Credit cards are a great way to build credit if you use them responsibly. But if you pick the wrong one, you might just be spinning your wheels. If you’re wondering which credit card is the best to build credit, the answer is simple: any credit card that reports your account activity to all three credit bureaus.
Read on to learn why it’s important that your credit card issuer reports to all three bureaus, which issuers do so, and how you can use your new card to build your credit history.
Why it’s crucial that your card issuer reports to all three credit bureaus
There are three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each of these bureaus maintains a copy of your credit history. This means that you have three separate credit reports. Each one can vary depending on how your creditors report your activity and how the bureaus file your information.
In the future, when you apply for credit, your prospective lender will check your credit score with one or more of the credit bureaus. Most, however, don’t check all three.
So, let’s say you get a credit card with an issuer that only reports your activity to Equifax. You use the card responsibly for a year and establish a solid payment history. After that year, you apply for a better credit card hoping to get approved with your improved credit history.
If the new credit card issuer only checks your TransUnion and Experian credit reports, there will be no record whatsoever of that card’s positive history because the original issuer only reported it to Equifax.
As a result, any credit card issuer that doesn’t report your account and payment activity to all three credit bureaus isn’t worth your time. All the cards below report to the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Equifax.
Which credit card issuers report to all three credit bureaus?
Between banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, there are hundreds of credit card issuers in the U.S. market. As such, it’s impossible to have a comprehensive list of which issuers report to all three credit bureaus.
That said, every major credit card issuer reports to all three. This includes, but is not limited to:
Many other big banks and credit unions also report to all three bureaus. If you’re getting a card from a smaller issuer, however, see if you can find the information on their website to confirm. For example, there may be an FAQ section where they share how many bureaus they report to.
SuperMoney allows you to filter credit cards based on the bureaus they report to. If they don’t report to all three or try to avoid the question, move on to another card issuer. However, there are many more credit bureaus to consider.
3 ways to build your credit with a credit card
“Credit is earned over time and should be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint,” says David Melnicoe, founder of Tradeline Supply Company, which helps people with bad credit improve their credit scores.
But while it can take time to establish an excellent credit history, there’s a clear way to get there.
1. Establish a perfect payment history
Your payment history is the most important factor in your FICO credit score, making up 35% of your score. So, it’s of utmost importance that you pay your credit card bill on time every single month. And if you pay it in full, you’ll get the extra benefit of building credit without ever paying a penny in interest.
If you need help, consider setting up automatic payments on your credit card account. That way, you’ll never forget or miss a due date.
2. Keep your balance low
How much you owe is the second most important factor in your credit score, and your credit card balance is a huge part of that through your credit utilization rate. That rate is calculated by dividing your balance by your credit limit.
Anything under 10% utilization is considered pretty good,”
So, if you have a $500 balance on a card with a credit limit of $1,000, your utilization rate is 50%.
Having a low utilization is a sign that you manage your credit well. But if you have a 0% utilization from not using the card, it may not help you much because it could signify that you’re not using credit at all.
“Anything under 10% utilization is considered pretty good,” says Melcinoe, “and a very small balance report of about 1% or less, and this has proven to be slightly better than even a 0% utilization.”
That doesn’t mean you should not pay your credit card in full every month. On the contrary, you should. The key is using your credit card regularly. Just by doing that your credit utilization will rarely be 0%.
3. Avoid applying for multiple credit cards
If you’re wondering if too many credit cards hurt your credit, it is possible, especially in the beginning.
That’s because, every time you apply for a credit card or loan, the lender runs a hard inquiry on your credit report. When you’re just starting, every hard inquiry counts because each one can ding your credit score.
Apply for several cards in a short period, and you could signal to future lenders that you’re desperate and can’t manage your money without credit.
So, when you’re starting out, stick with one card. Then, as your credit improves, it may make sense to apply for a second.
How to build credit if you can’t get a credit card
Depending on your situation, you may not be able to get a credit card on your own. Maybe you don’t currently have any income, or you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy.
Some people have found a loophole to fast-track the building of credit, known as ‘piggybacking'”
Fortunately, whatever the case may be, not all is lost.
“Some people have found a loophole to fast-track the building of credit, known as ‘piggybacking,'” says Melcinoe.
“This is when someone is added to someone else’s account as an authorized user, and the authorized user in turn instantly gets an increased depth of credit.”
Your best option is to see if a trusted family member can add you as an authorized user on their credit card account. If that doesn’t work, however, it may be possible to get added as an authorized user on a complete stranger’s credit card.
That sounds risky, but there are businesses out there, such as Melcinoe’s, that facilitate those relationships in a controlled environment – this limits the risk for both you and the other person.
The bottom line
Regardless of how you choose to build credit, make sure you understand all your options and pick the credit card that is best to build credit for consumers in your specific circumstances.
To start, check out several top credit cards to see some of the best options available to you. If you can’t get one on your own, look for other options, such as becoming an authorized user.
If you get a card of your own, use it responsibly to make sure that you build a great credit history. It may take time, but it’s time well spent.