Originally Answered: Credit cards?
If used responsibly, it's a great way to start building a lengthy and solid history. The trick is to not get in over your head. A credit card should be used for emergency purposes, or if you're able to pay off small purchases. If you're not able to pay it on time, or at all, then it's not a good idea. The benefits like being able to rent a car, make hotel reservations, establish credit in general may not compare to the disadvantages of harassing calls of collectors when you don't pay on time, not to mention hurting your chances of being able to get bigger things like, buying a car, a house, or even a job. Normally when you use a credit card, you have x amount of days before they start charging more money, or interest to what you already charged. That's called a grace period. After a certain date, you'll receive an itemized statement in the mail detailing what you charged, how much you owe, and how much additional money (finance charges) were added on. The key to using a credit card is to not to max it out, or charge it to the limit. That's where they'll get you. It's bad enough to borrow money that you can't pay all at once, but it's even worse when more money is added on every month for borrowing it in the first place!. Like I mentioned earlier, use the card for emergencies, charge only what you know that you can pay off every month. I'll even go as far to say that if you have the money to pay for something in cash and you use the card, put that cash that you would've used to buy it in a jar, cigar box, it doesn't matter, put it and use that money to pay the bill when the statement comes in. Another thing. Don't charge a lot to fast food. It's a common trap that me myself fall victim to from time to time. That Big Mac or Whopper or whatever your favorite burger is wouldn't taste so good when you're paying daily interest on it when you charge it. Keep that in mind. I would probably get one more and that's it. 1 in 7 Americans carry up to 10 credit cards, and the average American has 4. Me, myself I have 3 which I keep low balances and I pay off on-time, if not early every month.
Another thing is that you can report your monthly payments on practically everything that you pay every month. There's a website (click this link) http://www.prbc.com/consumers that you can enroll in a program, that verifies, reports historical payments, and also has a bill-pay service that reports the current and future payments. The beauty of this is that this shows what the traditional credit reports do not: an accurate payment history. You can have things like rent, utilities, day care, storage, insurance, phone, cell phone, anything that you pay a month that you receive a statement for. The information reported is compiled in what's call a Bill Payment Score, or BPS. Under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) you can have this taken into consideration when lenders are reviewing your credit to give an accurate picture of what your credit is really like.