How to Help Build Credit

If you search for the term "credit score" online, there is no shortage of information on how to build credit. Over 38,000,000 search results, to be exact. But who has the time, patience, and focus to read through such a blizzard of information? Here are some tips to help you build your credit.

Understand Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Here's a list of what goes into your credit score:

Payment history: approximately 35%
It’s important to make payments on your credit accounts on time. Payment history is the factor with the largest percentage in a FICO Score.

Amounts owed: approximately 30%
A FICO Score considers your credit utilization rate, which is calculated by dividing the total amount of credit you’re using by total available credit.

Length of credit history: approximately 15%
Establish credit early. The longer you have a track record, the better.

New credit: approximately 10%
Think twice before applying for a new store credit card. If you apply for new credit frequently, credit companies may view you as a riskier customer, especially if you haven't been handling credit for very long. A FICO score may consider the types of credit you have. Is it all credit cards, or are you also successfully managing installment loans or other loans?

Credit mix: approximately 10%
A FICO score may consider the types of credit you have. Is it all credit cards, or are you also successfully managing installment loans or other loans?

Check Your Credit Report Frequently

You have a right to request a free annual credit report from each major credit reporting company. You can request your free credit reports at, a site authorized by federal law. When reviewing your credit reports, look for errors and fraud, as well as areas where you can improve.

Learn How Credit Cards Work – And How They Can Work for You

You've spent enough years "kinda," "sorta" knowing how credit cards work. It's time to change that. Understanding basic credit card information helps you take advantage of their benefits.

If you don't have a credit card, getting one can be a good way to start building credit. If you have little or no credit history, the best option may be to start with a secured card. Here are some other ways you can make credit cards work for you:

Understand The Fine Print

Not sure about the meaning of APR, variable rate, and prime rate? Learn about important credit terms—so you can decode the fine print on credit card contracts and offers.

Get The Most from Credit Cards

Are you searching for a good balance transfer offer? Are you interested in finding a credit card with rewards that fit your lifestyle? Use  the  credit card comparison tool on our site to help find out.

Automate Payments and Alerts, and Be Consistent

Consistency is the key to building healthy credit, so automate your finances to act on your behalf. Here are some ways to stay on top of payments and be more efficient about paying off debt:

Consider automatic payments

Consider switching your bills to auto-pay if you can. You'll be less likely to miss a payment due date if funds are automatically withdrawn from your credit card or other account to make the payments by the due date. Just remember: systems break down and account numbers can expire. It's important to check in on everything at least once a month to make sure you're on track and can make adjustments as needed.

Stay Alert

Get text or e-mail alerts from your credit card issuer when payments are due, payments are made, and when you're reaching your credit limit. This can help you stay on top of your finances.

Be Methodical About Paying off Debt

Perhaps you're a college student struggling with loans. Or a shopaholic in denial refusing to read your credit card statements. If you're serious about paying down your debt, it's important to first take stock of your finances, figure out how much you owe, and develop a plan for making payments each month to get yourself back on track.

Disclosure: This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.

Additional Resources

  • Utilize these resources to help you assess your current finances & plan for the future.

  • Learn how FICO® Scores are determined, why they matter and more.

  • Review financial terms & definitions to help you better understand credit & finances.