By Huiqi Xu

Most international students have this problem – how to build credit in the United States when they are starting from zero?

It was once a problem to me when I first came to the U.S. But luckily, I found an efficient way to increase credit scores within one year.

The three credit agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian begin to calculate a score when you receive a US Social Security Number (SSN). However, many international students, especially those with F-1 visa, could not gain their SSN until they have an on-campus job.

If you have planned for a job, it would be great for you to start your credit journey by applying for basic credit cards with low credit line and very limited benefits. For example, you may apply for credit cards issued by local banks which may have 1% to 2% cashback; or you may apply for Bank of America’s Cash Rewards credit card. Usually, these credit cards are friendly to international students. You may want to check out the Capital One Newcomers Card —  it’s designed specifically for immigrants, and .offers 1% cash back, has no annual fee, and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Another option is a secured card, which means that you tie it to a savings account (as collateral). Secured cards are designed to build credit.

For those who haven’t planned for a job, it would be also helpful to apply for basic credit cards. Such credit cards are also open to international students without any credit score, and help international students earn credits inside the bank system. Although you are not earning credits in the official credit system, you would find it useful once you receive your SSN and start your credit journey.

The next step is to pay monthly on time and in full, which is really helpful to earn credit scores and build credit history in the long term. And starting from the first credit card, you could apply for other advance credit cards with more benefits in the future.

Finally, you may ask: How would I know my current credit scores? You could check your credit score once in a year for free Therefore, the best way to keep an eye on your credit would be using apps or websites, like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma.

Huiqi Xu is a graduate student from China at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.