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You may have heard that age impacts your credit, leading you to believe you’re born with a credit score. While it is true that age is a factor, it isn’t your age — it’s actually the age of your accounts that affects your credit scores.

So, no, you aren’t born with credit scores (and may not even have one until you’ve ventured a few years into adulthood, depending on your situation).

When Do I Get My Credit Scores?

There isn’t a certain age or time that you get a credit score, as each person’s path is a bit different. That being said, the first time we are legally eligible to apply for a line of credit on our own is at 18. However, because of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, anyone younger than 21 cannot be issued a credit card — which is a common entry point into the land of credit — unless they can prove they have a way to repay the loan or have a willing co-signer.

But just because you can get a credit card doesn’t mean it’s essential right away, especially if you are not ready to use it responsibly.

“The right time to establish credit is when you are financially stable enough to be able to manage it responsibly,” according to an email from Bruce McClary, the vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “That means being able to keep balances under control and make timely payments.”

I Don’t Know If I Have Credit Yet

“Credit is established by certain types of activity on a person’s credit report,” McClary said, such as whether you have a student loan or credit card. If you do, they’d appear on your credit reports.

To find out where your credit stands for sure, or if you have any at all, you can request a free annual copy of your credit reports from the three major bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also check out a summary of your credit report, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. 

How Do I Make Sure I Have Good Credit?

Once you have credit, it’s important to use it responsibly, as having good credit can benefit you immensely throughout your life.

“Credit can be a powerful tool that leads to opportunities, but if mismanaged, it can slam the door on important goals, like home ownership,” McClary said. “Even a minor misstep when starting out with credit can leave some lasting damage that takes a long time to offset.”

To achieve a good credit score, there are certain precautions you can take with your finances.

“Don’t take on more credit than you can manage and always keep a sharp eye on your account activity to avoid costly billing errors and to respond quickly to suspicious activity,” McClary said. “Along with other positive financial habits, that will help maintain a healthy credit profile.”

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