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Debt Management Guide 2008
How credit works
It's tough to manage debt if you don't know how credit works. Learn about good credit and living with no credit.
How credit works
Do's and don'ts of establishing credit

Everyone needs credit. It's a necessary part of daily life.

Whether you're renting an apartment, buying a car, renting a car, getting a cell phone or preparing to buy at an online auction, having credit in your name is part of the approval process.

So how does one go about establishing credit, particularly in these days when credit is so tight? Here's what Steve Bucci, the president of Money Management International Financial Education Foundation and the author of "Credit Repair Kit for Dummies," suggests.

Do's and don'ts

Open a bank account. This will not appear on your credit report, but bank account numbers are often requested on credit applications.

Apply for a credit card. To avoid being denied credit, apply only for those cards whose requirements you are likely to meet. Department store or gas credit cards are usually easier to obtain than a bank-issued card with a Visa or MasterCard logo.

Before applying, make sure the creditor reports account activity to the credit bureaus. As the purpose of obtaining the card is to establish credit, you want to choose a card that will help you do that. If you want to get a Visa or MasterCard, ask at the bank or credit union where you have your account.

Charge purchases and make payments on time. Use your credit card for purchases, and make sure to pay the balance on time. Once you have used the card responsibly for three months, you may want to apply for a Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover. These cards will allow you more flexibility in charging purchases, but will also give you more opportunity to get in trouble.

-- Updated: June 16, 2008
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