Can I get a credit card if I don’t have any credit or a job?

The answer is complicated. Trying to get credit without having credit is a catch-22, because you need credit to build credit. Fortunately, there are some loopholes to this situation.

For one, you can build credit by getting a secured credit card from your bank or credit union. The different between a secured card versus a traditional credit card is that you must deposit money in a savings account before using the credit card. Therefore, any spending you do with the card is “secured” by the money you deposited. Keep in mind a secured credit card is different than prepaid debit card; you can’t build credit with a prepaid debit card, but you can with a secured credit card.

If you’re still curious how to obtain credit without having it or a job, here are two resources that can help guide you in the right direction: “Build Credit – Learn How to Establish a Solid Credit History” and “How to Establish Credit.”

An important law that dictates whether or not you can get a credit card is the Credit Card Act of 2009. This law states that if you’re under the age of 21, you cannot get a credit card unless you have a cosigner or proof of your ability to repay the lender. A secured credit card is also a good way to establish credit if you’re under 21 since it shows you have the ability to pay up to the amount that is deposited in the savings account associated with the secured credit card.

Written by Alex Ziskind and Andrea Pellegrini, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center

What is my credit score? Why is it important? How do I check my credit report?

What is a credit score?

A credit score is typically a three-digit number based on your financial history to analyze and determine your creditworthiness. The higher your score, the better off you are! Credit scores are used by lenders (banks, credit card companies, etc) to gage your financial responsibility based on your past financial behaviors. Credit scores are calculated from information in your credit report. Things that affect your credit score, both positively and negatively, are paying bills late or on time, the type of credit you use, how much credit you have available to you, how much you owe on your credit cards and loans, how long you’ve held outstanding credit (how long you’ve had a credit card, for example), and whether you’ve had a lot of inquiries from prospective lenders.
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Are you liable for charges made on your credit card after it has been lost or stolen?

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) the most you can be held liable for when your credit card has been stolen is $50. However, if you report the loss before your card has been used (or the fraudulent charges involve your credit number and not the card itself) under the FCBA you are not liable at all and do not have to pay the card issuer any money. But if a thief uses your card before you are able to report it missing, the most you will be liable for is $50.

It is a good idea to watch your billing statements carefully in the months after your credit card goes missing. If any charges appear that you did not make, be sure to contact the card issuer immediately.
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