Looking to Build Credit as International Student

Hi guys,

Posting cause I wanted to get some advice. I'm will be a freshmen this fall at a school in LA (although probably online) and want to start building my credit early because I know it is important to have good credit, especially if you want to buy a car / house or take out a loan. I've been looking online and found Tomocredit (https://tomocredit.com/) and Deserve (https://deserve.com/) which seem to be good for international students. Does anyone have any thoughts or experience with these companies? Have heard from some friends that they're pretty decent.

Appreciate any advice you guys have!

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    • Melissa
    • Routinely questioning every assumption I have about my budget, my spending, and my savings habits.
    • todays_mel
    • 3 wk ago
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    I don't have any experience with the two sites you mention, but I will share some advice I wish I'd gotten when I was just starting out with credit cards.

    It's extremely important to understand the difference between "building good credit" and simply going into "credit card debt".  The former is the goal, the latter should be avoided as much as possible. It's not necessary to go into credit card debt to build good credit! (*)  If you already understand this, then you're leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of people.

    The good news is there's lots of information to be found online now on how to build and maintain a good credit history/score - what the credit bureaus are recording about your particular credit/debt habits and how that affects your overall credit score.  Here's one link to get started: https://www.incharge.org/debt-relief/credit-counseling/bad-credit/how-to-establish-credit-when-you-have-no-credit-history/

    Since you're just starting out with credit, you've got a great advantage to set yourself up for success.  Use your credit card as if it were a debit card. Meaning: don't make purchases unless you have actual cash on hand to pay for whatever item you need/want. If you're using YNAB, and have embraced the YNAB rules/methodology, then you'll start by checking your budget categories before spending. So no matter what you purchase, you'll know you can afford it.

    Only open one credit card and try to make sure it has a small limit so you're not tempted to spend money you don't have - maybe something with a $500-1000 limit (and you may not have a choice on the limit depending on your income).

    Also apply for a card you can use at multiple places - something tied to a bank or credit union if possible. (I don't recommended getting a card that's only good at a single store or a gas card that limits where you can use it; it becomes impractical if this is your only card and the temptation to buy stuff you don't need only increases... Speaking from experience.)

    Use your credit card for things that you're going to buy on a regular basis like food, maybe school supplies, or transportation, etc.,  but make sure you always have the funds necessary to pay your balance owed in full when it comes due. I'd recommend you keep this routine going for at least a year before asking for a modest increase (some banks will automatically increase your limit). This does two things, it shows the credit bureaus that you pay on-time, and it will keep your credit utilization rate low.

    The longer you keep a credit account open and in good standing, the better it reflects on your score (my oldest credit card has been open and paid on-time for 22 years now!). 

    Good luck!

    * Life happens and there are going to be times when our expenses exceed our income and we use credit to bridge that gap. Create a plan to get back out of debt as soon as you can.

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  • The one I personally have heard the most about is Tomocredit. Supposedly they don’t require a credit score and have smart payments to help you build credit. They also have one of the best cash back rewards for a beginner card that I know of.

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