a decent rate on car insurance, everything in our lives revolves around credit. No matter what you do, someone is going to be viewing your past choices to asses if you are a liability in your future endeavors and they could be the deciding factor in whether you are living your life or just surviving. I’m not saying this to scare everyone or say that without good credit you can’t live the life you are meant to live, but that acquiring good credit could provide opportunities that may seem out of reach!
So, I guess its time to get a credit card and start building my credit! Before we get overzealous with the power we have been given with this seemingly divine piece of plastic, let’s take a look into a few ways to reliably start building and maintain our credit.
Good Credit Starts with Good Financial Habits
Many people are trapped in credit purgatory, looking for debt consolidators that can act as magical credit faeries to reset their credit scores after they have fallen behind on payments. If you can’t establish good financial management habits, then the attempt to establish better credit will be futile. When building a house, you must start with a strong foundation and the same goes for credit. Some great financial habits that can help you improve your creditworthiness are:
- Record every transaction. I know it seems like a pain to keep everything logged, but in the end, you can observe how much you spend down to the last cent. If you wait to record your transactions, you may lose details along the way.
- Round up expenses. Say you go out to eat and your bill comes up to $24.14, you should list the transaction as $25.
- Round down income. When recording your transactions, you should round down your income. If you got paid $483.23 for the week, round it down to $483.00. This way you’ll have a few extra bucks when you balance your accounts. If your hard-core round down to $480.00 to save a little more and build the habit!
Start with a Secured Credit Card
Now that you have a good record of your finances, you can show your bank that you have a stable income and can responsibly manage your finances. This puts you in a better position to apply for a secured credit card and shows that you are low risk.
When you acquire your secured card, the bank will require you to deposit the limit of the card into an account. So, if the discussed limit of your card is $500, then you will deposit $500 into the secured account. When you make a purchase with this, the $500 is not touched (unlike a debit card that allows you to withdraw the money in your account). The purpose of the money you deposited in the secured account is to provide collateral if you default on paying off your balance.
Pay it Off on Time
Now that you have your secured credit card and you have made a few purchases with it, make sure that you have your balances paid off on time each month. The credit card companies make money from the interest charged for late payments and we are trying to establish and raise our credit!
Since you are beginning to establish credit, your interest rates are going to be pretty high compared to someone with established, good credit. In the end would you rather pay the final $20 that was left on the account, or $200 after the absurd interest rates? Some credit companies could also charge you a late fee or reduce your limit if you fail to pay your balance in full when it’s due!
Don’t Use Your Credit for Emergencies
Now, an emergency is classified differently among different people. Some classify an emergency as not having gas left in the car a few days before pay day and they are running on empty. Others classify an emergency as a new plasma screen TV going on sale at their local department store and the sale ends before payday. Learn to use your credit card for when it would be more stressful to pay with cash, don’t have an ATM around and can’t pull out cash or small day to day transactions. If you use your credit card for just “emergencies” you may find yourself slipping into a situation where everything is an emergency and spur of the moment purchases will become more frequent. Not having an 80-inch plasma TV to watch “Stranger Things” on is not an emergency!
Strive to be Creditworthy
Credit cards can have quite a lot of perks and pros associated with them; however, it could send you into bankruptcy if you aren’t vigilant in how you handle them. Once you have acquired a good credit score it may be tempting to open many additional cards because it’s easy for banks to lend to you now. You should strive to be credit worthy and push on till your financial freedom. If you are credit worthy, you’ll have a good credit score and can enjoy your transactions and purchases without having to pull out your journal to log everything. Just like working out to get fit or building your career for a future, establishing and maintain good credit does not happen overnight, but in the end will help you achieve the life you know you are meant to live!