When you look at a credit card, what do you see?
Some people see a gateway to debt, debt and more debt. And it can be if you use it poorly. But in the right hands, credit can also unlock exciting new possibilities.
Building credit opens doors that remain firmly shut for those without it. I’m not just talking about buying a house or financing a car, either. Credit history has become an increasingly common way of gauging someone’s reliability and trustworthiness in almost all areas of life. Some people won’t even date someone who doesn’t have good credit.
When you build credit, you’re building a financial reputation that will follow you everywhere you go. Here are just a few things great credit can help you do:
1. Land your dream job
It’s one thing to get turned down for a loan because you don’t have good credit. But to get turned down for a job? Sounds crazy, but it can happen.
These days, many companies run credit checks as part of their hiring process. Although employers aren’t able to see your actual credit score, they can request a modified credit report that shows them basic information like whether you have any black marks against you—or whether you’ve built any credit at all.
Why do they care? Because good credit demonstrates financial responsibility, and that means you’re probably a reliable employee. While a stellar credit report may not carry as much weight as a killer resume, it could be the deciding factor that nudges you ahead of the competition.
2. Live where you want
Think homeownership isn’t in the cards for you? That could change someday. And if it does, you don’t want put off buying a home for years while you build up enough credit to get a mortgage.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re lifelong renter. Most landlords will still check your credit before leasing an apartment to you. After all, they’re loaning you property to you, and they want some assurance that you’ll pay your rent on time.
Good credit matters even more if you’re looking for swanky, higher-end digs—or if you live in a hot housing market like Portland or Eugene, where competition is intense. Excellent credit could tip the scale in your favor, while zero credit means you’ll probably get left out in the cold.
3. Save on monthly bills
Think building credit costs too much? Sure, it requires you to borrow funds and then pay interest on them. But not having credit will also cost you—and you might be surprised how much.
Let’s start with your cell phone plan. Most providers run a credit check before signing you up. And the best rates go to—you guessed it—people with excellent credit. Insurance companies also check your credit history. The better your score, the lower the premiums they’ll offer on car insurance, renters insurance and life insurance.
When you add it all up, great credit can save you more than $100 a year on bills. And who couldn’t use an extra hundo in the bank?
4. Start a business
Launching a startup is the new American Dream. Whether your goal is to make millions or just be your own boss, owning your own business could be your ticket out of the traditional work structure.
But starting a business isn’t cheap. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the cash it takes to open up shop, which means at some point you’ll probably need a small business loan to help get you up and running. And for that, you’ll need good credit. If your goal is to escape corporate life and venture out on your own someday, you might want to start building credit now.
5. Enjoy priceless experiences
Ever sat online waiting to buy tickets to see your fave band, only to have them sell out before you can even get a click in? It’s heartbreaking. Too bad you weren’t able to get in on the presale.
A lot of tickets to hot events get bought up before they ever become available to the general public. That’s because people with certain credit cards are able to buy them ahead of time, giving them a definite edge when it comes to snagging a seat at the show of the year. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Credit cards can come with all sorts of benefits, from travel rewards to discounts. Of course, the best cards (and interest rates) go to those with the best credit.
If you’re the type of person who craves experiences, good credit can help pave the way. It’s not about borrowing a lot of money to buy things you can’t afford. It’s about showing the world how financially responsible you are. Do that, and doors will open.