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Building Credit in the U.S.

In the United States, an individual’s credit score is a number representing the credit worthiness of an individual or the probability that person will pay back their debts. Lenders such as credit card companies, banks, and car dealerships use an individual’s credit score to assess the potential risk posed by lending money to a client.  


The higher an individual’s credit score, the higher the chance that a creditor will extend credit to that individual.  An individual’s credit score also influences the interest rate they receive for that transaction. 

Here are some tips on how to build a good credit score in the U.S.

1. Start small

Start out small with 1-2 accounts. Don’t apply for 10 things at once. You might start out by going to a credit union such as MSU FCU (they have special offers for MSU employees and have professionals who specialize in this area) or local bank and apply for a secured credit card (a secured credit card is one that is backed by funds you put in an account).

2. Make it Automatic

To make sure all of your bills are paid on time think about setting up automatic payments through your credit union or bank so there is no possibility of a late payment.

3. Leverage a current credit card

If you have a credit card in your home country from an international financial or banking institution or issuer, you may be able to call the financial institution and get them to issue you a U.S. credit card or transfer your current credit card to the U.S. If you do not have a credit card with an international issuer but have enough advance notice that you are moving to the U.S., this would be a good time to apply for a credit card from an international issuer so you can take advantage of the credit established in your home country and make building credit in the U.S. easier. 

4. Make your rent count

If you find a place to rent, you can get your rent payments to count towards your credit report.  If your landlord is not currently reporting to the bureau, you can sign up for electronic rent payments through a company that reports to your credit report. Experian has information on how to do this. Learn more on the Experian website.

5. Put utility bills in your name

Putting bills in your name and paying them on time will positively impact your credit score.

6. Meet with a lender in person

Meeting with a credit union or financial institution in person can allow you to ask questions and for them to make suggestions on how to go about financial matters. MSU FCU is conveniently located near campus and have professionals that specialize in assisting with international transitions. You do not have to consult or open a bank account with MSU FCU. There are many other banking options in the area for your consideration.