As one of the first generations in history to be less financially well-off than their parents, it’s not surprising that millennials are a little gun-shy when it comes to taking on credit card debt. Add to that a monumental student loan debt tab, and coming of age during the Great Recession, and you can begin to understand Bankrate.com’s finding that 64% of millennials do not own a credit card,
“Millennials are clearly falling short in terms of credit card usage compared to their elders,” said Mike Cetera, Bankrate.com’s personal loans and credit analyst. “A credit card shouldn’t be seen as taboo. Used correctly, a credit card can not only provide the added benefit of points and rewards, but also help establish a healthy credit score which will be valuable for such things as a lease or mortgage in the future,” Cetera added.
The study also found that credit card usage increases with age. Fifty-five percent of 30- to 49-year-olds have credit cards, 62% of people age 50 to 64 use them, as do 68% of those ages 65 and older.
- If you need to build a credit history, consider the following: If you are a renter (and about 55% of African Americans are), add your rental payment history to your credit reports: Numerous studies show that this can give you a nice bump, sometimes 20-points or more, in your credit score. There is, however, a catch: You can’t add this data to your Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion credit reports yourself. You have to use a third-party company to do it because they have to independently verify it with your landlord or property owner. Fortunately, several companies do this, including RentTrack.com and RentReporter.com.
- Try piggybacking: Piggybacking is a technique where you get added onto the credit accounts of someone with a positive credit history. For example, if your spouse or a parent has good credit, you can get added as an authorized user on one or two of their credit cards. This lets you add positive credit history to your own credit files and increases your credit scores.
- Get a secured credit card: With a secured card, you put a certain amount of money—like $500—on deposit with a bank, credit union, or other lender. The amount you put up to open a secured card becomes your credit limit. Then if you buy anything or charge on the card, you just pay it off on time each month, and that boosts your credit score.
Just make sure that any secured card you open reports to all three credit bureaus so you get the most bang for your buck from a credit-scoring perspective.