You can build your credit at 19 by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account or by getting your own credit card. You can get your own credit card when you turn 18 as long as you have an independent source of income. You can also build credit without a credit card by getting a loan – student loans, auto loans, and most other types of loans will help build your credit if you make your payments on time. You can also get a credit builder loan, which is designed for people with limited or bad credit.
If you don’t have income, the easiest way to start building credit at 19 is by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account. This doesn’t require a credit check or independent income. Authorized users are not responsible for paying the credit card bill. But if the primary cardholder pays the bill on time and uses the credit card responsibly, any authorized users on the account will build credit history.
Getting your own credit card at 19 will require independent income, as you can’t use someone else’s income that you have reasonable access to (i.e. a parent or spouse’s income) on a credit application until you turn 21. Building credit at 19 is a good idea, but limited credit history could bar you from getting approved for some credit cards on your own. That said, there are plenty of starter credit cards and student credit cards that will increase your approval odds as someone with a thin credit file. Secured credit cards are another great choice.
Taking out a loan can also help build your credit, if you qualify for one. There are lots of types of loans out there, and they all require you to either provide proof of income or have someone else cosign for the loan. Getting approved for an auto loan, a student loan, or a personal loan will build your credit. Credit builder loans are upside-down loans, where you make payments to a lender in order to get the amount of the loan back when it’s paid off. These are generally offered by smaller banks, credit unions, and online lenders. No matter which loan you get, good information will be reported to credit bureaus every month as long as you pay on time.
However, building credit isn’t just about finding a financial institution that’s willing to extend you a loan or line of credit with your limited credit history. It’s also about managing your credit well. Those just starting out in the realm of credit cards should take time to learn the basics of building credit. A credit card won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to use it properly. And using credit properly – keeping your balance low and paying at least the minimum payment on time – is what eventually produces an excellent credit score.
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