Your credit score is used for more than just a credit card or loan approval. Companies use it to set home and auto insurance rates, determine whether or not you’ll be hired for a job, and approve apartment leases.
Unfortunately, many people believe the only way to build credit is by using a credit card, but that’s not the case.
Because not everyone has access to a credit card, I’ve compiled the following list of ways to build credit without relying on plastic.
Table of Contents
- 8 Ways to Build Credit Without a Credit Card
- 1. Get “Credit” for Paying Your Utility Bills
- 2. Take Out a Credit Builder Loan
- 3. Get Your Rent Reported on Your Credit Bureau
- 4. Build Credit By Paying Your Bills
- 5. Become an Authorized User
- 6. Take Out a Personal Loan
- 7. Pay Your Existing Loans on Time
- 8. Consider Getting a Car Loan
- Credit Report Best Practices
- Final Thoughts
Using a credit card can be an excellent way to build credit. However, credit cards can also be problematic if they’re not managed properly.
If you’ve been in a situation where you’ve had to pay down credit card debt, gotten in trouble with a credit card, or just plain want to avoid the possibility of that happening, here are some alternative ways to build credit.
1. Get “Credit” for Paying Your Utility Bills
You can build your credit score by paying your utility bills through Experian Boost. With Experian Boost, you can have your paid utility bills added to your monthly credit report. Eligible bills include Netflix, Hulu, HBO, other streaming services, your phone bill, your electric bill, and more.
Experian Boost is free, so there’s no risk of using the service and then canceling it afterward. Visit the Experian Boost page to learn more.
2. Take Out a Credit Builder Loan
Credit builder loans provide a unique way for people to build and repair their credit and save more money. If you’re one of those people with little to no credit or poor credit, getting credit to improve your credit score may prove difficult.
Credit builder loans are designed for people with little to no credit or poor credit. Here’s how they work:
- You pay a certain amount to the credit builder company each month.
- The credit builder company sets that money aside for you and reports each payment as an on-time payment to the credit bureau.
- At the end of the loan “term,” you get the money you’ve paid back, minus fees and interest charges.
Self is one company that provides credit builder loans. With Self, you can choose a monthly payment amount between $25 all the way up to $150 per month. All loan terms are 24 months. Learn more in our Self Review.
3. Get Your Rent Reported on Your Credit Bureau
Some companies will report your on-time rent payments to one or more of the three major credit bureaus.
If you can partner with a company that will do that, you can build your credit simply by paying your rent.
See each individual site for details.
Another option for getting your rent payments reported to the credit bureau is to use the Bilt Mastercard to pay your rent. Yes, this is a credit card. But it’s a credit card that allows you to pay your rent with the card and gives you reward points for doing so.
Learn more in our Bilt Review.
4. Build Credit By Paying Your Bills
StellarFi issues you a bill pay card where you connect all of your auto payments, such as streaming services, utility payments, and more.
StellarFi ensures all of the bills are paid automatically and on time and that the payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus.
From there, the payments to StellarFi are automatically authorized from your linked bank account. There are three different membership plans to use StellarFi, starting at $4.99 per month.
5. Become an Authorized User
Another way to build credit is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.
Note that you would likely have to agree not to have access to the card. Preferably, you would become an authorized user on a card that belongs to someone close to you, such as a parent.
If that person uses their cards responsibly and keeps a high credit score, you may benefit by having your name associated with one of their cards.
Ask a parent, sibling, or someone close to you if they would add you as an authorized user. They don’t have to give you full access to the card.
6. Take Out a Personal Loan
Another option is to consider taking out a personal loan if you need one. Personal loans have limited funds and don’t revolve like a credit card, so once you pay it off, you won’t risk accumulating debt on that account again.
Talk with your local bank or credit union about taking out a personal loan. You could even take out the loan and never use the money, stashing the loan proceeds into a savings account and making loan payments from the savings account.
7. Pay Your Existing Loans on Time
If you have existing loans, like student loans or personal loans, be sure that you’re paying them on time. Making on-time payments accounts for over one-third of the weight of your credit score determination.
If making timely payments is difficult, consider setting your loans up for auto-payment from your checking account.
8. Consider Getting a Car Loan
A car loan is another way to build credit without a credit card. It demonstrates an ability to handle larger loan amounts and make timely payments. Remember to set up automatic payments to ensure the loan is paid on time each month.
Credit Report Best Practices
In addition to the credit-building tips shared above, the following best practices can help you maintain a good credit score.
Check Your Credit Report Regularly
Regularly checking your credit report can alert you to errors or fraudulent activity that threatens to derail your score. It also helps to keep your credit top of mind, and as they say, what gets measured gets improved.
You can get a free copy of your credit report every year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
They will allow you to view and print out your credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion once per year. When you get your report, review it thoroughly, and work with each credit bureau to repair or remove any errors.
For more frequent access to your credit report and score, consider signing up with a credit score app.
Keep Your Debt-to-Income Ratio Low
Keeping your debt-to-income ratio down is another way to help ensure your credit score gets and stays high.
To calculate your DTI, divide the amount of revolving debt you have by the total issued credit line amounts.
For example, let’s say you have three credit cards:
- A Mastercard with a $5,000 limit and a $3,000 balance
- A Visa card with a $3,000 limit and a $2,000 balance
- A Discover card with a $10,000 limit and a $1,000 balance
Your total issued credit card limit is $18,000. Your credit card balances total $6,000. When you divide 6,000 by 18,000, you get 0.33. That means you have a DTI of 33%.
Experts recommend a DTI of no more than 30% to maximize your credit score from a DTI perspective.
However, there are other factors that affect how your credit score is calculated. Paying your bills on time, having a long history of managing credit well, and having a balanced mix of credit types (i.e., loans and credit cards) will also help build your credit score.
It’s true that using a credit card use is one of the quickest and easiest ways to start building credit, but it’s nice to know that it’s not the only option.
If you’re struggling to qualify for a credit card or you’d prefer not to use one at all, try one or more of the alternative credit-building methods I shared above. It may take some time, but your efforts will pay off.
Lastly, if you haven’t ordered a free copy of your credit report, that’s a great place to start.
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About Laurie Blank
Laurie Blank is a blogger, freelance writer, and mother of four. She’s psyched about teaching others how to manage their money in a way that aligns with their values and has been quoted in Bankrate.
She’s a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, Minnesota (also licensed in Wisconsin too) and has been freelance writing for over six years.
She shares powerful insights on her blog, Great Passive Income Ideas, that will show you how you can create passive income sources of your own.
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.