So then, how do you actually do that? Applying for and using a secured credit card can help, “boost[ing] your score in a matter of months,” Game says.
But the best ways to increase your score are, again, paying your bills on time and using 30% or less of your available credit. “You have total control over your credit score though and can make positive changes to better your score in a short period,” Game says. “Focus on keeping track of where every penny is being spent each month, so you can make changes in your spending and work to pay your credit card bills on time and lower the amount of balance you have, which in turn will better your credit score.”
It’s key to have a solid understanding of and approach to credit before you even have any. “One of the most important things to consider before getting a credit card is your money mindset around credit,” Game says. “It’s important to not think about a credit card as a way to buy a bunch of cool stuff that you don’t have the money to pay for. Instead, think about using a credit card like a debit card.” Don’t spend money you don’t have (or don’t know you will have before your payment due date), and pay off your balance every month. If you absolutely can’t do that, make sure you at least make the minimum payment or, ideally, a few dollars more than that so you can chip away at your debt. If you find you’re a bit scatterbrained when it comes to remembering payments, “set reminders on your phone, pop ups on your computer, and whatever you need to do to pay your bill each month by the due date,” Game says.
If you can settle into those good credit habits and mindsets, Game says, you can “reap the upsides of having a credit card like a good credit score and bank all those awesome rewards and points that come with most credit cards.”