Although having a credit card is good for military families in emergencies, not all service members and spouses have or want one. Even those who carry plastic try not to use it for fear of losing control of their finances.
Responsible credit card use can help consumers develop and strengthen their credit score. But that's not the only route.
Military members and spouses can do several things other than swipe credit cards and pay them off to develop a good credit score. Here's a look at a few:
There might be errors. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find considering most credit reports have an error. According to U.S PIRG, about 25 percent of credit reports have an error that could be means for getting denied credit in the future. Fixing errors is an important and potentially score-boosting first step.
Don’t miss deadlines for utility bills, cell phone bills or any other payment plans. Keep that up and you’ll likely see some increase in your credit score. Also, keep close tabs on your checking account. A bounced check certainly won’t help your score. Having paid bills on time and kept a clean checking account, get a FICO Expansion score that looks at these other financial factors.
If you’re still renting, pay on time. Experian RentBureau tracks payment data for property management companies across the country, meaning paying rent on time can have a positive effect on your credit report.
For young military members, getting a credit card is hard to do without a co-signer, such as a parent with great credit. Instead, ask somebody close to you if you can be an authorized user on their credit card. His or her credit history usually gets imported to your credit reporters.
However, that means if their credit goes south, yours takes a hit, too. Make sure you trust the person who’s adding you as an authorized user. If the card carrier does start missing payments or overspending, you can remove yourself as an authorized user to wipe your report clean of the card carrier’s blunders.
Think about which of these options is best for you. Getting loans is another choice, but that can be equally as risky as having a credit card if you miss payments. These low-risk approaches may be just what you need to your credit report on the right track.