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College Students and Recent Grads

Guide to Free Community College in the U.S.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Free community college in the U.S. is starting to become a reality. Since 2014, four states have signed into law “College Promise” programs aimed at delivering subsidized higher education to their residents. Numerous cities across the U.S. have also taken notice, enacting localized scholarships that cover the costs of two-year college programs.

While the past few years have proven to be monumental for the College Promise cause, this is a movement that has been long in the making:

The history of the free college movement in the United States

Where you can go to community college for free

There are currently 10 statewide free community college programs enacted across the U.S.:

The fight for free community college tuition is growing rapidly at the local level as well. There are notable free community college programs in:

  • San Francisco
  • Chicago
  • Long Beach, Calf.
  • Kalamazoo, Mich.

For this article, we’ll be focusing on New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee due to the level of funding and reach of the state programs.

What you need to know

The free community college movement

Over the past four years, there has been a significant push to make America’s public colleges tuition-free.

The Campaign for Free College Tuition was established in 2014 as 501(c)(3) nonprofit. They are a bipartisan group that works with elected officials, leaders and policy experts to make public colleges tuition-free.

In addition, former President Barack Obama proposed the College Promise National Advisory board in 2015, which pushed for offering two years of community college tuition-free. This proposal was expanded with the America’s College Promise Act of 2015, which would award federal-state partnership grants to states who waive tuition and fees for students wanting to attend community college.

While every state program is different, they are helping students ease the burden of college debt and gain access to higher education.

Free college in New York

New York made history in April 2017, when the Excelsior Scholarship was signed into law. The program, which was originally proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January 2017, promises free tuition for in-state students attending two- or four-year colleges within the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) campuses. This is the first college promise program in the U.S. to encompass both four-year universities and community colleges within the state.

Who qualifies

To qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship in New York, applicants must:

  • Reside in New York state for 12 months prior to application submission
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
  • Have graduated high school within the U.S., earned a high school equivalency diploma or passed an “Ability to Benefit” test
  • Plan to attend a SUNY or CUNY campus for a two- or four-year degree
  • Complete 30 credits a year (minimum of 12 a semester)
  • Maintain good academic standing
  • Be on track to earn an associate’s degree in two years or bachelor’s degree in four years
  • Applicant’s household income must not exceed:
    • $100,000 for the 2017-2018 school year
    • $110,000 for the 2018-2019 school year
    • $125,000 for the 2019-2020 school year

What it covers

The Excelsior Scholarship is a last-dollar program, meaning students must first exhaust federal and state resources, scholarships and grants before the program kicks in. Students are awarded up to $5,500 for tuition and fees, minus any dollars received from Pell Grants, New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) or other scholarship awards.

Students who qualify for the Excelsior Scholarship will have their tuition covered at SUNY and CUNY schools via a credit, which goes directly to the institution and covers any remaining costs. It does not provide financial assistance for books, housing or transportation.

Fine print

  1. Must live and work in New York for as many years as enrolled in the program: If a student fails to do so, the award converts over to a loan.
  2. Students must apply for all applicable financial aid: This includes Pell Grants, TAP and other financial awards before applying to the program.

Free community college in Rhode Island

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the “Rhode Island Promise” into law in January 2017. It provides recent graduates in Rhode Island a path toward higher education, no matter their family’s income level.

Who qualifies

To qualify for the Rhode Island Promise, potential applicants must:

  • Be Rhode Island resident
  • Be younger than 19 years old when you completed high school or GED program
  • Have recently graduated high school (public, private or home schooled) or recently received a GED
  • Apply to the Community College of Rhode Island
  • Enroll the following semester after high-school graduation as a full-time student
  • Fill out a FAFSA
  • Fill out the Rhode Island Promise Attestation form

What it covers

The Rhode Island Promise covers two years of tuition and fees for applicants. Students who receive the Promise are entitled to tuition and fees for two years at the Community College of Rhode Island to complete an associate’s degree.

Like New York, the Rhode Island Promise is a last-dollar scholarship. Students may also apply for other financial awards such as Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) or individual institution scholarships. The grant covers any remaining balance.

A key distinction of the Rhode Island Promise is that there is no household income limit for applicants. So long as students adhere to the requirements above, they are eligible. Once they complete the program, students are not required to stay in the state, though they are encouraged.

Fine print

While the Rhode Island Promise is a very generous grant, there are a few things to consider.

  1. Students must take a full course load every semester: Students who are considered part-time (less than 12 credits) during the add/drop period will not receive the scholarship, nor will they be eligible for future semesters.
  2. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5: If a GPA falls below 2.5, students have the ability to take summer classes; however the Rhode Island promise does not cover summer courses.
  3. Students must complete 30 credits in the first year to renew the scholarship: To be eligible for a second year of the scholarship, students must have 30 credits. AP classes taken in high school can count towards this.

Free community college in Tennessee

Tennessee became the first state to offer free community college to all residents in May 2014, when the Tennessee Promise was signed into law. Championed by Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Promise has paved the way for many of the other states to create similar free college programs. As of February 2017, over 33,000 students had enrolled in the program.

Who qualifies

To qualify for the Tennessee Promise, applicants must:

  • Be a Tennessee resident
  • U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • Apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship
  • Complete a FAFSA
  • Be under the age of 19, after graduating high school or GED program
  • Have recently graduated from high school (public, private, home school) or recently received their GED
  • Enroll as a full-time student for the fall semester following graduation
  • Attend a mandatory meeting in applicant’s local area
  • Complete eight hours of community service every semester prior to the start of the semester

What it covers

The Tennessee Promise Scholarship is a last-dollar scholarship that covers tuition and fees for any of the state’s colleges of applied technology (TCATs), community colleges or in-state public four-year colleges that offer a two-year program. It does not cover the cost of books, transportation or room and board. The scholarship is applied after all other forms of financial aid have been exhausted.

While the scholarship has no household income requirements, the program does focus on attracting low income, at-risk students by working with high school guidance counselors across the state. According to the TN Achieves report, the average award for the 2016-2017 year was $1,090 per student.

A unique aspect of the Tennessee Promise Scholarship is the program’s emphasis on mentor guidance. In addition to the money eligible students receive, the state has recruited over 32,000 volunteers since the programs start in 2009. The goal of a mentor, who is given a maximum of 10 students, is to make the road to college as clear as possible for students. Training is provided to mentors, and students must meet with their mentors at two mandatory meetings held in each county before the start of fall semester.

Fine print

There are a few things to keep in mind when applying for the Tennessee Promise Scholarship:

  1. Students must attend for consecutive semesters as a full-time student: A gap in enrollment or a drop down to part-time student results in ineligibility for the program.
  2. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA.
  3. Missing a mandatory meeting results in permanent ineligibility.
  4. Students must complete eight hours of community service every semester.

How to leverage your community college degree

Students who obtain an associate’s degree save over 60% in the cost of tuition and fees when compared with the same costs at a four-year college. The American Association of Community Colleges reported that for the 2016-2017 school year, the average cost of tuition and fees for a four-year public in-state college was $9,650, compared with community colleges that charged $3,520.

One way to minimize the cost of college is to take core classes and electives at a community college before transferring to a four-year school. This strategy allows students to take the same classes a student would be taking at a four-year college, without the price tag of a four-year college. Once completed, students can transfer to a four-year college to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Students already enrolled in a four-year school can still take advantage of these savings by taking approved electives and core classes over the summer at a community college. This strategy can help students graduate on time and save money.

Pros and cons of transferring to a four-year school

The main benefit of attending a community college prior to a four-year school is the cost savings. Depending on a student’s living situation, many can live at home and commute to community college. This eliminates room and board costs, which are an average of $10,800 for the 2017-2018 school year, according to the College Board.

Students transferring from a community college to a four-year school generally have a clear pathway, so long as they are in good academic standing; however it’s important to make sure credits will transfer. This is especially true if a student changes majors upon transferring. For example, a student who took core classes for a history major at community college but switches to a biology major at a four-year college may have to retake certain core classes.

Alternatives to community college

Community college is not the only way to learn new skills and increase your earning potential. While traditional two- and four-year college programs can open up job opportunities, it’s important to note there are other pathways to career success.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer students a way to learn a specific skill or trade without the burden of student debt, while also earning a wage. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs, with an average starting wage above $50,000 per year.” The recent rise in the popularity of registered apprenticeships is thanks to a labor department initiative, ApprenticeshipUSA, which received $10.4 million in accelerator grants at the start of 2017.

While many apprenticeships apply to certain trade skills like electrical or construction work, there are apprenticeships in the health care, business, hospitality, energy industries, as well as others. The labor department lists a variety of resources for finding and learning more about apprenticeships.

Certificate programs

Certificate programs allow students to become experts in certain skills and industries without committing to a full undergraduate or graduate degree. Intensive programs can be a short as 10 to 12 weeks, while others may take up to three years to complete, depending on education level and area of interest.

Certificate programs are becoming widely popular within the IT industry due to the salary boost that comes with them. The Global Knowledge 2017 IT Skills and Salary report found that the difference between salaries of certified vs. noncertified IT employees was 11.7 percent, or $8,400 a year.

Certificate programs can be found at community colleges, graduate schools and online schools across the globe. Popular programs vary for different levels of education. For example, getting certified as a yoga or pilates instructor requires less prior education requirements than someone looking to become a certified financial planner.

Trade school

Designed to teach students skills related to a specific career, trade schools give students hands-on learning that directly applies to specific careers. One of the major benefits of attending a trade school, also known as vocational schools, are the job placement programs that come along with them. Many vocational schools have strong ties to certain industries giving students a clear pathway toward earning their first paycheck.

Popular trade school programs include automotive, plumbing, electrical and HVAC, among others, and can be found in high schools, community colleges and for-profit industry trade schools across the country.
If you’re seriously considering trade school, be sure to do your due diligence on the school. The FTC warns that some for-profit trade schools misrepresent what they can offer students. To avoid losing out on a quality education, prospective students should look for schools that are licensed by state agencies (like the Department of Education), or accredited by a legitimate organization. Other good information to find out would be: “What percentage of graduates found work after graduation?” and “What are the average starting salaries of graduates?”

Whatever higher education path you take, be sure to look into local and state-run scholarships and grant programs. Research all your options, and plan your finances ahead of time.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jackson Wise
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Jackson Wise is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jackson here

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College Students and Recent Grads

College Ave Private Student Loans Review: Accessible Eligibility Criteria, Flexible Repayment

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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If you’re concerned about eligibility for a private student loan, consider that College Ave Student Loans stands out for its accessibility.

You could be an international student without a GED seeking an associate degree on a part-time basis, for example, and still qualify for College Ave private student loans.

Founded by former Sallie Mae executives in 2014, the online-only company offers competitive interest rates to students in college as well as career or graduate schools, as well as their creditworthy parents.

To ensure it’s the right lender for you, consider our review.

College Ave Student Loans review: The basics

While you could qualify for College Ave private student loans with several different educational backgrounds and ambitions, you still need to be creditworthy. Having a credit score of at least 660 is a good start.

The lender doesn’t disclose its specific credit criteria, but you could gauge your (or your cosigner’s) eligibility using the lender’s pre-qualification tool. Passing that test would unlock these loan features:

  • Loans for part- or full-time undergraduates, graduate students, career school students and parents
  • Prequalify with a three-minute application (and without affecting your credit)
  • No fees to apply
  • Fixed and variable interest rates

  • Borrow between $1,000 and your school’s full cost of attendance
  • Choose from four in-school repayment options, including full deferment
  • Select one of four repayment term options: five, eight, 10 or 15 years
  • Receive your loan in as little as 10 days after applying
  • Cosigners are accepted — and encouraged (note that they are required for international students who have a Social Security number)
  • Release your cosigner after more than half your repayment term has elapsed
  • Enjoy a federal loan-like six-month grace period after leaving school
  • Net a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay
  • No penalty for paying off your loan early
  • Forbearance — the ability to temporarily suspend payments — is awarded on a case-by-case basis
  • Student loan forgiveness in the case of the borrower’s permanent disability or death

While the majority of the loan characteristics above are true no matter your status in school, there are some notable differences for graduate students, career school students and parents.

Graduate students

Whether you’re seeking a postgraduate, master’s, doctoral or professional degree, you can count College Ave private student loans as an option. Note that the ceiling on College Ave’s interest rate ranges as of early June 2019 was significantly lower for graduate students compared to undergrads.

In summer 2019, College Ave also added unique perks for postgraduate students seeking an MBA or other professional degree. The loans include longer grace periods, for example, with 12 months for dental students and 36 months for medical students.

There are also deferments available for students who enter a residency program — or, in the case of law school students, a clerkship — after receiving their degree. Additionally, students seeking these advanced credentials might be able to select a longer loan term (20 years) than their peers.

Career school students

If you’re pursuing an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree in a career-focused program, including at some community colleges, keep this bonus in mind: College Ave offers borrowers of this loan type a $150 statement credit for completing their program.

Parents

College Ave gives parents even more repayment term flexibility. The lender said on its website that it would assist creditworthy parents in choosing one of 11 possible repayment terms, spanning between five and 15 years.

Another plus of borrowing from College Ave: The lender allows Mom or Dad to directly receive up to $2,500 of the loan funds to cover smaller, secondary expenses including books and supplies. (The balance would be sent directly to the student’s school.)

On the downside, however, the floor on College Ave’s interest rate ranges as of early June 2019 was noticeably higher for parents than for undergraduate students. Plus, parent borrowers only have three in-school repayment choices, not including full deferment. Making interest-only payments is the cheapest option available.

What we like about College Ave Student Loans

It’s rare to find a lender that’s so accessible. In College Ave’s eyes, you don’t need a high school diploma or GED, don’t need to be pursuing a four-year degree, don’t need to be enrolled full time — you don’t even need to be an American student (as long as you have a Social Security number).

Aside from flexibility on qualifying, below are a few more features of College Ave private student loans that benefit from additional context.

A bevy of in-school repayment options

Many private lenders offer fewer repayment options than College Ave. But College Ave provides four payment methods, including:

  • Deferred: Postpone payments until six months after leaving school, allowing interest to pile up on your balance.
  • Flat: Submit monthly dues of $25 to eat into the accruing interest on your loan.
  • Interest-only: Pay only enough each month to cover accruing interest to ensure you face the same balance you borrowed upon leaving school.
  • Full: Enter repayment immediately by making interest-and-principal payments, so you’ll owe less than what you borrowed once you step off campus.

For cash-strapped students, making (significant) in-school payments isn’t always possible. For other students with income or parental support, entering repayment sooner could pave the way for a faster route out of debt. That’s why it’s so nice to have options.

According to the lender, about 6 in 10 College Ave borrowers elect to submit in-school payments to whittle down interest before the reality of repayment hits upon graduation.

Pick your repayment term

Some lenders, including Sallie Mae, assign you a loan repayment term based on your creditworthiness.

One benefit of borrowing College Ave private student loans, however, is that you (and your cosigner) could independently choose your term. You might select five, eight, 10 or 15 years, depending on your budget and future income. (Unlike with federal loans, however, private lenders like College Ave don’t allow you to change terms later, extending or shortening your repayment term as you wish.)
College Ave said on its website that 84% of borrowers choose a term of 10 years or less.

Receive strong customer service

Nearly 400 College Ave borrowers had awarded a 4.8-out-of-5 rating of their lender — at least according to the lender website.

For a more objective accounting, Trustpilot lists a four-star rating for College Ave, and the Better Business Bureau gives the lender an “A+” grade.

What to keep in mind about College Ave Student Loans

If you like what you’ve learned about College Ave private student loans, keep in mind that no lender is perfect for every borrower.

Decide for yourself whether the following facts should point you in the direction of a competitor.

A long trek to cosigner release

By College Ave’s math, 96% of undergraduates have a cosigner on their loan. After all, teens and 20-somethings can make up for their thin credit files by piggybacking on a creditworthy cosigner, usually Mom or Dad.

The majority of top-rated lenders allow you to release that cosigner (from their legal obligation to repay your debt, if you can’t) after 12 to 48 months of successful payment history.

With College Ave private student loans, however, it’s a long haul. To remove your cosigner from your loan agreement, you must:

  • Reach the halfway mark of your loan term
  • Make 24 consecutive on-time payments
  • Show twice as much income as your loan balance
  • Pass a credit check

If you want to reward your cosigner by sending them on their way, you might avoid a 15-year loan term. Under that scenario, you wouldn’t be able to release them until you’ve been in repayment for seven-and-a-half years.

To make matters worse for some borrowers, international students can’t achieve cosigner release at all.

If cosigner release essential to you and your guarantor, you might consider borrowing from Sallie Mae, which offers a 12-month route to release.

A limited form of forbearance

Forbearance is a vital component of any student loan, as it allows you to press pause on your repayment in the face of hardships such as unemployment.

Unfortunately, College Ave is cagey about its forbearance policy, leaving details off its otherwise resource-heavy website.

It turns out, the lender evaluates forbearance applications on a case-by-case basis. In other words, if you find yourself out of work or under another sort of financial duress during repayment, there’s no guarantee College Ave will grant you a reprieve.

If you think you might need a more clear-cut safeguard built into your loan, you might opt to borrow from Discover, as the bank offers a variety of protections, from payment extensions to as many as 12 months of forbearance.

Third-party loan servicing

If you’re attracted to College Ave, in part, because of its modern, easy-to-use platform and strong customer service record, you might be disappointed to learn that the company outsources the servicing of its loans.

Repayment of College Ave private student loans even takes place on a different website. University Accounting Service (UAS) handles statements and payments and fields customer concerns.

When deciding whether College Ave is right for you, factor UAS into the equation, too. You might be wise to contact the latter company to get a sneak peek of its effectiveness in answering your loan management questions.

If you’re left wanting more, you might be better off walking into your local bank or credit union, where your loan will be funded and managed under the same roof.

Are College Ave Student Loans right for you?

If you’re an atypical college student — maybe you’re attending part time or seeking an associate degree — College Ave private student loans are more accessible than education financing found elsewhere.

Even if you’re attending a traditional four-year school, you could be drawn to the online lender’s assortment of in-school and postgraduate repayment options. They give you the power to customize a loan that works best for your borrowing situation. Plus, if you (or your cosigner) are especially creditworthy, you could unlock some of the lowest interest rates offered by banks, credit unions and online competitors.

College Ave won’t be as appealing, however, if you’re counting on a fast pathway to cosigner release or federal loan-like safeguards such as mandatory forbearance. To pit College Ave against the competition, find out where the lender ranked among our top-rated student loan companies.

MagnifyMoney has independently collected the above information related to this review, which is current as of June 3, 2019, unless otherwise noted. College Ave. neither provided or reviewed the information shared in this article.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Andrew Pentis
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Andrew Pentis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Andrew here

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Building Credit, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards, Earning Cashback

How You Can Have a Good FICO Score Just One Year After Opening a Credit Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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When I moved to the U.S. from my hometown of Hangzhou, in China, to pursue my undergraduate degree, the thought of establishing a credit history wasn’t even on my radar. I was, after all, an international student from China, where day-to-day credit card use had only recently caught on.

It wasn’t until I returned to the U.S. a few years later to pursue my master’s degree in Chicago that I realized I’d need to establish credit if I planned to launch my career in the States.

Just one year after I opened the card, I already had a solid FICO score – 720, to be exact. This score landed me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably would not have trouble getting approved for new credit. I still had work to do if I wanted to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740. But as a credit card newbie, I was not disappointed in my progress. 

Here’s how I did it.

I selected the right card for my needs

I wish I could say I diligently researched credit cards to choose the best offer and best terms, but honestly, I just got lucky.

Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.

I thought, “Oh, maybe I should get this one, too.”

One of the friends sent me a referral link that very night. I applied and got approved quickly. We both received a $50 cash-back bonus after I made my first purchase — an iPhone — using the card through Discover’s special rewards program. I even received 5% cash back from the purchase.

Besides imposing no annual fee, the card had other perks, such as rewarding me with a $20 statement credit when I reported a good GPA (up to five consecutive years), letting me earn 5% cash back on purchases in rotating categories and matching the cashback bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.

Check out our guide on the best credit cards for students.

I also could have explored other options of establishing credit, like opening a secured card, for example, which would have been a smart option if I hadn’t been able to qualify for the Discover it student card.

I never missed a payment

Despite my very limited financial literacy at the time, I attribute my strong credit score to the old, deeply ingrained Chinese mentality about saving and not owing.

I never missed payments, and I always paid off my balance in full each month, instead of just making the minimum payment. I didn’t want to pay a penny of interest.

Credit cards carry high interest rates across the board, but student credit cards generally have some of the highest APRs. This is because lenders see students like me — consumers without much credit history — to be risky borrowers, and they charge a higher interest rate to offset that risk.

Best Student Credit Cards June 2019

It wasn’t until much later that I learned payment history is critical to good credit. In fact, it is the biggest factor there is, accounting for 35% of my FICO score.

A Guide to Getting Your Free Credit Score

I was careful not to use too much of my available credit

My friends with more experience advised me to use as little of my available credit as possible. They warned me that overuse had hurt their credit scores in the past. This didn’t much sense to me, but I followed their advice, for the most part diligently.

I later learned this is almost as important as paying bills on time each month. Your utilization rate is another major factor in your FICO score. Credit experts urge cardholders to keep their credit utilization ratio below 30%. The lower, the better.

That means if you have three credit cards with a total available limit of $10,000, you should try to never carry a total balance exceeding $3,000, and you really should aim for much lower than that.

A Guide to Build and Maintain Healthy Credit

I beefed up my score with on-time rent payments

Keeping in mind the importance of not maxing out my credit card, I never considered paying my rent with the card. In fact, some landlords charge credit card fees for tenants who try to pay with plastic.

But I did find a way to establish credit by paying rent using my checking account.

I paid rent to my Chicago landlord through RentPayment, an online service. RentPayment gave me the option of having my payments reported to TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies (the other two are Experian and Equifax). Because I knew I’d always pay bills on time, I signed up for the program.

This likely helped me improve my credit mix, another key factor influencing a credit score. The more types of accounts you show on your report, the better your score can be — if you make all your payments on time.

Yes, I made mistakes. This was my biggest one

My first foray into the world of credit wasn’t completely blip-free.

The only thing that hurt my credit, besides my short credit history, was that I had tried signing up for a Chase credit card, along with other ways to finance my iPhone, just a few days before I applied for my Discover card.

None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down at the very beginning, due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my credit report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make decisions regarding your application. Having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in a ding to your credit score.

I’ve learned my lesson, though, and I’ll be cautious in the future when it comes to applying for a lot of credit in a short time period. Overall, it should be noted that you should not be afraid to apply for new credit — even when hard inquiries do hurt your score in the short term, it typically isn’t disastrous, and your score should recover fairly quickly as long as you are a responsible user of credit. Having more available credit can also help your utilization rate — as long as you don’t increase your charges, of course.

You can also check to see if you have prequalifed for any credit cards without triggering a hard inquiry.

If you’re new to the world of credit cards, consider taking the steps I outlined above, and you, too, may have a healthy credit score before you know it.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at [email protected]

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Won’t impact your credit score