Building Credit from the Ground Up

Turned down for credit cards in the past, or scared that you will be? This post is for you.
Turned down for credit cards in the past, or scared that you will be? This post is for you.

A friend of mine asked me for some advice the other day. She admitted to me that she hadn’t ever had a credit card, but was starting to think it might be a good idea to start building her score. She is certainly not alone! A whopping 63% of millenials have never had a credit card (read more). She, like many others, has always felt she gets along just fine without one. She also mentioned to me concerns that using credit cards would make her more cavalier with her spending, citing recent studies like this one. While these were very valid considerations, equally valid are the advantages of building a good credit score. My friend decided that at this point in her life, it might be good to start building her score to prepare for her future. However, having been rejected for the first card she applied for through her banker, she wasn’t sure how to proceed. Read more to find out the strategy I laid out to help my friend get started in the world of credit, despite her lack of previous cards and existing student loan debt. Continue reading

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A Nice Mint Mojito

Mint.com is not always as good as it could be, but there is hope on the horizon!

If you don’t already use the Intuit web software Mint.com, you should strongly consider it. Mint is the best tool I have found, by far, to keep good track of your spending in a relatively hands-off manner. The highlights are:

  • It automatically pulls data from all your accounts (credit cards, checking, savings, investments) and allows you to view their balances all on one page
  • It auto-categorizes all your transactions, and is pretty O.K. at it.
  • It offers beautiful visualizations of all your spending
  • It allows you to set budgets and goals that it helps you track

Mint, however, often leaves much to be desired. Sometimes the interface is a little clunky and doesn’t do quite what you want, and the developers don’t update it as often as the users wish. As an avid Mint user, I was excited to find the Google Chrome Extension, Mojito. It has several awesome features, like allowing you to sort your accounts from highest balance to lowest balance, hide credit cards that have a zero balance, and pulls your recent transactions onto the homepage. He also finds ways to make the ads on Mint less obstrusive, and combats Mint’s way-too-short page timeouts. It’s a really great extension and makes my frequent Mint-using experience much better!

The developer is just one guy, he even has a wordpress blog (though it’s a little stale), but he put his code up on github which means we might see even more active development. One can only hope. It seems from the comments on the extension that it is being actively updated. What he has done thus far makes Mint infinitely more usable and beautiful.

Your Credit Score and You

Do you know your score?

With the birth of online credit score tracking on sites like CreditKarma, CreditSesame, and Mint, everyone wants to find out: what’s my number? However, many of us have no idea what that number means. In this post, I’ll cover the following topics:

  • How Your Credit Score Works
  • Why You Should Care, and How Much You Should Care
  • How to Improve Your Score
  • How to Check Your Score

Credit scores are a great way to keep yourself in good standing with various lending institutions. They also help you protect yourself from credit fraud and identity theft. Sometimes even your landlord will care about your credit score when deciding whether or not to let you rent an apartment, using it as a heuristic for trustworthiness. Clearly, it’s important, and is an essential part of learning to handle your finances as an adult.

Continue reading