Graduating from college is a huge accomplishment. You are joining the workforce, making money to pay your own way, living on your own.
Now is the time to start building your credit so that you can buy the big ticket items that make the American dream such as a car and potentially even a house or condo.
Start building credit early
Did you get a credit card as a student? If so, are you paying it off each month? One of the best ways to build a credit history is to have a credit card that is paid off each month. Credit scores are affected by how high of a balance your card gets. So make sure to keep the balance during each month below 30% of the card's limit. For example, if the card has a $1000, keep the balance below $300. One easy way to do this is to only use the card for a few purchases a month, and promptly pay off the card each month.
Make your loans work for you
Most graduates today have student loans. They have become an almost unavoidable rite of passage to get through college. If you have them, you may be building your credit and not even knowing it. The first and most important question is, are you paying your loans on time? Student loans count towards building a strong credit history. All those on-time payments demonstrate your diligence in making on-time payments. Look into setting up automatic payments with your lender. It’s an easy way to guarantee on-time payments each month. Most lenders provide an incentive in the form of lower interest rate just for signing up for automatic payments.
If you are starting fresh, two places you may want to look is to open a secured credit card and to open a store credit card. Secured credit cards are credit cards that are backed by a deposit from you to the card issuer. Generally, this deposit is around $200-500. Be careful to check the fees on secured credit cards as some have no fees and some have large fees. Also, you can open a card at your favorite store. Historically, store cards were not good for your credit history as they had no payment history on your credit report yet if you were late the issuer would report the delinquency on your card. This has changed in recent years as store card payment histories have been added to credit reports. One advantage of store cards is that they are generally easier to get and may have lower interest rates. One caveat, as with any credit card, don’t forget to pay the balance in full each month. It maximizes the card’s positive effect on your credit as well as keeps you from having to pay any interest.