You are in college – or recently graduated. Your biggest concern is not over-drafting your bank account, I get it. It’s hard enough to keep any money in your account never-the-less worry about building your credit score. When I was in college, I was careless with my money, I hardly paid attention. My biggest concerns were if I had enough money to buy new clothes for the weekends at Nordstrom, if I could buy my friend’s tequila shots, and if I could work enough shifts at the Improv comedy club (which recently closed in Orlando) to cover those things. I wasn’t thinking about being responsible or saving money and I definitely wasn’t thinking about my credit score. As I’ll explain in a forthcoming blog about my money story, I didn’t realize I had basically zero credit until a few years after graduation. I choose not to pay attention. Because of that, it took me years to build my credit from nothing and to make it a solid credit score. If I could go back in time, I would have started paying attention while I was in college. Below is a list of things that I did to improve my credit score. I want to make sure I disclose that these tips MAY work for you and MIGHT improve your credit score overtime:
1. Go check your credit, it’s free. I always heard the commercials for resources that help you check your credit score, but I never actually went to the websites to check my credit. Go do it, it takes seconds. Click HERE to check your score right now. We can’t focus on lifting your score if we don’t know what it is we are trying to lift!
2. Open a Credit Card in College. I know this sounds scary but if you can open a credit card in college under your name (with a small credit limit), you can start to pay bills and small expenses on the card and get in the habit of paying it off each month. Another option here is to have your parents sign up for a credit card in your name. This might open up options regarding what type of card you can get.
3. Keep a Close Eye on Balances. I have lots of friends who got in trouble in college because they signed up for credit cards and just started swiping them everywhere. Some are still trying to pay off the debt. Make sure you can keep your spending under control. In this case, opening a credit card is supposed to help build credit – not ruin it.
4. Keep Cards Open. Instead of immediately closing credit cards when you get a new one, keep old accounts open. Our friends at Credit Karma suggest that this can actually help improve your credit score – just make sure all outstanding balances are handled.
5. Handle all Debt Promptly. If you have any outstanding bills or collection notices, handle them promptly. When I was in college, I had to go to the emergency room for a hand injury. I didn’t handle the hospital bill on time and it ended up going to collections. It stayed on my credit report for a long time. Had I known it would poorly affect my credit, I probably wouldn’t have ignored it for so long. Handle these items quickly so they don't hurt your credit score.
6. Keep Your Billing Information Up-to-Date. One way to prevent debt or missed payments is to make sure that every time you move, you change your information immediately for all of your regular bills. In college, we tend to move around a lot. This is a quick way to miss bills and/or payments. This results in debt, which can negatively affect your credit score.
This blog was sponsored by Credit Karma.