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7 Ways to Build Credit Without A Credit Card

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Updated April 4, 2024

If you’re just beginning in the credit world—or, if you’ve been careless with your credit in the past—you may be looking for a way to build credit without having to depend on being approved for more credit cards. Credit card applications can be stressful and demoralizing when you don’t have a respectable credit score.

You’re in luck: You don’t need a credit card to build credit. There are loads of ways to improve your credit profile that don’t involve credit cards. Some don’t even require an application of any sort.

Here are a few popular ways to build credit without a credit card.

7 ways to build credit without applying and using a credit card

Whether you practice one or all of the following strategies, it’s wise to monitor your credit with a service like myFICO. It gives you detailed breakdowns of your credit report, historical trends of your credit score, and other helpful information to aid your ongoing strategy.

1. Personal loan

A personal loan can often be used for quite literally anything. It often simply means an unsecured lump sum of money (paid back in monthly installments) that can be used at your discretion. For example, a personal loan can be for debt consolidation, home repairs, or to finance an upcoming vacation.

If you’re trying to build your credit from bad or limited credit history, you’ll find it difficult to be approved for loans like these in the first place. You may need a family member or friend to cosign a loan with you—meaning that they are ultimately on the hook for repaying your debts if you fail to do so.

Alternatively, there are personal loans designed for customers with low (or limited) credit profiles. For example, Upstart doesn’t enforce a minimum credit score. It examines other areas of your life, such as your job history, details of your living situation, and even college education to decide if you’re a good candidate for a loan. Upgrade is another good option for those with less-than-perfect credit—though its customers must have a 560 credit score to qualify.

2. Auto loan

An auto loan is a type of personal loan, as well—but it’s considered a “secured” loan. That’s because the loan involves collateral: your automobile. If you default on payments, the bank can take your car to mitigate its losses.

Auto loans report to credit bureaus, too. So any on-time payments you make will strengthen your credit history and improve your score. Just note that once you fully pay off your loan, the line of credit will be closed. This will cause your credit score to take a hit, but it’ll still likely be far better than it was when you initially opened the auto loan.

3. Make timely rent payments

Rent is perhaps the single most important bill you pay each month. If you faithfully pay on time, it could translate into positive marks on your credit, thanks to services like Rental Kharma, which reports your rent payments to Equifax and TransUnion.

This is an excellent way to build credit without ever needing to apply for credit of any sort. The only catch is that Rental Kharma isn’t free. It costs $75 to set up an individual account, and it’ll add all your past rental history at your current address. You’ll then have to pay $8.95 per month to keep the monthly reporting going. Think of it as opening an installment loan and paying interest each month to score brownie points with the credit bureaus.

4. Experian Credit Boost

Credit-building tools are so good nowadays that it almost feels like cheating. One of the popular (and truly effective) options is Experian Boost.

Experian Boost allows you to use monthly payments that aren’t necessarily credit-related to surge your credit score. Think things like Hulu, phone bill, utilities, etc. It even considers rent, similar to Rental Kharma, and reports your activity to Experian (which Rental Kharma doesn’t do).

While this will do nothing for your credit score with Equifax and TransUnion, this service is free—so there’s no harm in enrolling.

5. Credit-building debit cards


Extra Debit Card

Extra Debit Card

Cash reloads fees
$20 or $25 per month; $149 or $199 per year
Free ATM network
Not available

A hybrid credit/debit card is extremely effective in helping to build credit for those who don’t want to submit a credit card application.

For example, the Extra card is a debit card that you can open with no hard credit inquiry. When you attach the card to your bank account, you’ll receive a credit line of sorts that is directly proportional to the money you’ve got in the bank.

Now here’s where the magic happens: when you swipe the card to make a purchase, the Extra Debit Card will not debit your account to complete the transaction. Instead, it will lend you the amount of money you need in the form of credit. Then, it’ll withdraw the money you owe it the next day. In this way, you’re technically using credit—activity which can be reported to the credit bureaus.

The Extra card reports to Equifax and Experian. You’ll pay between $149 and $199 per year, depending on which version of the Extra card you have.

6. Ask to be an authorized user

OK, this method isn’t entirely unrelated to credit cards. But it doesn’t involve you opening your own credit card.

You can grab onto the coattails of someone with healthy credit and ride their good habits to a better score as an authorized user. That’s because any activity the primary cardholder does will appear on an authorized user’s credit report, as well. You don’t even need to interact with the account at all—the primary cardholder can add you as a user and cut up your credit card when it arrives. As long as you’re added to the account, you will benefit.

7. Credit-building apps

Would you believe that an app can help you to acquire a credit score? It’s true—and surprisingly simple. They typically work similar to a credit-building debit card in that you can receive the temporary use of credit after linking your bank account.

For example, Cushion AI a way to manage all your BNPL payments in one place? They also offer other features, such as a way to sync your bills to your calendar, pay them using the virtual Cushion AI card, and build credit for paying your bills on-time.

TIME Stamp: No matter the state of your credit, there are plenty of non-credit–card ways to improve

You’ve got loads of methods to build credit without a credit card—from opening a credit-building debit card to enrolling in Experian Boost to simply asking a trusted friend or family member to add you as an authorized user.

Just remember: It doesn’t matter how inexperienced you are or how far you’ve fallen. There’s always a way of escape (usually several) to help you regain your financial footing.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to build credit for a beginner?

It can take up to six months before you are assigned a credit score. And it may not be a good one. Fostering a good credit score takes a lot of time and responsible behavior. It can be hard work—but the benefits are unparalleled, as it’ll help you to accomplish some of life’s biggest milestones (mortgages, auto loans, even renting an apartment).

At what age should you start trying to build credit?

You are only eligible to apply for loans once you’ve turned 18. This is an excellent time to start building your credit. However, many credit card issuers make it possible to begin building credit before then. When someone adds you as an authorized user, all their good credit habits report to your credit.

Parents take note: It’s even possible to add an infant as an authorized user. As long as the primary cardholder is sensible with their credit, the child will have a lengthy and impressive credit history by the time they’re 18.

What’s a good credit score?

A “good” credit score is defined by FICO as between 670 and 739.

Many factors are involved in your credit score, making the experience and result unique for each individual. Cushion does not guarantee and cannot predict that your credit score will improve by a specific amount, percentage, or at all within a specific period of time or by using Cushion. Credit building is one of several premium features included in Cushion’s paid subscription.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.