5 ways to get a credit score

Young woman looks at a credit card while contemplating 5 ways to get a credit score Young woman looks at a credit card while contemplating 5 ways to get a credit score Image:

In a Nutshell

If you’re new to credit, it can be tough to know where to start. Getting a credit score won’t happen overnight, but it is possible.

We generally make money when you get a product (like a credit card or loan) through our platform, but we don’t let that cloud our editorial opinions. Learn more about how we keep this compensation from affecting our editorial views.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Getting credit is a bit of a catch-22.

You need good credit to qualify for many of the best credit cards and loans, but how can you establish credit without a credit card?

In brief, you’ll need to establish an account that reports to one or more of the three main credit bureaus.

We’re here to help. It takes time and patience, but it is possible to build your credit from scratch and get a credit score. Here are five ways to get started:

  1. Ask for your bills to be reported.
  2. Apply for a secured or store credit card.
  3. Become an authorized user.
  4. Apply for a loan.
  5. Pay your rent on time.

1. Ask for your bills to be reported.

You might be one step closer to building credit than you realize.

Do you have a cellphone? Do you pay for utilities like water, electricity, gas or trash? Do you watch cable TV? Consider asking these service providers to report your payment history to the credit bureaus. You should also make sure to pay your bills on time.

2. Apply for a secured or store credit card.

Making on-time credit card payments is a key way to build credit. If you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, a secured card or a store card could help you start building up a history of on-time payments.

Secured cards

A secured credit card is often recommended as an entry-level card if you’re new to credit. These cards require a cash deposit that serves as collateral in case you miss a payment. Try to avoid this: Not only could you lose your deposit, but it could also take a toll on your credit-building efforts.

On the other hand, if you use the card responsibly, make on-time payments and pay off your balance in full each month, you may be able to build credit and eventually upgrade to an unsecured card (and get your deposit back).

Learn more: How does a secured credit card work?

One secured card to consider is the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, which has no annual fee and reports regularly to the three major credit bureaus, which use factors such as your payment history to help calculate your credit scores.

From our partner

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

Store cards

Store credit cards can help you save money at your favorite stores and they may also help you establish a track record of handling money responsibly. But beware of the high interest rates these cards may charge if you don’t pay off your balance in full each month. They may also have low credit limits, which could affect your credit utilization rate.

Paying off your entire balance on time each month can help you avoid interest charges. And keep in mind, you don’t need to carry a balance on your credit cards to build credit.

Credit Karma's guide to retail credit cards

3. Become an authorized user.

In addition to opening your own credit card — or if you’re not ready to do that — a trusted friend or relative who has a longer credit history and makes regular on-time payments might be willing to make you an authorized user on one of their accounts.

Most credit card companies will report information from accounts you’re an authorized user on to the credit bureaus, too. So long as the account is in good standing, this can positively impact multiple credit factors that go into your credit score, like payment history, age of credit history and number of total accounts.

The downside is the primary account holder is on the hook for every penny you spend. And if they don’t pay on time, it could hurt the both of your credit scores.

Keep reading: What you should know about being an authorized user on credit card

4. Apply for a loan.

Making on-time loan payments is another way to build your credit.

Auto loan

Buying a car can help you build credit, as long as you make on-time payments on your auto loan. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to buy a car solely for the sake of building your credit, so make sure it’s a necessary purchase before asking the dealer to hand over those keys.

Personal loan

Personal loans and peer-to-peer loans also help you build credit, but be wary of high interest rates.

Secured loan

A secured loan, also known as a credit-builder loan, works like a secured credit card. You deposit money upfront that is used as collateral if you default on your payments.

5. Pay your rent on time.

If you rent an apartment but your landlord doesn’t report your positive payment history to the credit reporting agencies, check out services like RentTrack that report your on-time payments to all three credit bureaus for a small fee.

Bottom line

Building credit takes time and patience. If you’re having trouble getting started, don’t be afraid to ask a trusted friend or relative for help. And keep in mind, you may be able to build credit by having monthly payments you already make reported to the credit bureaus.

Confused about credit? We're here to help
Editorial Note: The opinions you read here come from our editorial team. While compensation may affect which companies we write about and products we review, our marketing partners don't review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Our content is accurate (to the best of our knowledge) when we initially post it, but we don't guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. You can visit the company's website to get complete details about a product. See an error in an article? Use this form to report it to our editorial team. For questions about your Credit Karma account, please submit a help request to our support team.