Millennials are rapidly taking over the workforce. With this newfound independence come new, unfamiliar responsibilities that need proper attention. Among the most valuable investments that millennials should be looking into are credit cards.
It all boils down to credit. A bad credit score can affect and limit multiple aspects of your day-to-day life, including your ability to borrow money, rent an apartment and even secure employment opportunities. And – no – avoiding credit cards to bypass debt is not a clever way to protect your credit score. On the contrary, no credit activity is virtually the same as a bad score and the longer you wait to build your credit, the longer it will take to improve it.
Fear not. In the spirit of Credit Education Month this March, Charity Charge is here to help you navigate this foreign territory with a few recommendations:
- Understand your credit report: Starting from scratch does not mean your credit report is a blank slate. You will want to make sure everything is accurate from the get-go. We recommend you use AnnualCreditReport.com to access your free annual reports from the three nationwide credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. AnnualCreditReport.com also provides useful information about navigating your credit report and understanding credit as a whole.
- Don’t go crazy: While credit cards with travel rewards and other perks are very attractive, it is unrealistic to be approved for one of these higher-end cards without establishing good credit beforehand. Also, applying for more credit cards after a rejected out-of-reach application is another way you may be unconsciously damaging your score. So our advice is don’t go crazy: start small and build your way up. Student or secured cards are a great way to begin building a good score when you have average credit. After about six months of sustained good credit habits, request for an upgrade.
- Timely, Aware, Regular: Keeping good credit isn’t hard, honestly. It’s all about creating healthy habits around your credit card usage. Pay your bills on time, be wary of getting too close to your credit limit (expert advice: don’t ever exceed 30% of your total credit limit), and use your credit card regularly for a long period of time. All of these will ensure your length of payment history and credit utilization align to give you an excellent score and make you a reliable potential borrower, say, for a lender. NerdWallet is an excellent source if you want to learn more about credit cards and building credit.
View your credit score as the GPA you would use to apply for jobs—the higher the score, the more attractive you become as a candidate. The same works for lenders and banks, which use your score as a measure of your financial trustworthiness and reliability. Make these credit recommendations the norm and the benefits will follow you a long way. Remember: it is always easier to build good credit from scratch than having to rebuild it after a series of bad financial decisions.