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Getting your first credit account

How to establish credit

There are a lot of benefits to having good credit. Lenders aren’t the only ones who look at your credit history — employers, insurance companies, landlords, cell phone providers, and others may check your credit history before they make decisions about you.

Why is credit important?

Building credit is a journey that takes time, so it’s best to start sooner rather than later.

Why credit is important (video)

How do I get credit?

Learn the single-most important thing you can do to make sure you build your credit wisely.

How to get credit (video)

Key steps to building credit

To build a credit history, you first must know which activities impact your credit score and report[LINK ID #3]. A credit report is a record of your credit activity and how responsibly you’ve paid your credit accounts over time.

Become an authorized user

You might benefit from someone else’s good credit by becoming an authorized user on a trusted person’s credit card. Keep in mind that not all lenders report authorized user accounts to the credit bureaus, so make sure to find out if your credit card company does.

Consider a cosigner or co-applicant

Applying with a cosigner or co-applicant may help you qualify or acquire better credit terms, but remember that your cosigner or co-applicant also takes responsibility for payment. That means the credit history will be reflected on both of your credit reports.

Apply for a college credit card

If you’re a student, look for credit cards for college students. They may have easier qualification requirements, and may help you build credit while you’re in school.

Get a secured card

With a secured card, you can start building a solid credit history. Simply deposit an amount into a collateral account and your credit limit will usually equal that amount. Keep in mind that the money in your collateral account won’t be available until you’ve repaid the balance in full. Wells Fargo offers secured cards starting at $300.  

Apply for a secured loan

With a secured loan, you use your savings account as collateral. A secured loan can help you continue building your savings and take care of your immediate expenses. Keep in mind that the money in your collateral account won’t be available until you’ve repaid the loan in full.

Consider gas and retailer credit cards

Gas and retailer credit cards may also help establish credit, and they might be easier to acquire than bank-issued credit cards. Be aware that they may have different terms than other cards, so make sure to review them carefully and make your payments on time.

 Tip 

Having a checking or savings account helps the bank know you and how you manage your accounts. This can be helpful when applying for your first credit account.

Cosigner or co-applicant

A cosigner is someone who lends their credit to help the primary borrower qualify for a loan and is responsible for repayment if the primary borrower fails to make payments. A co-applicant applies jointly with the primary borrower and shares responsibility for the repayment of the loan.