Building good credit as a college student or recent graduate can help make it easier to get a lot of other good things — a car, a house, a cell phone or even a new job. On the surface, the badge of “good” credit might seem vague and elusive, but if you know how to build your credit, you’ll slowly start to see the benefits.

1. Check Your Credit Report

Everyone (yes, even students) is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year. Students can request a copy of their credit report at the FTC-sponsored website,

When you receive your credit report, ensure your personally identifiable information is correct, including names, addresses, social Security Number, accounts and loans, says You’ll also want to look for things like inaccuracies of balances, payment history, charge-offs, etc. If you find any information that you believe to be incorrect, contact the business that issued the account or the credit reporting company that issued the report.

2. Focus On the Fundamentals

While checking and savings account data isn’t typically reported to the credit agencies, lenders will look for these accounts, according to The Balance, so it’s important to make sure you have them.

With your existing bills, you’ll want to do your best to make every payment on time. Pay at least the minimum due and ideally more if you’re able. Missing a payment may cause a creditor to charge you a fee and raise your annual percentage rate (APR), and if reported, the missed payment may negatively impact your credit score. Credit payment history determines approximately 35 percent of your credit score, according to

If life gets in the way and you absolutely cannot make a payment, call your creditor and explain your situation. They may be willing to work with you.

3. Monitor and Manage Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Your credit utilization (or debt-to-available credit) ratio is defined by how much of your available credit is currently being used.

To figure out your credit utilization ratio on any credit card, you need to know your credit limit on that account. Typically it’s listed on your statement or you can call the credit card company to get this information. Divide your current credit card balance by your credit limit and multiply that number by 100. The resulting number is your credit utilization as a percentage. Credit companies will calculate this number across all of your open credit card accounts.

In general, a lower number is usually better. According to Experian, the recommended total credit utilization rate is below 30 percent. If you have multiple credit cards, you’re better off spreading the balance between them instead of loading up all your debt onto one card.

4. Have a Diverse Mix of Credit

Credit cards, bank loans, retail accounts and mortgage loans can all be considered when your credit scores are calculated. While it’s great to have a mix of several types of accounts, it’s also important not to open too many at once. Even if you’re new to credit, as many students are, credit age can impact your score, says NerdWallet, so closing your earliest credit card can have a negative impact on your score. Keep the accounts you have open and active for as long as possible, and shop around to make sure your credit card gives you the best interest rate.

5. Start With a Student or Secured Credit Card

You might be wondering how to build credit if you have little to no credit. One way to start is with the Discover it® Secured Card, in which you deposit an amount of cash up front as collateral after you are approved and then can charge up to your assigned credit line.

Be sure to charge only what you can pay for each month so that your credit utilization ratio remains low and you’re able to build a good payment history and establish good habits. It can also be a good idea to check with the issuer of your card to help ensure they’re reporting this activity to all three major credit bureaus.

If you are in school and want to build a credit history without a security deposit, you may consider the Discover it® Student Cash Back credit card, which offers cash back rewards on your purchases.

Like a smartphone or social media, a credit score is a reality of modern life. Supplied with the knowledge on how to build credit, a little attention to detail every month may be all you need to stay on top of your credit score and build good credit.

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