Having little or no credit doesn’t have to mean your financial future is in jeopardy, according to West Virginia University Extension Service’s financial expert, who says it’s never too early, or too late, to start building a good credit score.
“Essentially, your credit score is a numerical representation of how reliable a company finds you to be,” Ron Hatfield, WVU Extension Service’s family financial specialist, explained. “The higher the credit score, the more likely a lender is to trust that you have the ability to pay back money they lend to you.”
Problems can arise when there’s no credit history on which lenders can determine a reliability factor.
“Young adults who thought they were being responsible by not applying for credit cards are finding that without a credit history it becomes difficult to apply for
anything from a loan to credit card,” Hatfield said.
But, according to Hatfield, it’s never too late to begin building or repairing credit responsibly.
First, make sure that your current obligations, from utility bills to student loans, are paid on time. Establishing a pattern of late payments or being turned over to a collection agency can result in a blemish on your credit history that is hard to remove.
If a creditor isn’t willing to take a risk on giving you a card, consider a secured credit card as an alternative. A secured card is one that is backed by your money that is held in a bank account. The creditor knows the debt is covered by this account and allows one with no or poor credit to use the card freely.
Another option for obtaining a credit line is to have someone with a high credit score agree to co-sign on a loan or purchase for you. This ensures the lender that the co-signer will be responsible for your payments if you fall through.
“People tend to turn to family members to co-sign with them on loans, but proceed with caution,” Hatfield said. “Relationships can quickly become strained when one party owes the other money and nobody wants to be left with a hefty payment on another’s behalf.”
Given the possibility of unfavorable outcomes, Hatfield recommends this approach only as a final attempt at establishing credit when all other options have failed.
Hatfield says the best advice is to formulate a credit plan and stick with it.
“Remember that loans are not ‘free money,’” he said. “Ask yourself if you can really afford the purchase. The cost of the item becomes much more when you factor in interest and fees.”
For more advice on family finances, visit or contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service to learn about programs in your community.
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