Developing good credit habits can be a crucial part of a secure financial future — so how do you get it? First, open a line of credit like a credit card, particularly those designed for people new to credit cards, like the Discover it® Student Cash Back. Then, use that credit card to build your credit history. Consider these five ways to make the most out of your credit card to develop your credit score.

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1. Pay Your Credit Card Bill On Time and In Full

Make autopay your friend! Spend within your budget so you can pay that entire balance every month when it’s due — Discover Account Tools can help you out. This is key, because timely bill payment counts for 35 percent of most credit scores. “Common wisdom” used to say that making the minimum payment and carrying a balance on your card improved your credit score, but it turns out that’s more of an urban legend: Carrying a balance just incurs interest, which can be higher for new cardholders, and you end up paying the balance plus the interest on the balance. And failing to pay the minimum may incur late fees.

2. Use Your Credit Mindfully

While you might want to take that new credit card out for a spin by buying a full size refrigerator for your dorm room, it’s best to start small. Use your credit card minimally, and for less extravagant items. You might even want to take a few of your smaller, regular monthly purchases — think music and TV streaming services — and automate them. This will keep your credit card active, and will also keep your spending within your means.

3. Monitor Your Debt-to-Credit Ratio

A debt-to-credit ratio, also referred to as a credit utilization ratio, is how much of your total credit you’re using monthly. For example, if you have one credit card with a limit of $2,000 and you’ve spent $1,000 of it, then your debt-to-credit ratio is 50 percent. According to Nerdwallet, you want to keep that number under 30 percent, though if you end up having to exceed it from time to time — credit cards can be great for unplanned expenses. Really, it all comes back to budgeting!

4. Only Apply for the Credit You Need

When you’re just starting to build your credit score, you might think that opening a bunch of accounts will boost that score higher and faster. In reality, this can have the opposite effect. First, you need to know the difference between soft inquiries and hard inquiries. Soft inquiries are when a business checks your credit report to prescreen you. According to The Balance, they will most likely not affect your credit score. On the other hand, a hard inquiry, or an inquiry made as the result of an application on your part, can affect your credit score. That’s because lenders think you might be applying for too much credit because you don’t have the funds to pay your expenses otherwise.

Inquiries are generally about 10 percent of your credit score. If there are too many hard inquiries, that can cause your credit score to drop by several points and possibly lead to denied applications. That’s because lenders think you may be applying for too much credit because you aren’t solvent.

5. Commit To The Long Term

Think balancing quality over quantity; one or two good credit card that you use regularly and responsibly may be more helpful than trying to keep track of several cards, like four or more. Plus, according to Credit Karma, a longer credit history for an individual shows lenders that you have experience using credit. This is a good thing because they use that information to determine the likelihood that you’ll pay back a loan. Also consider that closing a credit card may hurt your credit score by increasing your debt-to-credit ratio — another reason to find the right card for you and stick with it.

Remember, you have control over how your credit develops over time, so get out there and start building yourself a beautiful credit history.

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Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.