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What's a good first credit card to help build my credit score?

April 2, 2012: 6:00 AM ET

What's a good first credit card to build my credit score? Right now I use a debit card (and pay student loans).
—A.L., Washington, D.C.

Your strategy is sensible. Timely student loan payments help your credit score, but using a credit card responsibly will, after a ding for opening a new account, boost it further, according to the credit-scoring company Fico.

If you can't qualify for a no-fee card, get a credit union's secured card, which requires a refundable deposit as collateral, says NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen. Pay your balance in full for a few months, and you're likely to be upgraded to an unsecured card. A good choice: the no-fee Visa Classic from the Patelco Credit Union (patelco.org). Keeping $500 in a savings account gives you a $500 credit limit.

-- Beth Braverman

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