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Don't have a credit score? Learn what that means.

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    What does it mean to have no credit?

    "No credit" can be an ambiguous term—what does it mean to have no credit? Does it mean you don't have any credit history at all? Or that you have a 0 credit score, and is that even possible?

    Essentially, having no credit can mean that you don't have an existing credit score or credit history. Bad credit, on the other hand, means you have a credit score, but it's low.

    In this article, you will learn about:

    • The differences between no credit and bad credit
    • How to get a credit card or a loan with no credit
    • Ways to establish credit

    Differences between no credit and bad credit

    No credit means you don't have a credit score that exists—you don't have a credit history or a credit score on record. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's not exactly beneficial, either.

    No credit

    Having no credit means an absence of transactions that create a financial record. That absence translates to having little to no purchasing power.

    It's possible to pay for transactions with cash, but having a credit score can unlock opportunities for important decisions in life. Your goal as a smart consumer is to start small and begin using credit wisely in order to build your credit score and demonstrate to lenders your creditworthiness.

    Bad credit

    Bad credit, on the other hand, means you do have an existing credit score and history. However, that credit score lands in a specific, poor range. This range depends on the scoring model used. For VantageScore® 3.0, a range of 300-600 is considered a very poor credit score, and 601-660 is considered poor. For the FICO® score, a poor credit score falls in the 300-579 range.

    Remember that your credit score (or lack thereof) does not translate to your worth or value as a human. Rather, it's a tool used to indicate your level of risk when it comes to lenders allocating funds to you. Depending on your score, you can get better annual percentage rates (APRs), higher credit limits and unlock other opportunities to achieve your goals in life.

    How to get a credit card or a loan with no credit

    Having no credit may mean that you will not get the credit card of your choice or a loan with the best APR. Generally, it's very difficult to get either a loan or credit card with no or bad credit. However, you can jumpstart your credit experience by first becoming an authorized user. An authorized user is someone who is permitted to use someone else's credit card. The full report of payment history gets reported to the three main credit bureaus—Experian™, TransUnion® and Equifax®. Positive financial behaviors (like paying the full amount on time) can help improve your credit score. As an authorized user, the card's history becomes a part of your credit history.

    You can also take out a credit card or loan in your name as a way to help establish credit and build your score over time. Your first credit card may not come with ideal rates and your credit limits will be strict, but the more you showcase your ability to make your payments on time and make healthy financial choices, the better your chances are of improving your financial options in the future. There are also credit cards available for those who are just starting to establish a credit history, such as those with lower maintenance fees.

    Be prepared to provide some documentation when you take out a credit card or a loan with no credit. As part of the application process, you may be asked to provide the following and more:

    • Proof of income (pay stubs)
    • Proof of identity (driver's license, passport)
    • Proof of your residence/mailing address (utility bills)

    Once you've been approved and open a line of credit, you'll begin establishing credit and can start building up your credit score over time with regular, on-time payments.

    Ways to establish and build credit

    You've just taken out your first credit card—congratulations! You're well on your way towards building up your credit. But because you don't start with a high score right away, you may be wondering—how do I improve my credit score and build my credit over time?

    To understand how to do this, it's helpful to get a grasp on the factors that affect your credit score. These factors, depending on the scoring model used, include, but are not limited to: payment history, credit utilization ratio, credit age and credit mix.

    To help establish and build credit, you might want to consider doing some of the following:

    • Paying off more than the minimum amount due towards your credit card payments each month
    • Paying off debts to lower your credit utilization ratio
    • Opening up another credit card or line of credit that you use responsibly (diversifies your portfolio)
    • Enrolling in Chase Credit Journey® to monitor your credit score and set score goals

    Bottom line

    Having no credit does not indicate something negative, but it does mean you may not have the same purchasing power as someone who does have an established credit history and a good credit score. Credit scores and establishing your creditworthiness are ways to unlock future possibilities for things like loans and credit cards that have lower APRs.

    While you may not need a high credit score today, think about your future and what you may want in the next 5, 10, 15 or 20 years. Do you see yourself buying a car? A home? Having a family? Planning for these life milestones ahead of time can save you the hassle of having to scramble to establish a good credit score. By starting today, you can set yourself up for a positive financial outlook and create a foundation of financial wellness.

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