In today’s financial world, credit is king. A good credit score and history can open many doors. However, a fair or bad one can create lots of obstacles. Everything from buying a home to landing a new job can be affected. Consequently, that’s why knowing your credit score is crucial. Learn what makes a good credit score and how to improve your own score and personal finances.
Is My Credit Score Good, Bad or Ugly?
First, a credit score measures a consumer’s creditworthiness. As a result, it can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to make major financial purchases, such as buying a car or a house. Additionally, your credit score will impact finance charges and interest rates on major financial transactions.
There are many factors that go into calculating credit scores. On-time payments, debt utilization, types of accounts, and length of carrying debt can all be part of building your credit score.
Let’s learn about credit score factors before finding out that magic score number.
Credit Score Myths
Next, let’s review some credit score and credit report myths:
- Income affects individuals’ credit scores. Low income does not damage credit. A person’s income only affects credit scores if it affects a consumer’s ability to pay bills. Income is not an item on credit reports and it’s not a deciding factor of your credit score.
- People with a bad credit score can never get a loan. Many companies are willing to give loans even to people with bad credit. Unfortunately, the loans will have higher interest rates than those with good credit.
- If one spouse has good credit the other doesn’t matter. Creditors consider the credit reports of both individuals when a couple applies for any form of credit. As a result of one bad credit score, you may face higher interest rates or rejections.
- Closing credit cards will improve credit score. Closing a credit card you don’t use will not necessarily improve your score. It is possible that closing that credit card will lower your score. A credit card closure means that you have lesser total credit and your credit utilization goes up.
- Race, religion and other demographic considerations can affect credit scores. Credit reports do not contain any information about race, national origin, profession, disabilities or religion. Credit reports also do not mention how much is in a person’s bank account or retirement account.
- Paying off debt erases the evidence of poor credit. Paying off your consumer debt does not automatically erase the record from a credit report. Evidence of debt can stay on the credit report for years. Negative information can remain on a credit report for up to seven years. Bankruptcies stay on the report for up to 10 years.
- Late bills always affect credit scores. It is likely a late bill will not always affect your credit score. More often than not creditors do not report late payments to the bureau if they are paid in less than 30 days late.
- Having several credit cards affects your score. The number of cards is not a factor of credit score. Although it does not directly affect the credit score, having multiple credit cards lowers credit utilization by increasing the available limit.
- You can avoid the risk of credit by paying cash. It is not possible for a person using only cash or debit cards to build credit. The only way to build credit is to establish a solid payment history. The first step is to open a credit account and show responsible credit usage.
- Credit reports and scores from all three bureaus are the same. More often than not, credit reports and scores from the three credit bureaus are different. Lenders do not always report all accounts to all credit bureaus. Also, the creditors do not always update the credit reports at the exact same time. Finally, the credit score formulas are slightly different depending on the system they use.
These misconceptions can be very harmful to consumers.
FICO Credit Score Criteria
According to MyFico.com:
FICO Scores are calculated using many different pieces of credit data in your credit report. This data is grouped into five categories: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and credit mix (10%).
Your FICO Scores are unique, just like you. They are calculated based on the five categories referenced above, but for some people, the importance of these categories can be different. For example, scores for people who have not been using credit long will be calculated differently than those with a longer credit history.
Credit score ratings from poor to exceptional:
- Less Than 580: Poor
- 580-669: Fair
- 670-739: Good
- 740-799: Very Good
- 800+: Exceptional
How to Make Your Credit Score Good
Make more than the minimum payment.
Even if you make your payments on time, it’s not enough to just pay the minimum. Paying the minimum will only increase the amount of interest you owe over time and increase the duration of your loan. But it is important to always make your payments on time. Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO Score.
Reduce the amount of debt you owe.
You may want to take out a consolidation loan if you owe a balance on various credit cards. This way, you can wipe your credit debt clean and just make one monthly payment on your loan. This will, in turn, increase your credit score. Additionally, you can use the Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche repayment methods to knock out debt.
Keep a low credit utilization rate.
Alternately, you can transfer your balances onto one credit card with a larger credit limit that has little to no interest. This way, you can make higher payments without accruing interest and pay off your debt faster. Increasing the amount of credit you have to your name only works if you’re committed to paying off your debt and not spending your available credit. This is not a good strategy if you struggle to pay off your current credit cards.
Don’t open too many cards.
Lenders don’t like to see too many credit inquiries on your credit report. It makes you look desperate for a loan. Resist all those store cards offering deals. Additionally, research each card you are considering. Make sure it has benefits you don’t currently have AND that those benefits are actually helpful.
For example, if you don’t travel you don’t need a card offering travel benefits. However, a card offering cashback on groceries and gas might be a better fit. In conclusion, take into account your whole credit picture when looking into new accounts.
Dispute errors on your credit report.
Check your credit report periodically to make sure there are no mistakes. If you do notice errors, make sure you report them to Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. The quicker you remove mistakes, the better!
Reviewing Your Credit Report
Finally, you need to review your credit report. Just as your credit score represents you to financial agencies, so does your history. If your score isn’t great, a recent history of on-time payments may help getting a loan.
A credit report contains the following:
- A list of companies that have given the individual credit or loans
- The total amount for each loan or credit limit for each credit card
- How often a consumer pays credit or loans on time, and the amount paid
- Companies that have asked to see your credit report within a certain time period
- Personal address(es) and/or employers
- Other details of the public record
In conclusion, take time every year to review your report and score. You can review your report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. Spread these reviews out so you can check on your report periodically. Visit Annualcreditreport.com to review your information.