Can I Build Credit at Rent a Center?

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If you hope to rent merchandise through Rent-a-Center to build credit, you are doing it the hard way and spending far more than the retail price for an item. Rent-a-Center is one of the nation's largest rent-to-own companies -- a firm that rents items on a weekly or monthly basis. You can build credit but not with the traditional credit reporting companies that most lenders prefer.

Identification

Rent-a-Center does not report to the credit bureaus nor does it perform credit checks on its customers, according to the Rent-a-Center website. Since Rent-a-Center does not subscribe to any credit reporting service, it cannot help build credit history. Instead, the company relies on personal references and tracks customer payment history itself to approve purchases.

Damage to Credit

In a worst-case scenario, buying an item from Rent-a-Center could damage your credit if you do not pay your bill. The company could sell your debt to a collection agency, which would then probably report it to the credit bureaus. Collection accounts of any size are terrible for your credit and just a little bit worse than bankruptcy in terms of credit scoring.

Alternative Credit Agency

You can report good payment history with Rent-a-Center to an alternative credit agency. Alternative credit bureaus report data outside the realm of the national credit bureaus. As of 2011, alternative credit bureau reports are not widely accepted by lenders, but the largest credit reporting and scoring companies in the U.S. are compiling data to determine if alternative payment data is just as predictive as traditional credit history. However, you will have to pay an alternative agency a monthly fee to have it report your Rent-a-Center history.

Tip

Starting a credit history with the national credit bureaus is usually preferable to an alternative credit history. Look at retail, gas and secured credit cards to start or rebuild a credit history. Retail and gas cards have low limits and high interest rates, so watch out for annual fees that could eat up a significant portion of your credit limit. Secured accounts require a payment on the line of credit but can become a regular credit card account with enough payment history. You can also co-sign on an existing account in good standing or become an authorized user on a relative's credit card.

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