When we think of improving a credit score, we often think of using credit cards.
Indeed, one of the fastest ways to build credit is to open a credit card account, and use it regularly, paying down the balance on time.
However, many people are wary of credit cards, and would prefer not to use them. Unfortunately, some sort of credit history is needed in order to qualify for some loans, especially home loans and many auto loans.
The good news is that it is possible to establish and build up your credit score, even without credit cards!
Improving Your Credit Score without Credit Cards
There are some things you can do to improve your credit score without opening a credit card account. Two of the most helpful actions include:
- Fix errors on your credit report: Most credit reports have some sort of error on them and, according National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups, 25% of credit reports contain an error that could result in the denial of credit. You can improve your score by fixing errors on your report.
- Get an installment loan: You can help your credit by getting an installment loan. This way, you will be able to build up your payment history. You can get a personal loan from your bank, or even a secured share loan from your credit union. You might need a co-signer in some cases, but if you make your payments in full, you can see improvement in your credit score. Student loans and P2P lending can help as well.
Of course, number two still requires you to open new credit accounts, even if they aren’t credit card accounts.
Plus, once you pay off the installment loan, your score stops building.
Another issue, related to number one, is that there is only so much you can do to fix your credit report. Once the information is all correct, your score will stop climbing.
Alternative Methods of Establishing Credit
Because an increasing number of people are reluctant to use credit cards, relatively new services aimed at helping you build credit are available. These services help your good payment behaviors related to recurring bills get reported to credit agencies so that they can be included in your credit report.
Indeed, FICO offers the Expansion Score, which looks at “nontraditional” factors when helping to determine your credit worthiness. This includes paying your utilities bills and participating in purchase payment plans.
However, you do need to be careful when relying on an Expansion Score to help you with credit; the service also monitors your checking account, and a bounced check can harm more than the rest of your habits help.
Another option is to set up through PRBC reporting agency. This agency (the PRBC stands for Payment Reporting Builds Credit) collects data on such recurring items as rent payment, insurance premiums, cell phone and other bills, and uses it to compile consumer credit reports. PRBC also makes use of the FICO Expansion Score to help determine your level of creditworthiness. You may have to pay a fee in order to get things set up for PRBC to verify your habits, though.
Technically, you don’t need credit cards to begin building a credit history, or to improve your credit score. However, even so, the fact remains that responsible credit card use is still the fastest way to build up your credit score.
But, if you don’t mind taking a little more time so that you can avoid credit cards, there are alternative paths to take to build your credit.
Another option is to buy something on credit. Perhaps some home theatre equipment or even a mattress.
unless the in-store credit does not get reported (i.e. on-time payments don’t get sent to the credit bureaus, only post-60days does).
‘Tis the issue I currently have. Seems only to be the stick, no carrot! Gotta check out that Expansion service.
Very helpoful article! But I would like to point out that PRBC does not accept payment history data directly from consumers. So the best way to make sure your payment history is included is to go to your property management or utility company for example and see if they won’t start reporting to PRBC.
Thanks for the info Karen!
I always hear that it is impossible to improve your credit score without a credit card. How refreshing to learn other options. I had never heard of Expansion Score or PRBC before. Thanks for the info.
Having a credit card and using it well is probably the quickest way to improve credit but it’s not the only way. Glad you like the info.
Wow! Thanks for the information. I’ve never heard of an expansion score.
Very nice article. With a nice size down payment, some local banks and credit unions will give an established customer an auto loan. The interest rate might not be the best one but it will beat the rate of a credit card.
Thanks for sharing this info. I got a similar suggestion from a family friend and this article helps confirming it so I won’t hesitate in starting the installment loan as a start:)