Q&A: How do I establish credit without a credit card?

Q: I'm 20 years old and have a part-time job. I've never applied for a credit card or anything like that. What's the best way to establish credit? —Rebekah Lewis Raleigh, NC

A: The Credit Card Act of 2009 made it more difficult for people under 21 without an older cosigner or proven income to get a credit card. Easier than applying for your own credit card is to get added as an authorized user on someone else's card.

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As an authorized user, the account is added to your credit record. Provided the primary cardholder pays bills on time and doesn't run up a balance too close to his or her credit limit, you can build credit fairly quickly. You aren't liable for the primary cardholder's debt, and the cardholder can decide whether or not to give you a card.

For more personal finance advice, see:

  • Travelers: Protect credit cards and bank account from scams
  • That feel-good credit score may still disappoint
  • 5 tips for managing your debt

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