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Jean Chatzky is an award winning personal finance expert and bestselling author. Jean's just published title, Not Your Parents' Money Book: Making, Saving and Spending Your Own Money, addresses exactly what kids want and need to know about money. Other recent books from Jean include: Money 911, Pay it Down!, The Difference and Make Money Not Excuses. Jean appears on television, is a columnist for the NY Daily News and her articles have appeared in publications including USA Weekend, Newsweek and Money. Jean lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband and two children, and is a passionate advocate for financial literacy who believes every child should learn about money both in school and at home. Learn more about Jean at


Credit is one of the most misunderstood tools in the financial box. Used well, it can help you attain things you want in life – things that might otherwise be unavailable. Used, well, not so well, it can get in the way of your hopes and your dreams. This guide to credit is designed to help you understand how credit really works in today's world -- and in your household. There have been a great many changes over the past decade, not only in how credit is issued, but also in how you can keep tabs on and manage the credit you have. Having this information at your fingertips is the first step to making sure you stay on top of this important resource.

So here's a step-by-step guide that answers all of your questions about building credit, learning to best manage it, and making the credit choices you'll face throughout your life.


Step One: Building Credit

Q: How do I build a credit history?

Q: How did I get a credit score?

Q. Can I build my credit history/score using a debit card?

Q: What's a "thin" credit file?

Q: How can I evaluate my score?

STEP 2: Managing Credit

Q: How do I keep my score high (or improve the score I have)?

Q: How do I keep tabs on my credit?

Q: How many credit or charge cards should I have?

Q: How do I decide which rewards are right for me?

Q. When should I use a credit or charge card versus a debit card?

Step 3: Making Credit Choices Throughout Your Life

Q: Should my spouse or partner and I have joint or separate cards?

Q: Is there any logic to applying for a loan or credit under only one person's name?

Q: What are the right credit moves when you're getting divorced?

Q: At what age should my child get a card of his or her own?

Q: What if there is a mistake on my credit report?

Q: I've been hearing a lot recently about data breaches. Should I be concerned about my credit data and identity theft?

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