One of the best ways to build credit with a credit card is through responsible use of your card, such as paying off your credit card in full each month and maintaining a low credit utilization rate. This behavior can help build your credit by showing you’re able to meet your debt obligations, which is something potential lenders want to see.
What if you’re interested in using a credit card to build credit, but don’t yet have a credit card? In this case, there are credit cards that are marketed to those with a limited credit history who want to build their credit. Depending on your personal situation, here’s a look at the best way to build credit with a credit card.
Building Credit With a Credit Card
If you’re looking to build up your credit, a credit card can be a great place to start. Getting a credit card may be easier than getting approved for a mortgage or other type of loan. Plus, unlike most other loans, you won’t have to pay any interest with a credit card as long as you pay your statement balance in full each month.
Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card
Cash in on up to $250–and 3% cash back for 365 days.¹
Apply and get approved for the SoFi Credit Card. Then open a bank account with qualifying direct deposits. Some things are just better together.
8 Tips to Build Credit With a Credit Card
Curious how to build credit with a credit card? Here are eight tips to try.
1. Regularly Pay Your Bills on Time
Paying history is one of the biggest factors that makes up your credit score. If you’re focusing on building your credit score, you’ll want to make sure that you pay your bills on-time, each and every month. If your credit report shows a history of late or missed payments, that can really drag down your credit score.
2. Maintain a Low Credit Utilization Rate
Another factor that helps to build credit is maintaining a low credit utilization rate, ideally under 30%. Your credit utilization rate is your total outstanding debt balance divided by your total credit limits expressed as a percentage. You can lower your utilization rate by paying down debt or increasing your total credit limit.
Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?
3. Pay Your Credit Card in Full
In addition to paying your credit card statement before the due date, it’s also a great idea to pay the full statement balance every month, if possible. This helps lower your credit utilization rate, which is an important factor in determining your credit score. Additionally, it prevents you from paying interest.
If you’re not able to pay your credit card statement in full, make a plan and consider adjusting your financial habits going forward.
Recommended: What is a Charge Card?
4. Become an Authorized User
If you’re not ready or can’t get approved for a credit card in your own name, consider becoming an authorized user on the credit card account of a trusted friend or family member. You’ll receive a secondary card in your name, also known as a supplementary credit card, and you can benefit from the payment history and good credit of the primary account holder. This can help you when you go to get a credit card for the first time on your own.
However, you’ll want to be careful about whose account you become an authorized user on. If they miss payments or pay late, it can affect your credit score negatively.
5. Use Your Card Regularly
It’s not enough to simply have a credit card — you also have to use it. Using your credit card responsibly shows potential lenders that you’re more likely to be responsible with new debt or loan obligations.
Consider using your credit card to pay some of your monthly bills to keep it in regular use. Just make sure that you’re using credit cards wisely by also setting aside money to pay off the statement in full when it comes due.
Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?
6. Consider a Secured Credit Card
If you’re having trouble getting approved for an unsecured credit card on your own, you might consider a secured credit card. With a secured card, you typically put down a refundable security deposit, which serves as your credit limit.
As you consistently and responsibly use your secured credit card, you can ask your credit card issuer to increase your credit limit and refund your initial security deposit.
Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly
7. Limit New Credit Applications
Another factor that goes into determining your credit score is how many new credit applications you’ve had recently. Almost every time that you apply for new credit, such as a credit card or a loan, the potential lender will do a hard pull on your credit report. Having too many of these recent credit inquiries on your credit report can have a negative impact on your credit score.
8. Keep Your Credit Accounts Open
If you’ve had trouble in the past with credit card debt, your first thought might be to cut up your credit card and close your account. One reason to keep your credit card accounts open is that another factor that goes into determining your credit score is the average age of your accounts. Keeping an old account open — especially if it comes with no annual fee — can be a good way to build credit.
Alternative Ways to Build Credit
Besides leveraging credit cards, there are a few other ways to build credit.
Get an Auto Loan
If you’re in the market for a new or used car, consider getting an auto loan. Like a credit card, any auto loan balance or payment history that you have will show up on your credit report. Making reliable and on-time payments on your auto loan can be another positive indicator to your credit score.
Take Out a Personal Loan
Besides an auto loan, a personal loan is another type of debt product that typically shows up on your credit report. With a personal loan, you receive money upfront from the lender and then pay it back over time, with interest. Having a history of on-time payments on a personal loan can be another way to build credit.
Get a Cosigner
If you’re not ready to apply for credit in your own name or are having trouble getting approved for a loan or credit card, you might consider a cosigner. A cosigner is a trusted friend or family member who will sign their name to your loan alongside your own. That makes them also financially responsible for the debt as well, so you’ll want to be careful about who you choose to cosign with. However, it can be a helpful step toward establishing credit.
Using a credit card can be a great way to build credit — as long as you do it responsibly. Make sure to use your credit card in such a way that you can pay off your full statement balance completely, each and every month. Showing responsible payment history over time and keeping your overall credit utilization rate low are two of the biggest factors that make up your credit score.
If you’re ready to build credit by applying for a new credit card, you can consider a cash-back rewards credit card like SoFi’s credit card. With the SoFi Credit Card, you can earn unlimited cash-back rewards if you’re approved. Then, use those rewards as a statement credit, invest them in fractional shares, or put them toward other financial goals you might have, like paying down eligible SoFi debt.
What is the fastest way to build credit with a credit card?
Building credit is usually not something that will happen overnight. Instead, most potential lenders are looking for a history of making on-time payments over time. This can take months or potentially even years to fully build up your credit.
How do you use a credit card to build credit for the first time?
When you get a credit card for the first time, you’ll want to start using the card to pay for some of your monthly expenses. Just make sure to set aside the money for those purchases, so that you can pay your credit card statement in full when it comes at the end of the month. Establishing a history of on-time payments will help you to build your credit, as it shows other potential lenders that you’ll be responsible with your debt obligations.
How long does it take to build credit with a credit card?
Establishing credit is not something that usually happens over a short period of time. Instead, building your credit is something that happens over months, if not years. Demonstrating a history of reliably meeting your debt obligations is one of the biggest factors that makes up your credit score, so always make sure to pay your bills on time and in full, each and every month.
Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. If you elect to redeem points for cash deposited into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, fractional shares or cryptocurrency in your SoFi Active Invest account, or as a payment to your SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. If you elect to redeem points as a statement credit to your SoFi Credit Card account, your points will redeem at a rate of 0.5 cents per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s