By Rocky Fong
Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co.
A good credit score is a critical part of a healthy financial future. Having strong credit can make it easier to get a car loan, mortgage, an apartment, and even some jobs. Because lenders use your credit score to help assess your reliability as a borrower, a high credit score can help you qualify for lower loan interest rates—saving you money over the course of your lifetime.
There’s no fast track to building credit or improving your current score, but you can help make the process much easier. These five steps can help:
- Find out your current credit score. Most adults already have a credit score that can be obtained by requesting a credit report and reviewing it carefully. You’re entitled to one free report each year and can request it at AnnualCreditReport.com. Chase Credit Journey® can also help you manage, monitor and protect your credit.
- Apply for a credit card. If you’re starting to build credit, credit cards can speed up the process if used responsibly. Since credit card companies report activity to credit agencies, healthy activity can be a huge help when it comes to building your credit. Student and other new-to-credit credit cards are a good option for those who are looking to build credit. Establishing a credit score and history requires having an account open for at least six months, so be patient and diligent about practicing healthy credit habits.
- Address debt impacting your score. It’s expected for consumers to have some debt, but significant credit card debt and missed loan payments can have a major impact on your credit score. Pay bills on time and don’t overspend—maxing out a credit card or coming close to your limit will lower your score. If you’re working to rebuild your credit, pay down debt as much as possible and catch up on past-due bills. Also be careful about searching for new lines of credit while carrying significant debt—lenders could see this as a risk and your score could drop.
- Practice good financial habits in other areas. Establishing a savings and checking account, renting an apartment, and paying utility and other bills on time are among the activities that help show lenders you’re fiscally responsible. While these actions might not directly affect your credit score, they’re beneficial practices lenders will notice when considering your application for a car loan, mortgage or other major life goal.
- Help your children build credit. Opening checking and savings accounts for your children can help teach them about everything from depositing your paycheck to easily paying your bills—the basic building blocks of your financial infrastructure. You can also consider making your teenager an authorized user on your credit card account to assist them in establishing their own positive credit history. Take this approach if you consistently pay your credit card bill in full and on time, as late payments can also impact your child’s credit report, in addition to your own.
Building and rebuilding credit takes time and patience, but the results are worth it. A solid credit history can help you build generational wealth, reach your financial goals and establish long-term fiscal stability for you and your family.
For more information on the basics of building credit, visit chase.com/personal/credit-cards/education.