Of all the things my parents have taught me, there is one in particular that has opened so many doors in my life, and saved me a ton of money. I got my first credit card when I turned 18. As soon as I got it my parents told me to make purchases on my credit card, and pay off the balance every month. I wasn’t making any purchases larger than a tank of gas or an occasional video game, but I did what they told me to do that entire year, as continued to do so when I went to college.
Then came a fateful icy morning on my way to work before classes. Three cars slid into me on a highway on-ramp, and I had to say goodbye to my first car. I was so glad I had made those small payments on my credit card for 6 years when I went into the dealership to buy my first new car. I was approved for their lowest interest rate, and very low payments. And yes, I did call up my parents to thank them for the advice to start doing that when I was 18.
Two months later I went with my friend into the same car dealership to look at a few cars that were a year or two old. He found a car he wanted, and agreed to pay the down payment with the agreed monthly payments on the car…until he had is credit checked. The salesman came back and wrote two very different, much higher numbers on a piece of paper showing what is new down payment and monthly payments would now be. The result was a cheaper, older car sadly. A year later I was able to purchase a home, and I continue to make payments on the same credit card I started to make purchases and payments on when I was 18. I learned that when it comes to credit scores, the key to getting ahead is getting started.