Credit 101: What Is Revolving Utilization?

Aerial view of a young woman with brown hair contemplating her revolving utilization. She has a pen in her mouth and an open notebook on her desk.

According to Experian, the average credit score in the United States was just over 700 in 2019. That’s considered a good credit score—and if you want a good credit score, you have to consider your revolving utilization. Revolving utilization measures the amount of revolving credit limits that you are currently using, and it accounts for a large portion of your credit score.

Find out more about what revolving utilization is, how to manage it, and how it impacts your credit score below.

What Is Revolving Credit?

To understand revolving utilization, you first have to understand revolving credit. Revolving credit accounts are those that have a “revolving” balance, such as credit cards.

When you are approved for a credit card, you are given a credit limit. If you have a credit card with a limit of $1,000 and you use it to buy $200 worth of goods, you now have a $200 balance and an $800 remaining credit limit.

Now, if you pay that $200, you again have $1,000 of open credit. If you pay $150, you have $950 of open credit. But your credit revolves between balance owed and how much open credit you have available to use. How much you have to pay each month—known as the minimum payment—depends on how much your balance owed is.

Other forms of revolving credit include lines of credit and home equity lines of credit. They work similar to credit cards.

What Isn’t Revolving Credit?

Unlike revolving credit, installment loans involve taking out a lump sum and paying it back in an agreed-upon fashion over a set term of months or years. Typically, you agree to pay a certain amount per month for a certain number of months to cover the amount you borrowed plus any interest.

With an installment loan, the amount of your monthly payment is determined by your loan agreement, not the balance due. Common types of installment loans include vehicle loans, personal loans, student loans, and mortgages.

What Is Revolving Utilization?

Revolving utilization, also known as “credit utilization” or your “debt-to-limit ratio,” relates only to revolving credit and isn’t a factor with installment loans. Utilization refers to how much of your credit balance you’re using at a given time.

Here’s how to determine your individual and overall credit utilization:

  1. Look at your credit reports and identify all of your revolving accounts. Each of these accounts has a credit limit (the most you can spend on that account) and a balance (how much you have spent).
  2. To calculate individual utilization percentage on an account, divide the balance by the credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.
    1. $500/$1,000 = 0.5
    2. 5*100 = 50%
  3. To calculate overall utilization (all revolving accounts), add up all of the credit limits (total credit limit) and all of the balances (total spent) on your revolving accounts. Divide the total balance by total credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.

If you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and a balance of $500, your utilization rate is 50%, for example. For the same card, if you have a balance of $100, your utilization rate is 10%.

When it comes to your credit score, revolving utilization is typically calculated in total. For example:

  • You have one card with a limit of $1,000 and a balance of $500.
  • You have a second card with a limit of $4,000 and a balance of $400.
  • You have a third card with a limit of $3,000 and a balance of $600.
  • Your total credit limit across all three cards is $8,000.
  • Your total utilization across all three cards is $1,500.
  • Your revolving utilization is around 19%.

How Can You Reduce Revolving Utilization?

You can reduce revolving utilization in two ways. First, you can pay down your balances. The less you owe, the less your utilization will be.

Second, you can increase your credit limit. If you apply for a new credit card but don’t use it, you’ll have more open credit, and that can reduce your utilization. You might also be able to ask your credit card company to review your account for a credit increase if you’re an account holder in good standing.

Find the Right Credit Card for You

What Is Revolving Utilization’s Impact on Your Credit Score?

Your revolving utilization rate does impact your credit. It’s the second-largest factor in the calculation of your credit score. Your utilization rate accounts for around 30% of your score. The only factor more important is whether you make your payments on time.

Why is credit utilization so important to your score? Because to lenders, it can say a lot about you as a borrower.

If you’re currently maxed out on all your existing credit, you may be struggling to pay your debts. Or you might not be managing your debts in the most responsible fashion. Either way, lenders might see you as a riskier investment and be less inclined to approve you for loans or other credit.

How Do You Know If You Have a Revolving Utilization Problem?

Sign up for’s free Credit Report Card. It provides a snapshot of your credit report and gives you a grade for each of the five areas that make up your score. That includes payment history, credit utilization, age of credit, credit mix, and inquiries. The credit report card makes it easy for you to see what might be negatively affecting your credit score.

You can also sign up for ExtraCredit, an exciting new product from With an ExtraCredit account, you get a look at 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus—plus exclusive discounts and cashback offers as well as other features—for less than $25 a month.

Sign Up Now

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25 Things You Should Never Buy — and What to Buy Instead

25 Things You Should Never Buy — and What to Buy Instead
Unhappy shopper
Take A Pix Media /

American consumers are swimming in sea of products. Any need, want or whim can be met with a quick trip to the mall or click of a keyboard.

In this retail wonderland, it’s easy to make a few mistakes.

We’ve all fallen victim to aggressive marketing and been lured in by budget-busting convenience products, impulse buys and things that simply don’t make sense. (That reminds me, does anyone want a gently used Shake Weight?)

If you want to save money, it’s time to become a more intentional consumer. Following is a look at some of the things you should never buy — and what to buy instead.

1. Flushable wipes

Yevhen Prozhyrko /

Marketed as a step-up from toilet paper, adult wet wipes are another product innovation that we didn’t need.

Besides being far more expensive than traditional toilet paper, these “flushable” wipes are anything but (pun intended). They’re nonbiodegradable and wreak havoc on plumbing and sewer systems, as we report in “9 Things You Should Never Flush Down a Toilet.”

The bottom (ahem) line? Save your money, save your pipes and stick with traditional toilet paper. If you just can’t live without a moistened wipe, consider a toilet tissue spray. Amazon has multiple options to choose from.

2. Baby shoes

Mom and baby
Julia Zavalishina /

I get it: Baby shoes are adorable. Their cuteness factor ranks right up there with puppies in Halloween costumes. But since babies don’t walk, investing in fabulous footwear for them doesn’t make sense.

Instead of buying those itty-bitty Adidas, direct that money toward something with real traction. Invest in a college savings plan, buy a savings bond or stop by our Solutions Center and find a great savings account to open in your baby’s name.

3. Bottled water

nenetus /

According to the Mayo Clinic, bottled water and tap water generally are comparable in terms of safety.

If you’re concerned about the purity of your local tap water, invest in a faucet-mounted or under-sink filtration system, or a simple pitcher filter. Any of these options is far more convenient than lugging home cases of bottled water every week from the store.

And by keeping a few reusable water bottles on hand, you can still stay hydrated on the go.

4. Natural diamonds

Couple Engagement

Diamonds have an undeniable emotional appeal. And couples are willing to pay up for these symbols of love.

But thanks to new technology, lab-grown diamonds might give natural stones some serious competition, since they cost as much as 50% less.

Make no mistake, these stones are nothing like the much-maligned cubic zirconia. In fact, they’re so similar to mined diamonds that gemologists often have a difficult time distinguishing the two, as we report in “3 Reasons Lab-Grown Diamonds Are Better Than the Real Thing.”

Lab-produced diamonds are also more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds, and you won’t have to worry about whether you unwittingly bought a conflict diamond.

5. Scented trash bags

SpeedKingz /

Garbage stinks. Literally. But scented trash bags aren’t the answer.

Instead of eliminating odors, they mask them with artificial — and often overpowering — scents. The result? Your trash can smells like a weird potpourri of garbage, pumpkin spice and vanilla.

Skip the expensive scented bags and buy basic can liners or reuse plastic grocery bags.

To eliminate bad smells, try this DIY solution: Fill a disposable coffee filter with baking soda, tie it shut with a twist tie or dental floss, then place in the bottom of your trash can. This homemade sachet will absorb odors for weeks.

6. Retail-priced greeting cards

birthday cards
Niloo /

I prefer to skip greeting cards altogether and make a good old-fashioned phone call to the person I’m thinking of. If that’s not your style, consider some other budget-friendly options:

  • Cheaper retail cards: Dollar stores have a decent selection of cards for — you guessed it — $1 or less.
  • Thrift store cards: Many thrift shops offer single and bulk greeting cards at amazing prices. A little shop near me sells individual cards for only 10 cents.
  • DIY cards: Get creative and make your own greeting card. As always, Pinterest has loads of great ideas to get you started.
  • E-cards: Send a free digital card using a service like Ojolie or Open Me.

7. Class rings

Margaret M Stewart /

During my senior year of high school, choosing and comparing class rings was the social activity of the year. But if you ask me where that $250 ring is today, I couldn’t tell you.

Class ring manufacturers rely heavily on peer pressure and sentimentality to market their wares. In exchange for hundreds of dollars, unwitting students get a bit of gold, a glass “gem” and a few weeks of giddy anticipation. But these expensive souvenirs become irrelevant in a matter of months.

If your graduate is open to the idea, suggest marking the milestone a different way. Plan a celebratory dinner, coordinate a day trip or purchase something that will make the next phase of life easier — maybe a new laptop or down-payment on a good used car.

8. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

Bykfa /

If you’ve ever used one, you know that Mr. Clean Magic Erasers live up to their name.

These wondrous little sponges are pure magic — and at $6.99 for a box of nine, they can even make your money disappear!

To avoid washing your hard-earned cash down the drain, there are generic versions of this miraculous household helper.

Skip the brand-name markup and look for any melamine sponge. Amazon has multiple options for a fraction of the price. You might even find some at your local dollar store.

9. Keurig cleaner

Coffee mug
Anutr Yossundara /

From coffee pod organizers to customized scoops, Keurig coffee makers have spawned an entire industry of peripheral products.

Cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water will clean single-cup and multi-cup coffee makers for pennies.

In fact, the many uses of vinegar will amaze you. It’s one of the most versatile and cost-effective products in your house, as we illustrate in “27 Money-Saving Ways to Use Vinegar in Every Room of Your Home.”

10. Paper plates

RosieYoung /

Using paper plates for every meal in order to avoid washing dishes is a growing — and slightly disturbing — American trend. Sure, doing dishes isn’t my favorite activity, but neither is budgeting for disposable dinnerware every month.

So, how do you solve the daily dish dilemma? Buy some inexpensive plates and bowls that are easy to clean. (Hint: Avoid anything white.)

Then, get the whole family involved in after-meal cleanup. Assign each person a task, like clearing the table, washing or drying. At the same time, listen to music together, share details of your day, and make plans for tomorrow.

It may sound corny, but the job will be quick and nearly painless. Even better? You save a few trees and spend less “paper” on paper.

11. Electric can openers

Venus Angel /

Electric can openers may be necessary if you suffer from arthritis or another dexterity-limiting condition. But for most people, they’re conveniences that become very inconvenient when the power goes out.

Free up some valuable countertop space and save money, too. Skip the electric models and buy a well-made manual opener.

Though I’m a fan of vintage Swing-A-Way openers, OXO Good Grips makes a reliable, easy-to-use product.

12. Expensive wedding dresses

Wedding couple
Alex Andrei /

Few events in life spark emotional spending the way a wedding can, but it’s important to realize the day is about the shared experience, not the price of the dress.

Don’t stress your new marriage with wedding dress debt. Consider buying a pre-owned gown at a consignment shop, choosing a less formal dress from a discount store like T.J. Maxx or exploring other ways to pay less for your wedding dress.

13. Flossers

Dan Race /

Sometimes, a product innovation is more hype than substance. Handled flossers are a perfect example.

Though great for teaching kids how to floss, these devices are far more expensive than spooled floss, which is also better for the environment.

14. Sandwich bags

Laura Riquelme /

Isn’t buying something designed to end up in the trash the very definition of throwing your money away? It’s time to embrace a greener and more economical alternative to plastic sandwich bags.

Instead of paying for an endless stream of disposable plastic, invest in few reusable containers. Plastic, glass and even stainless steel options are available. Because these containers generally have air-tight seals, your food is likely to stay fresher. And washing is a snap.

15. New cars

Soloviova Liudmyla /

I’m not sure who said “never buy a new car if you want to be a millionaire,” but it’s an adage I live by.

You’ve heard the figures before: According to Carfax, new cars depreciate 20% in the first 12 months of ownership and roughly 10% in each of the four years thereafter.

Why buy anything that’s worth 20% less the minute you take it home? Let someone else shoulder the burden of that first big drop in value. Buy used instead.

By following a few basic steps to buying used, it’s possible to find a reliable vehicle that’s still under warranty, has excellent safety ratings and gets decent gas mileage.

16. Instant microwaveable rice


Sure, precooked rice in a bag is quick and convenient, but it comes at a steep price.

Why pay several times more than you need to for a pantry staple? Stick with traditional rice — it’s incredibly simple to prepare. And if you have an electric steamer, you can set it and forget it.

17. Paper towels

Couple using paper towels
LightField Studios /

I know — suggesting that busy families forgo the convenience of paper towels borders on blasphemy. But there’s logic behind it.

Let’s assume you buy paper towels for the bargain price of $1 per roll. If you use two rolls a week — not unrealistic — you’ll spend $110 a year on something that’s just thrown away.

What’s a practical alternative? Hand towels. Change them often, wash with bleach and voila! You’ve done a solid for your budget and the environment.

18. Mass-produced souvenirs

Paris travelers
Song_about_summer /

When I was a kid, my parents planned elaborate two-week-long vacations each year. By age 12, I had a box full of refrigerator magnets, keychains and little metal nameplates. Though these items felt meaningful at the time, I seldom thought about them once the vacation was over.

Instead of loading up on tchotchkes when you travel, invest in new experiences.

Indulge in the local cuisine, plan outdoor adventures and connect with the people who make the place special. The best souvenir is returning home happily exhausted with a suitcase full of wonderful memories.

19. Subscription boxes

tommaso79 /

While streaming music and video subscriptions can often be more economical than buying or renting, subscription boxes — think meal kits, wine, shaving supplies and pet supplies — are often a slow-bleed on budgets.

Here’s the problem: Subscription box services charge us to deliver goods on a regular basis — whether we need them or not. And since payments are made via credit card or automatic deduction, we hardly notice.

Don’t need another box of razors right now? Too bad. You got it, and you’re paying for it.

Instead of signing of up for yet another thing-of-the-month, buy what you need as you need it. Better yet, stock up on items you know you’ll use at discount retailers or when the items are on sale.

20. Pre-cut produce

A senior couple cuts vegetables for a salad while cooking a meal in their kitchen
Prostock-studio /

Every processing step added to the sale of produce increases its price. Sure, pre-cut carrots, diced onions and shredded cabbage look enticingly convenient when you’re exhausted and hungry, but you’ll pay heavily for all that pre-prep.

According to a comparison done by Vice, the average consumer could save $100 each month by skipping all pre-cut and prepackaged produce. That’s some serious cabbage.

Lettuce (sorry) explore another way: Buy fruits and veggies whole and reserve about 30 minutes after shopping to wash, chop and store enough produce for several days. Seal everything in airtight containers and pop in the fridge.

21. Gym memberships

A woman exercises with dumbbells
goodluz /

Joining a gym always seems like a great idea at the time, but then life gets in the way.

When you factor in driving to the club, changing, showering, dressing and driving home, there’s not much time left for working out. Perhaps that’s why Americans waste $1.8 billion on unused gym memberships each year.

Thankfully, there are many ways to burn calories without the gym. Remove a few of the logistical hassles by investing in at-home exercise equipment.

Quality used equipment can often be found on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and even secondhand shops for a fraction of the retail price. Short on space? Some machines fold up for easy storage under the bed or in a closet.

22. Dryer sheets

wavebreakmedia /

Dryer sheets are coated with stearic acid or other fatty acids, CNET reports. In the heat of the drying cycle, these acids melt and coat the fibers of your clothing to increase softness and decrease static cling.

But dryer sheets have a few unintended consequences. The acids also:

  • Make towels less absorbent over time.
  • Reduce the wicking effect of activewear.
  • Make some pajama fabrics less fire-resistant.

Wool dryer balls are a safe, reusable alternative to dryer sheets. You can find them in many grocery stores and online.

In a pinch, aluminum foil reduces static cling, too. Just crumple a strip of foil into a ball about the size of a tennis ball and toss it into the dryer with your laundry. You’ll be surprised by how well it works.

23. Purebred pets

pet sitting
Josep Suria /

Because they lack genetic variation, purebred pets are prone to multiple health challenges. According to the nonprofit PETA, purebred dogs are often susceptible to a wide range of problems, such as skin allergies, heart valve defects and glaucoma.

Besides the higher upfront cost of buying an exclusive breed, owners will likely have to shoulder a hidden cost: expensive vet bills to manage chronic conditions.

Instead of buying a purebred pet, consider adopting a rescue from your local shelter. Generally, adoption fees are nominal when compared with the prices breeders charge.

Though these rescue animals may not have the noble lineage of a purebred, they’re in desperate need of a loving home and, I believe, never forget the second chance they’re given.

24. Checked baggage

Vietnam Stock Images /

While technically not something you buy, airline fees for checked baggage are still budget-busters. According to Kayak, some airlines charge up to $80 for a traveler’s first checked bag, and rates may increase for each additional piece checked.

If you’re tired of this “gotcha” fee, invest in a well-designed, small, soft-sided bag and versatile clothing items. You can travel in comfort with only a carry-on.

I’ve been doing it for years, and Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson details his own secrets in “Ask Stacy: How Can You Go to Europe for 10 Days With Just a Carry-On?”

Besides being a money-saver, single-bag travel is a smart strategy. When you have no luggage to reroute, gate agents might be more likely to work with you on last-minute flight changes. Even better: No more fighting crowds at the baggage carousel.

25. Ringtones

pickingpok /

Paying for a ringtone? Really? Every purchased ringtone should start with a melodic “cha-ching” — that’s the sound of money leaving your wallet.

My 6-year-old smartphone came with 35 ringtone options. I picked the least offensive option and never thought about it again.

Select a factory ringtone or for more options, download a free ringtone app like Zedge or Audiko.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


12 Ways to Never Pay Full Price for Anything

12 Ways to Never Pay Full Price for Anything
Happy shopper buying a coat on sale
Alliance Images /

Who doesn’t love a good bargain?

The internet has made it easier than ever to shave 10%, 20% or even 50% — or more — off the price of many goods. There’s really no reason to pay full price for much of anything.

To help you put an end to paying retail prices, we’ve compiled the following tips.

1. Ask for a lower price

Clothes shopping
Stock-Asso /

No, really: You may get a deal simply by asking if a better price is available. Store employees can alert you to promotions.

If you’re shopping online, use the chat feature on many retailers’ websites to ask about discounts. I once used this technique to save an additional $42 off a laptop that was already $350 off.

2. Compare prices and check for price matches

Man looking at groceries in store.
Jasminko Ibrakovic /

Even if you’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, use your phone to confirm you’re getting the lowest price. This is a two-step process for savvy shoppers, though:

  1. Check whether other retailers have a better price. This is traditional comparison shopping.
  2. Check whether the store you are in has a price-match policy. Some stores match their online prices, which tend to be lower, as I illustrated in “Knowing This Price-Match Policy Saved Me $16 in 30 Seconds.” Some stores even will match or beat Amazon’s prices.

3. Use cash-back portals

Man with laptop
Dean Drobot /

Cash-back websites basically pay you to shop.

Rakuten is a well-known example of one such site. Once you sign up for an account there, which is free, you can earn cash back for shopping at more than 2,500 merchants like retailers.

To learn more about exaclty how Rakuten works, check out “If You’re Not Getting Cash Back Online, Use This Trick” — in which we break it down step by step using a real-life example.

4. Pay with cash-back credit cards

Shopper earning extra cash back online
Prostock-studio /

If you pay off your bill in full each month so as to avoid paying interest or fees, it pays to use a rewards credit card.

Looking for new plastic? The Money Talks News Solutions Center allows you to sort credit cards based on whether they offer cash back, frequent flier miles or other rewards.

5. Check store ads

Costco deals
Tooykrub /

You don’t need a local newspaper to check store ads for the latest discounts before shopping. All sorts of stores post their weekly ad or other current sales on their websites, from department stores and supermarkets to home improvement stores and beauty supply stores. Even warehouse clubs.

I never go to Costco, or let my husband go, without checking out what’s on sale there. As we explain in “11 Ways to Save Even More Money at Costco“:

“Costco offers periodic discounts — on top of its already low prices. The retailer refers to them as ‘warehouse savings,’ but they are essentially sales. Costco offers a new batch of warehouse savings roughly once a month. So, always check out the retailer’s Warehouse Savings webpage before driving to your local club or buying anything online.”

6. Buy secondhand

couple shopping for furniture in a secondhand store

Whether you call them thrift stores or consignment shops, the internet can help you find places selling secondhand items.

Check, which you can search by ZIP code. Or try the online store locators of national organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, and national chains like Play It Again Sports and Plato’s Closet.

For yard sales, try a directory like Garage Sale Finder or Garage Sales Tracker.

There are also lots of online-only secondhand marketplaces, from (secondhand clothing) to Raise (secondhand gift cards).

7. Check for coupons and promo codes

szefei /

You don’t need scissors for this. You can find manufacturer coupons galore, both printable and digital ones, online — see “7 Places to Find Free Manufacturer Coupons Online.”

And then there are coupon codes, the online equivalent of a coupon. Do a quick web search for them before buying something online — search for the retailer’s name and the word “coupon code.” Or, you can let a free tool like Honey, a browser extension, automatically scour the web for coupon codes for you.

8. Stock up

Iakov Filimonov /

When I find a steal — such as when my face wash is on sale at Ulta and I also have a coupon for an extra 20% off my whole purchase, doubling my discount — I stock up.

I do this for everything from personal care items to vitamins, buying enough to last anywhere from a few months to a year.

When I’m sure the price is a true bargain and the product won’t expire before I can use it all, this is one of my favorite ways to save money because it also saves time.

9. Buy in or out of season

Busy farmers market scene.
Songquan Deng /

Items like clothing, outdoor furniture or accessories and gardening supplies are generally cheaper out of season. For example, you probably will get a better deal on sandals or outdoor grills in the fall or winter.

Items like produce are often cheaper when in season. Two resources:

  • The Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture offers seasonality charts for fruits and nuts and for vegetables that categorize the availability of fresh foods by the month.
  • The Seasonal Food Guide enables you to select your state first so you can see what’s in season in your part of the country.

10. Get on email lists

Couple shopping online
Prostock-studio /

Pretty much every retailer offers an email list if not also a text-message list these days. Subscribe to those of your favorite and most frequented retailers and you’ll automatically be notified of their sales, deals and other discounts.

Some retailers even send their subscribers exclusive promotions, meaning offers that they don’t advertise on their website.

To avoid an overload of retail email, create a filter. I use ProtonMail’s filters, for example, to direct all retailer emails to automatically bypass my inbox and go into one folder called “Retail” that I check periodically.

11. Check out discount retailers

Marshalls department store
Tada Images /

You can find deals daily, even on brand names, at off-price chain stores. Examples include:

And then there are discount stores, dollar stores and wholesale clubs.

12. Keep the receipt

Track and submit your receipts to earn cash.
Andrey Popov /

What if the price drops on something you recently purchased or you find a better price elsewhere shortly after making the purchase? If you bought the item from a store that would refund you for the difference — or if your credit card offers that perk — you likely will need your receipt to prove how much you paid and when you made the purchase.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


5 Unconventional Ways to Build Credit

5 Unconventional Ways to Build Credit
Young couple moving in into new apartment

oneinchpunch/Getty Images

The worst part about building credit? The nagging pressure to put all your expenses on credit cards to build that glowing credit score.

Yes, making timely payments on traditional loans and credit cards is the most common way to prove you’re fiscally responsible. But what if the temptation to spend plentifully with plastic — and the likelihood of forgetting about the eventual bill — is just too great?

There are options available to the credit-averse. You just have to know where to look — and be willing to try a few unconventional methods to build credit without a credit card.

These five strategies will help you get started.

1. Take Out a Credit-Builder Loan

Credit-builder loans allow you to take out a loan to increase your credit score. Instead of paying back cash you’ve already received, the lender will typically put the amount of your loan into a certificate of deposit (CD) account for one year. Each month, you pay a portion of the loan amount plus an interest fee. When the loan is paid off at the end of the year, you can unlock your CD and take out the cash, along with the interest that accrued.

There’s an initial fee, and you can expect a monthly interest rate of 10% to 15%. But those extras may be worth it in exchange for the payment history you’ll build up over the course of the year.  

At The Penny Hoarder, we interviewed a man who saw his credit score jump 22 points in the first month after he signed up with Self Lender, an online credit-builder loan provider. In five months, his score went from 495 to 640. Another Self Lender user saw her credit score rise 100 points over the course of a year.

Beyond online services, you can also check your local community bank or credit union to see if it offers credit-builder loans.

2. Have Your Rent Payments Reported to Credit Bureaus

Rent typically doesn’t get reported to credit bureaus, but you have a few options to request that it gets tracked. After all, it’s probably the biggest bill you pay each month.

Ask your landlord to report your monthly payments through a service like RentTrack, Rentler or Cozy. You pay your rent through an electronic portal, and when you pay your rent on time, it automatically gets reported to all three credit bureaus.

Some of these companies allow you to pay your rent without even involving your landlord. If you sign up for RentTrack, the site will send your landlord a rent check on your behalf.

You can expect to pay a fee for the convenience. For instance, RentTrack charges $6.95 per rent payment. Meanwhile, Rentler’s online rent payment takes a $1.95 fee if you’re paying from a bank account. Pinch runs as an app for Androids or iPhones, and mails your rent check for free.

3. Become an Authorized User (on Someone Else’s Card)

This method requires teamwork with someone you trust. Credit card users can request that an authorized user be added to their account. This added user gets their own card and can make purchases just as the account holder can.

But be careful: If the account holder doesn’t pay the bill, your score will suffer alongside theirs. Plus, you might not be able to remove yourself from the account, so you have to be willing to team up for the long haul.

Want to build your credit without the temptation of using a credit card? Ask the account holder to keep your copy of the credit card. Out of sight, out of mind.

4. Get a Secured Line of Credit

Yes, you’ll have to use plastic to build credit with this method. But unlike a regular line of credit, this credit limit requires you to put down cash. Secured credit cards usually come with lower interest rates because you’ve already handed over collateral.

Solid secured credit cards report your payment, balance and other relevant behavior to credit bureaus. Be sure to shop around for a secured line of credit. Some charge exorbitant fees or neglect to mention that they don’t report your on-time payments to the credit bureaus.

5. Set Up Automatic Payments on Everything Else

Bills like car loans or student loans get reported to credit bureaus, so take note of those due dates. Bills like utilities and cell phones don’t get reported unless you don’t pay. If those bills go to collections, you’re likely to see your credit score drop.

Set up automated payments to reduce your risk of forgetting about your bills as an easy backstop to protect your finances.

Lisa Rowan (@lisatella) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.