phone bill to build credit

Using Your Cell Phone Bill to Build Credit

Using Your Cell Phone Bill to Build Credit

Cell phones have become so much a part of the American culture; one could say they are indispensable tools of a daily life. But did you know that you can also use your cell phone bill to build credit?

The credit industry’s changing attitudes towards cell phones is an alternative path to creditworthiness. However, there are obstacles to making cell phones an acceptable way to build credit. Here’s what you can do to build credit using your cell phone via text and email alerts.

The Irony and the Agony

When you purchase a cell or smart phone the cell phone company typically checks your credit report to see what the status of your credit is. If your credit score is acceptable you’re good-to-go. But the irony is having a perfect record of cell phone payments will not improve your credit score.

Conversely, if you don’t make timely payments on your cell phone bill your credit score will be damaged. The reason is this: cell phone providers are not extending you a line of credit, which is why cell phone payments made on time don’t end up on their radar. But if you don’t pay on time the cell phone company will report your arrearage to the credit bureaus.

But the major credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax are starting to reconsider cell phones as a viable way to build credit.

Consumer Advocacy Turns the Tide

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) conducted a study, which revealed about 26 million U.S. citizens are lacking credit histories. Another 19 million have credit histories but they have aged out, or little credit information is available to formulate a credit score.

The CFPB is on a mission to aid lower-income and underserved communities to be able to get credit. They have concluded, based on their research, making cell phones an alternative source of credit building is dubious, complicated, and a challenge to be overcome.

But it only takes a few hardy pioneers to get the ball rolling in the right direction until such time a critical mass is reached, and a new business model adopted. One such pioneer is the alt-credit reporting agency, Pay Rent, Build Credit (PRBC). PRBC offers a service by which consumers can self-report cell phone payments. In 2010, 800 lenders had already signed on to accept as creditworthy cell phone payments.

Joining in the effort to make cell phone payments part of a credit report is FICO, the standard consumer credit rating scorer. FICO began its FICO Expansion Scoring System in 2007, but the jury is still out on whether the FICO Expansion Score is a dependable risk analysis paradigm.

But that hasn’t stopped Experian from trending toward making cell phone payments an alt-method of building a credit record. Experian bought RentBureau in 2010. RentBureau keeps records on tenants’ rental payment history, and now includes this information in its credit reports.

The credit industry is waking up to the fact they can profit enormously on consumers, who possess no credit history, but are making cell phone payments promptly and consistently.

With all the change in the air about legitimizing the alt-method of building creditworthiness, using a cell phone, we give you a few pointers below to get you on track towards building a credit history.

Fraud Alerts

  • Your credit card issuer’s mobile alerts, concerning fraudulent activity appearing on your credit report, are useful information. It helps you keep tabs on suspicious charges cropping up on your statements, so you can report them to the credit card issuer immediately.
  • In tandem with reporting to the credit card company, you can also ask the credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report, so creditors will see fraudulent activity when it occurs, keeping your credit record clean.

Automation and Monitoring

  • To ensure you never make a late payment, set up an automated payment option. But don’t do it if you’re uncertain the funds are in your checking account to make good on payments.
  • When you get your statement, double-check no unrecognizable purchases have shown up, possible evidence of fraud. Or have you just forgotten about a particular purchase? Busy lives can distract from remembering if we made that questionable purchase. Also, a credit card statement’s itemized purchases sometimes provide unclear descriptions, and you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what the purchase was. This is why it’s a good idea to keep your receipts until you’ve verified all your purchases are legit.
  • Another handy tool for monitoring your credit spending is to sign up for mobile alerts. You can choose at what amount you want to be notified your spending limit has been reached. If you’ve set a low spending limit, you can opt to pay the entire balance. Paying off your balances always impresses lenders.

Tending to Your Credit Score

  • One proactive step you can take to keep your credit score steady is to sign up for credit alerts. The emails or texts you get any time a “card not present”, an out-of-country charge, or a charge that exceeds your normal spending pattern appears, will enable you to contact the credit card issuer to dispute the item.
  • Finally, frequently check on your credit score to keep your spending habits under control. You will see some minor risings and fallings, which shouldn’t alarm you. But watch out for any negative trends in your spending.

7 Things to Know Before Applying for a Credit Card

7 Things to Know Before Applying for a Credit Card

Maybe you’re applying for a new credit card as a person with an already-established credit history. Or, you’re a newbie and need to establish a credit history. Regardless, there are 7 things to know before applying for a credit card. This information will improve your chances of being approved for a credit card.

Starting Out

If you’re applying for a credit card for the first time, there three ways to approach it.

The first way is to find a bank that offers secured credit cards. What this means is you’ll be required to make a modest cash deposit, which will secure your line of credit. Your credit limit will most likely not exceed the cash deposit. Consider it a probationary period of sorts, in which you’ll be monitored to see how well and responsibly you handle your credit card. That means no late or skipped payments, and no over-the-limit purchases.

Once you’ve established a credit history of impeccable standing for six months, up to a year, it gets easier. You will increase your odds of getting approved for an unsecured or standard credit card.

A second way of getting a credit card as a first-timer, or someone who has bad credit, is to get a co-signer, who will cover your debt if you fail to make payments for whatever reason. It’s necessary for your co-signer to possess good credit, so choose wisely. With a co-signer, whose credit is in good standing, you’ll have a better-than-even chance you’ll be approved.

A third way to increase the likelihood of being approved for a credit card is to make an application for a credit card where you bank, and have already opened a savings and / or checking account.

Don’t Apply Too Often

Don’t submit an application for several credit cards all at the same time. What happens is your credit score will take a hit, and lenders will look askance and consider you a bad risk for repayment.

Be prudent and bide your time searching for the appropriate card you qualify for. If you want to build a credit history quickly, keep your credit requests infrequent, no more than twice in any one year.

The Two Pillars of Credit

Credit reports and credit scores are what you will build your credit with. Familiarize yourself with these two terms before you begin filling out a credit application.

Credit reports are produced by a triad of credit bureaus: Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. Each credit bureau compiles all the information that makes up a credit score. Your credit score will differ from credit bureau to credit bureau. This is because all creditors do not submit credit information to all three bureaus.

Therefore, look at all three credit bureaus to determine the status of your credit. You’ll discover as you receive your credit reports from each credit bureau neither your credit reports nor credit scores will be the same. To find out your credit scores, go on for a free credit report each year. Visiting the credit bureau websites themselves you will pay a modest fee.

Checking your credit scores on any of these major credit bureaus is only one half of learning to monitor your credit. The other half is checking to see all the information is accurate. Any error your credit report may contain could have an adverse effect on your credit score, and weaken the health of your credit.

It’s sad to say, but credit report errors show up all too frequently. The FTC reports 20% of consumers find errors in their credit reports. However, you can have the error(s) deleted by requesting a dispute claim form from the credit bureau. Fill it out, send it, and follow up to make sure it has been expunged from your credit record. Be vigilant about checking your credit reports for errors, so you’re always aware of what shape your credit is in.

The Anatomy of a Credit Score

Credit scores are rated according to three categories: excellent, good, and average. The FICO rating system is a scale starting at 300 and ending at 850. Any score below 670 is below average or bad credit. 670 to 699 is considered good, 700 to 850 excellent.

FICO uses five variables to figure out your credit scores. The largest percentage of your credit score is your payment history (35%). Timely payments will strengthen your score, late payments diminish it. Next is the amounts owed (30%), followed by your credit history (15%), new credit accounts (10%), and forms of credit (10%).

Creditors and Debt-to-Limit Ratio

Creditors, when they look at your credit reports, want to see you have a debt-to-limit ratio that is 30% debt to 70% of your accessible credit limit. For example, if you have a credit limit of $5,000, don’t put more than $1,500 in purchases on your credit card.

Spread It Around

Handle different forms of credit, such as cash back, frequent flyer miles, personal, business, and student loans. Having different types of credit will impress your creditors, especially if you pay all of them on time. What this says to creditors is you’re capable of managing various types of credit. This means you’re lower risk, which makes you a highly desirable applicant.

Promptness Results in a Better Credit Score

It almost goes without saying. Be prompt with your payments in all your financial responsibilities, not just with your credit cards and loans. This includes the rent or mortgage, phone bills, heating and cooling bills, cable, and so on.


How To Build Credit

How to Build Credit

It can be very unclear how to start to build credit, even though having a credit score is extremely important. In the event that you don’t have a record as a consumer, it’s difficult to get any type of money advance. This includes getting a credit card, loans, or even renting out an apartment.

Yet, how are you expected to demonstrate a past filled with responsible credit handling if nobody will give you credit in the beginning, when you have no credit history?

A few devices can help you set up a record as a consumer: secured credit cards, a credit-manufacturer advance, a co-marked credit card or advance, or approved client status on someone else’s credit card.

Whichever you pick, you can successfully begin to start building credit. Here are 5 ways to get started.

1. Apply for a secured credit card

If you don’t have any credit history, you’ll likely need to start with a secured credit card. For a secured card, you’ll need to make an advanced cash payment as a security deposit. In the event you can’t pay off any credit in the future, this advanced cash payment will be used to pay off your bills. The store sum you add to the secured card is normally the same as your credit limit.

You’ll then use the secured card as you would any other credit card. You’ll make purchases on the card and then need to pay off your credit card bills prior to the due date. Ideally, you should pay off your card in full every month, as opposed to leaving balances month-to-month. To learn why that is, check out our article on How to Get Rid of Credit Card Debt. Your money store is utilized as security on the off chance that you neglect to make installments.

You’ll get your initial money store back when you close your secured card account, assuming it hasn’t been used to pay for missed installments.

Secured credit cards aren’t intended to be utilized until the end of time. The reason for a secured card is to create a credit history and increase your credit score to meet all requirements for an unsecured card (the most common type of credit card) — a card without a store and with better advantages.

Pick a secured card with a low yearly charge and ensure it reports to every one of the three credit agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can view our list of The Best Secured Cards of 2017.

2. Get a credit builder loan

A credit-manufacturer advance is precisely what it sounds like: its sole objective is to help you start building credit.

Commonly, the cash you obtain is held by the bank in a record and not discharged to you until the advance is reimbursed. It’s a constrained investment funds program of sorts, and your installments are accounted for to credit authorities. These advances are regularly offered by credit unions or group banks.

3. Use a co-signer

It’s also possible to get an advance or an unsecured charge card by using a co-signer. The co-signer would be someone you know well who has good credit. The co-signer also must be willing to put their credit score on the line or else help you make your credit payments. Make sure that both you and the co-signer understand that the co-signer is responsible for everything owed on the off chance that you don’t pay. That’s why it’s important to have someone you know well be your co-signer, and then make sure that your credit is only ever your problem, never theirs.

4. Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card

You can also become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. It would need to be someone that you are very close with, such as a close relative or spouse. This means that you would be able to make purchases on his or her card. As an approved client, you’ll appreciate access to a credit card and will be able to construct a credit history, without being lawfully committed to pay for your charges.

First, make sure that you or the cardholder asks the credit card company if it’s possible to report information back to the credit bureaus on your behalf. If this isn’t possible, you won’t be able to build credit as an authorized user. So, make sure you do this important step first.

Then, make sure you and the cardholder are on the same page about how you’ll use the card. Ultimately, although you’re not lawfully committed to pay for your purchases, it will be a short-lived relationship with the cardholder if you spend with their credit card and don’t pay those purchases off.

5. Get credit for the rent you pay

Lease reporting administrations, such as Rental Kharma and RentTrack, help you put your rent history into your credit report. This creates a positive history of on-time installments. Not each credit bureau considers these installments as part of your credit history. Some do, which might be sufficient to get an advance or credit card that would help you continue building credit.

Additional tips and resources for building credit

Building a decent financial assessment requires some serious energy; it unquestionably does not occur incidentally. When you have fabricated your credit, you’ll have numerous open doors that were already inaccessible to you.

  • Building a decent FICO rating requires some investment, most likely no less than six months of on-time installments.
  • Make 100% of your installments on time, not only for credit card bills but for all bills e.g. service bills. Charges that go unpaid might be reported back to the credit bureaus, which would hurt your credit.
  • Keep your credit utilization low (generally below 25% if possible).
  • Don’t open an excessive number of new records on the double; new records bring down your normal record age, which makes up some portion of your FICO assessment.
  • Keep accounts open for as long as possible. Unless one of your unused cards has a yearly charge, you ought to keep them all open and dynamic for your length of installment history and credit usage.
  • Check each of your credit reports every year for mistakes and inconsistencies.
  • Figure out how to check your financial assessments and reports

The Best Secured Cards of 2017 For Credit Repair And Credit Building

The Best Secured Cards of 2017 For Credit Repair And Credit Building

If you’re having trouble getting a credit card due to bad history or no history, getting a secured card may be the solution for you. The “secure” in a secured card means that you have to put down a deposit which the bank will use as security just in case you can’t make the payments. But alas, not all cards the same. Here are some of the best secured cards for getting started building credit or for credit repair.

1. Capital One® Secured MasterCard®



  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus
  • Get a $200 limit that’s higher than your deposit of $49, $99, $200 depending on your credit
  • 80 days to make partial payments to your deposit. Your account, however, will not be activated until the deposit is fully paid
  • Get access to a higher credit line without an additional deposit after you make your first 5 monthly payments
  • Manage your account 24/7 by phone, online access or through their app


  • High 24.99% Variable APR
  • You need a checking or savings account
  • You cannot have a discharged bankruptcy and your rent cannot be almost high as your income (this is generally the case with all credit cards)
  • No rewards


This is definitely a great card if you don’t want to spend a lot of money upfront on your deposit.

Online Customer Reviews

The card seems to really work for first-time credit builders and those who are trying to fix their credit. Many customers praise the Capital One® Secured MasterCard® for giving you the ability to easily check your balance. There’s also a credit tracker option which helps you easily monitor and improve your credit score. Most people use it for emergencies and very low purchases. People do complain about the high APR. Vigilance and steadfastness is required in paying on time. Great card to get for those who have been rejected by other companies.

2. OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card



  • Qualify with bad or no credit
  • Qualify within minutes
  • No checking account or credit check required
  • The card reports to the three major credit bureaus


  • Has an annual fee of $35
  • No rewards
  • You generally can’t upgrade to a unsecured card


This is the best secured card for someone who has bad credit or no checking account.

Online Customer Reviews

Many customers complain that they can’t upgrade to an unsecured card. As a result, they use it mainly to build credit and then end up getting an unsecured card with a different card company. Customer service also seems to be a problem. Customers complain that payments take a while to post, so they need to pay well in advance of the due date. Overall, it’s still a great option for people who have been rejected by other card companies. It’s still one of the best secured cards because even for customers who have complaints, they were able to actually fix their credit score or start building credit.

3. Discover it® Secured Card



  • No annual fees
  • Cash back on every purchase. Rewards never expire. Earn 2% on all gas and restaurant purchases up to $1,000 per quarter. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get your FICO score for free with your monthly statements and online
  • Qualify even if you’ve filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • After 7 months, Discover will do reviews of your account, and you have the chance to upgrade to an unsecured, standard credit card. You can have your deposit refunded and even get a higher credit limit
  • No penalty APR for paying late, and no late fee for missing for your first due date


  • 23.49% variable APR
  • Deposit equal to the credit limit. A security deposit of $200 or more is required


It has great rewards for an unsecured card. Just make sure to pay off your bills in full to avoid the steep APR interest.

Online Customer Reviews

Many customers actually get upgraded to an unsecured card in addition to getting their deposit back. And many seem to do so quicker than they expected. Just make sure to never make a late payment. Users like the ability to quickly increase their credit scores. It takes about two weeks to receive your card. You can also get a Discover iPhone App for easy access.

A Comparison of Benefits

Which of the best secured cards is best for me?

Which one is the easiest to apply to?

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® does not apply a hard credit check, so you won’t lost points on your record. On top of that, you’re able to qualify in a manner of minutes. 

Which one has the cheapest deposit?

This may be a stickler for many people because chances are if you’re struggling with building or fixing your credit, you may be low on cash. On secure credit cards, many have a deposit requirement of $200 which may be too much for some people. So, if you’re looking for a low deposit, Capital One® Secured MasterCard® may be a good choice for you.

Which card offers a rewards program?

Because most secured cards focus on getting customers to build up their credit, rewards usually aren’t offered. This is what makes the Discover it® Secured Card one of the best secured cards. Its ability to earn you 2% cash back on all gas and restaurant purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases may very well make it one of a kind.

Which card allows you to upgrade to an unsecured card?

Due to the no-frills, low credit limit nature of secured cards, many users eventually wander to other cards which offer better options. However, instead of applying for another card with a different company, the Discover it® Secured Card allows you to upgrade to a unsecured card with a returned deposit and a higher credit limit.

Which card allows you to not have a checking account?

Having a checking account may not be an option for some people. For this reason, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card may work well for you. Although you may not need a checking account for opening an account, you probably need one to make payments.

Which card has the lowest annual fees?

Many users don’t like the annual fee because if you add up the interest rate and paying down the balance, the money really adds up. Plus, if you’re not really using your card, you may forget that you even have one. Both the Discover it® Secured Card and Capital One® Secured MasterCard® have no annual fees.

Which card has the lowest interest rates?

Among the three secured credit cards, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® has the lowest purchase APR of 17.64% Variable. However, they do have a penalty APR of up to 21.75% variable and a cash advance of 17.64% APR variable.