When I joined TPG almost two years ago, I had no credit history to speak of — and even less knowledge of credit card rewards.

Now, I’m fortunate to say I have a handful of credit cards along with an “excellent” credit score — one that will help me finance an upcoming house purchase.

Some parts of my credit journey, like landing a job at TPG and being able to learn from my credit expert colleagues, were just plain lucky, but other parts are pretty straightforward and can be replicated by anyone looking to improve their credit score.

Here’s how I went from having no credit to becoming a homeowner.

Joining TPG and becoming an authorized user

Before joining TPG, I had no idea of the value credit cards could offer the average person. Forget about premium travel cards or racking up cash-back rewards — I was a naive recent college grad who barely had notions of credit history and credit score.

I eventually conveyed all of this to TPG’s senior editorial director, Nick Ewen, who went above and beyond by adding me as an authorized user to his longest-standing credit card. That may seem risky, but he never actually gave me the card. This way, he let me benefit from his credit history without worrying about being responsible for my charges.

He showed me the basics of monitoring your credit score with sites like Experian. Imagine my surprise one day when I saw that my score had, seemingly out of nowhere, shot into the 700s.

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That’s the power of becoming an authorized user. It was a huge head start for my credit journey and one for which I can’t thank Nick enough.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family if they’ll help you start your credit journey by adding you as an authorized user on one of their accounts. It can give you a huge boost, especially if that person has an outstanding credit history. (Note: Despite my experience, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend asking your boss. Nick is way more generous than most.)

Landing credit cards of my own

My next step was to get my own credit cards. Again, I was lucky to get advice from some of the top credit card experts around, but you can get the same advice by checking out our list of the best starter credit cards.

I learned that a secured card is a good place to start, so I got the secured version of the Discover it Cash Back card first. After a few months of solid payment history, it converted to the unsecured version.

I still wasn’t able to land a premium travel card right away. Even though my credit score was excellent, I had only a few months of payment history to my name.

However, I did qualify for the Apple Card, a reasonable cash-back option that (I thought) made sense for me at the time, as it offered simple cash rewards, an intuitive user interface and no fees attached. I also earned a welcome bonus of $75 cash back in my first few months.

The information for the Apple Card and Discover it Cash Back have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issue

Woman paying with her card

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Then, in October 2023, I capitalized on a lucrative limited-time welcome offer on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. With that offer, Chase would automatically match all cash back earned within my first 12 months, effectively doubling the card’s earning potential for the first year.

This entire time, I lived by TPG’s 10 commandments of credit card rewards, especially the first two: “Thou shalt pay thy balance in full” and “Thou shalt not miss a payment.” I was laser-focused on paying off all my cards on time, maintaining my credit score and keeping up my flawless payment history.

Takeaway: In hindsight, the Apple Card may not have been my best card option at the time, but it was an important lesson in the world of credit cards: The best card for you is the one that will save you the most money and give you the most satisfaction. Points, miles and cash back are only as useful as you make them.

Next steps: Buying a house and signing up for more cards

With two years of payment history behind me and a still-excellent credit score to my name, I was able to finance a house at a low (for this market) interest rate, thanks to my friends at TPG and the simple steps they gave me to level up my finances.

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In the long run, I stand to save thousands of dollars on house payments with that lower interest rate. My plan for the next few years is to keep growing my credit card library — landing more cash-back cards, exploring cards that earn transferable rewards (plus cobranded hotel and airline cards) and venturing into the world of (gulp) premium travel cards. Specifically, I have my eye on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the American Express® Gold Card.

Takeaway: Setting reasonable, attainable and time-oriented goals is an important first step. By getting a new card roughly every six months while carefully managing the cards I already had, I could slowly build a repertoire of cards while keeping my credit history scot-free.

Bottom line

Not everyone has someone who can instantly grant them an excellent credit score via the power of authorized users. However, everyone can take advantage of the expertise of places like TPG and take simple and concrete steps — like setting reasonable financial goals and utilizing the power of authorized users — to change their finances for the better.

Thanks again to everyone at TPG for changing my credit score, financial habits and life for the better.

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