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Financial Advice and Money Etiquette

How to Get Credit Without a Job

Even if you aren't a wage-earner, you can still get credit. Learn how.

By Emma Johnson
Illustration of a woman looking at a smug man holding a credit cardPapercut.fr

The federal Credit Card Act of 2009 has made it hard for stay-at-home parents and nonworking adults to get their own cards. Why? The law limits access to a credit line to people with an independent source of income. If you already have a card, a lack of employment won’t affect it, but if you want to get a new one or another form of credit, like a mortgage, you could be denied. If you fall into this category, consider these smart strategies, which will help you qualify for your own piece of plastic.

Become an authorized user on a spouse’s account. This allows potential creditors to see if you pay your bill promptly and if you keep a low debt-to-credit ratio, says Clifton O’Neal, the senior communications director for TransUnion, a credit bureau.

Obtain a branded card. Establish a positive credit history with a card from, say, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, or a gas station. These are often easier to get than regular cards (they have lower limits) and can be an excellent way to build your credit score—a critical step toward getting your own account.

Get a secured credit card. These require a cash deposit up front, which means you can never spend more than the amount you deposited. For example, if you want a $1,000 line of credit, you must deposit $1,000. If managed responsibly, these can improve your credit rating and allow you to qualify for a regular card in the future. (To find one, go to Bankrate.com.)

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