Can you build credit with your debit card?

There are a number of ways to improve your credit, but can you build credit by using a debit card? Find out here.

Building credit can be important for all kinds of things. That’s because lenders and other companies often use credit information when they’re considering applications for things like car loans and credit cards. But can you build credit with your debit card?

Unfortunately, a debit card typically will not help you build your credit. Despite similar looks, it can help to think of debit cards more like cash than like credit cards. And because debit card activity isn’t traditionally reported to credit bureaus, it likely won’t help with your credit scores.

Why debit cards don't usually affect credit scores

Debit cards will not usually affect your credit scores because you’re using money directly from your bank account to cover the cost of a purchase. With a credit card, you’re essentially borrowing money from a line of credit. Your issuer is covering the cost up front, and you’re responsible for paying it back. 

As you use your credit card, your issuer will typically report activity—like your payment history—to the three major credit bureaus. The bureaus use that information to compile credit reports, which are then used to calculate credit scores

By consistently using your credit card responsibly, you can build credit over time. That means doing things like making consistent, on-time payments. But that’s different from debit cards. Because making a purchase with a debit card generally uses money already in your bank account, there’s typically no payment history to track or report.

Ways to help build credit

Need help building your credit? Here are several options that may help you get started:

  • Use your credit card responsibly. If you don’t have one already, there are several types to choose from. Consider doing some research to find an option that works best for your situation. Ones to consider? Secured credit cards or student credit cards. Just be aware that applying for a credit card can affect your credit scores. So only apply for the credit you need, and consider checking if you’re pre-approved first.
  • Become an authorized user. As an authorized user, you’ll get a card linked to an existing account that you’re authorized to use. If you and the primary cardholder use the card responsibly over time—and the card issuer reports authorized users to the credit bureaus—it can help build your credit. Keep in mind, the primary cardholder is responsible for making the payments on time. If the primary cardholder doesn’t make on-time payments, it could hurt your credit and theirs.
  • Consider a credit-builder loan. If you’re approved for a credit-builder loan, the lender deposits the loan amount into a savings account—and you make monthly payments for a fixed amount of time. Once you’ve finished making payments, the lender releases the loan amount to you, taking into account possible interest. The lender typically reports your payment activity to the credit bureaus, which can help you build credit. 

Just remember, when it comes to loans and credit cards, it’s important to use them responsibly. One of the best things you can do for your credit is to make all of your payments on time for each of your loans. That might include credit cards, mortgages, student loans and car loans. 

Monitor your credit

As you’re building credit, it’s also a good idea to monitor your credit. One way to do that is with CreditWise from Capital One. CreditWise is free and available to everyone—even if you don’t have a Capital One account. And using CreditWise won’t hurt your credit scores.

You can also get free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus. Visit or call 877-322-8228 to learn more.

When to use credit cards vs. debit cards

While a debit card typically will not help you improve your credit, it can still be part of building good financial habits. Because they use money in your bank account, debit cards may be a good option to help prevent debt, avoid interest charges or avoid overspending. And there are other options, like credit cards, you can use to build good credit with responsible use over time. 

If your goal is to earn rewards as you build credit, you may want to consider using a rewards credit card. Debit cards don’t typically offer these benefits.

In both cases, choosing which card to use can depend on your circumstances and personal finances. Just remember that it’s important to use any card responsibly.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information, or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. Your CreditWise score is a good measure of your overall credit health, but it is not likely to be the same score used by creditors. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.

CreditWise Alerts are based on changes to your TransUnion and Experian® credit reports and information we find on the dark web.

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