Good credit is always a plus, but it’s especially helpful when you’re starting your adult life. At that time—when you may need a new job, a car loan, car insurance, an apartment and maybe a credit card—having a positive credit history and a good credit score can open doors.

To arrive at this point in life with good credit, you may want to start establishing credit sooner than you expected. Using your young adult years, between 18 and 21, to build your credit history and score can be a smart move. But when you’re young, it’s also important to understand that credit is something to cultivate—and not necessarily to maximize right away. If you’re thinking about venturing into the world of credit, beware of these common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

  1. Waiting to Build and Establish Credit

No one comes into the world with good credit. In fact, until you begin using credit, you won’t have a credit report or score. For most, establishing credit means starting small with a low line of credit that may require a security deposit. And if you think about it, that’s not a bad place for a young person to start. You get a card to use for emergencies or to cover expenses without too much risk of running up a giant balance.

More importantly, you get the opportunity to learn how credit works—how to manage an account, make timely payments, mind your credit limit and avoid overspending. Play your cards right, and you’ll graduate with solid credit to help launch you into independent adulthood.

Here are two ways to establish credit when you’re young:

Credit cards are a great way to build credit—but they can also start you off on the wrong foot if you’re not careful. That brings us to the next credit mistake you’ll wait to avoid.

  1. Using Credit Cards Irresponsibly

You can build a positive credit history and grow your credit score with a secured card or student card, but only if you maintain good credit habits. Before you open credit card accounts and begin using your cards, learn about the factors that go into building a good credit score: payment history, credit utilization, credit mix, length of credit history and new credit. Each of these has an upside and an equally consequential downside.

If you don’t feel prepared to manage credit responsibly, you may want to wait. After a year or two, when you have some experience managing money on your own, you may feel better equipped to handle regular bills and a credit line. Here are a few things it takes to manage credit responsibly:

  1. Losing Track of and Not Paying Bills

Late payments can be costly to your credit and otherwise. One payment made over 30 days late will ding your credit score, and accounts that end up in collections for nonpayment will damage your credit further. Even if you make a credit card payment before it’s 30 days late (when it’s reported to the credit bureaus), your card issuer may charge you a late fee and increase your interest rate as a penalty.

Best strategy: Don’t forget. Put a recurring reminder on your calendar or set up alerts on your credit card account and in your bank’s mobile bill pay system. If you’re confident you’ll have enough money in your checking account at all times to cover a payment, consider setting up automatic minimum payments to remove the risk of missing a due date.

If your mailing address, email or phone number changes, remember to alert your card issuer or loan provider if you have student loans or a car loan. You want to be sure they can contact you with bills and any other notices. Also update any accounts that use your card for payment, especially automatic payments. If your contact or card information has changed, or your card has expired, your payments may not go through—and unpaid bills can result in credit-damaging collections.

  1. Not Checking Your Credit Regularly

Checking your credit report and score regularly can do a few important things for you. If you’re doing a good job of managing your credit, you’ll see your progress on your credit report, and tracking your rising credit score can be motivating. Monitor your report regularly, and you’ll also get an intuitive sense of how your actions affect your credit. Make a few large purchases on your credit card and your credit score may dip due to increased credit utilization. Pay off your balance, and your score may rise. A certain amount of fluctuation is common with credit scores, so the point isn’t to prevent or stress out over these minor changes, but rather to develop an understanding of how they play out.

At credit services of America we can help establish new credit lines, that will help you build credit as you navigate through life. We will work with you hand in hand and help you achieve you goals.