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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.

What’s the best time to get your first credit account?

Before applying for your first credit account, you will want to be confident that you will be able to afford any charges you make and handle your credit responsibly. This means that you shouldn’t charge more than you can afford to pay and will remember to pay your bill on time each and every month.

Understanding the basic requirements for credit

Credit providers must follow specific Federal laws when granting credit. This means if you do not have a credit history or steady, verifiable income, you may want to work with your bank to determine the best way to work towards obtaining your first credit account.

Key steps to building credit

To build a credit history, you first must know which activities impact your credit score and report. A credit report is a record of your credit activity and how responsibly you’ve paid your credit accounts over time. The following are potential ways to start building your credit, but are not always available with all credit providers.

Become an authorized user

Becoming an authorized user on a trusted person’s credit card may help you build your credit history if you are at least 18 years old. However, this also means that account's credit history might be reflected on your credit report as well.

Consider a cosigner or co-applicant

Applying for a loan 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. Some lenders offer student credit cards specifically designed for students, you will need to prove you are enrolled in college and meet specific requirements. These student credit cards may have easier qualification standards, and may help you build credit while you’re in school.

Get a secured card or a secured loan

Consider a secured credit card or loan as you work to build your credit history. While Wells Fargo does not offer these products, some financial institutions may offer secured credit card or secured loan options, which may be an alternative to help build your credit history when used responsibly. These work like any other loan or credit card but require some form of collateral. Keep in mind, with a secured credit account if you don’t pay the terms as agreed, you may be at risk of losing your collateral.

Consider gas and retailer credit cards

Gas and retailer credit cards may also help establish credit, and they might be easier to acquire than other traditional 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.


Having a checking or savings account helps the bank know you and how you manage your accounts. This may 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.