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Ask Jean: How to Check — and Establish — Your Credit

I had so much fun last night talking to hundreds of mark.girls on their national call/webcast.  At the end, I said send me your questions and I’d do my best to post answers. Allison wrote:

iStock_000005215320XSmallHello Jean: Listening to you in our national sales call was great! I just have a question. I’m having some problems credit wise. #1 I don’t know what my credit looks like and I don’t trust the websites to check it. Any suggestions? #2 I don’t think I have established my credit at all, is there a way you recommend to establish and build it with out a cosigner?

Hi Allison: Good question.  You can — and should — know what your credit looks like, starting with whether you have a credit history at all.  Go to annualcreditreport.com and pull a free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus.  (You’re entitled to one free one from each bureau each year and should take advantage to check your credit by pulling them on a rotating basis every four months.)  Don’t worry about trusting this site.  It’s secure.  If you find that your credit is thin or non-existent, the only way to establish it is to borrow money from a source that reports to the credit bureaus — like a credit card, car loan, some cell phone companies — and pay it back.  And to keep your credit in good shape you want to pay it back on time.  If you aren’t 21, you have to prove that you have a source of income to support a credit card (which you may be able to do with your mark. sales).  Otherwise, if your parents are AmEx members, see if they’ll get you a supplemental card on their account.  The nice thing about AmEx supplemental cards for college students is that they only report your good behavior to the credit bureaus and your parents have the ability to put caps on your spending.

Good luck!

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