credit cards

10 ways women can build credit

6. Start an emergency cash stash

Then when your car, your refrigerator or the washer breaks down, you can pay for repairs or a replacement without whipping out your credit card and paying up to 20 percent interest. "When I was young, everyone said 'Start your 401(k),'" says The Debt Diva Clarky Davis. "I've been contributing to my 401(k) since I was 24. But I didn't have an emergency savings fund. Then, I had some car accidents, at $1,000 a pop. I didn't have the cash on hand to get things fixed. So I put the repairs on my credit card at 18 percent. I should have had an emergency fund for unexpected expenses."

7. Pay bills on time

On-time bill payments account for almost one-third of your credit score, Thakor says. "You may not think that's a big action, but paying your bills on time is incredibly powerful."

8. Don't flirt with your credit limits

"Keep your balance relative to your credit limit as low as possible -- ideally less than 50 percent of the credit limit," Thakor says.

9. Keep creditors informed

If you're moving, let them know. "Even if you don't get your bill, you still owe the payment," Landsman says. "If your due date is coming up and you haven't received a statement, call the customer service number located on your credit card or on your previous statement."

10. Think ahead

Get a free copy of your credit report. Don't wait to check your credit score or credit report until you're ready to apply for a loan. Fixing errors that hurt your score could take time, Huettner says.

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