Image of credit cardsOur Money Mondays blog series discusses financial goals and managing money. “Establishing and Strengthening Credit” discusses how you can build a credit history if you don’t have credit. It also offers options for people with low credit scores to improve their credit.

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Money Mondays: Establishing and Strengthening Credit

Mar 27, 2017

Image of credit cardsOur monthly Money Mondays blog series shares information, tips and resources to help you manage money as you look for or return to work. Last month, we talked about credit basics and the effect that credit can have on your job search and financial independence. Today we share ways to help you build or rebuild a credit history and a strong credit score.

Establishing credit and keeping your credit score high will help you on your path to financial independence. During your job search, employers may check your credit. If you’ve started working, strong credit can help you access resources to help you succeed in your transition to work and beyond. With good credit, you may be able to find housing closer to your workplace or buy a car for an easier commute.

Get a fresh start at a credit union

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their members. Like banks, credit unions accept deposits, make loans and provide a wide array of other financial services. But as member-owned and cooperative institutions, credit unions provide a safe place to save and borrow at reasonable rates.

Many credit unions offer fresh start programs for people who want to establish or strengthen their credit. Fresh start program is an informal name for any number of programs credit unions offer to people who have never had credit.

The fresh start program lets you deposit money into a savings account at the credit union. The credit union then gives you a credit card with a low credit limit against the money you put in savings. The card can be used anywhere that accepts credit cards. Whenever you open any type of credit card, be sure to check with your financial institution to find out how it will affect your credit. To locate a credit union near you, visit

Rent reporting

If you rent your housing and pay your rent on time, you can ask your landlord to report your on-time rent payments to the credit bureau. Not all landlords will do this, but many may if you ask. With rent reporting, these payments are added to your credit report. On-time payments can help strengthen your credit.

Credit builder loan

Many credit unions and some banks offer special loans for people looking to build their credit histories. These credit-builder loans are usually for a small amount of money, around $500-$1,500. When you take out this type of loan, the bank deposits the loaned money into a savings account. Once you repay the loan, you can access the account and money. Your payments are reported to several credit bureaus, building your credit history. Because you repay the money over time before you can access it, this type of loan is also a great way to set and reach a savings goal.

Maintaining good credit

Once you establish good credit, you’ll need to maintain it. To do this:

  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Limit your applications for new credit cards (opening several at once can actually lower your credit score).
  • Keep old credit card accounts that you’ve paid off open. This can help increase your credit score.
  • Keep credit card balances low.
  • Check your credit score regularly. You can check your credit report free once a year at

About Ticket to Work

Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work.
The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn More

To learn more about the Ticket program, visit You can also call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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