A credit score is how your lenders rate how good you are – usually on a scale of 300-850 – at managing money. And it pays to have a high score.
Slightly different depending on the credit scoring model. The two major scoring methods are FICO (the most popular) and VantageScore. Both go up to 850, but FICO says “good” is at least 670. VantageScore says 661 is the magic number.
Typically, higher scores means lenders are more likely to give you lower interest rates on future loans. Because they think they can trust you to repay your debt. Lower interest rates means you’ll pay less over time. Cha-ching.
While you’re at it, check out your credit report (which is basically the written-out version of your credit score) for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Here’s your checklist:
Pay your bills on time. Especially debt, like your credit card, mortgage, and car loan payments. Your payment history counts for 35% (the biggest piece) of your FICO score.
Pay down debt. How much money you owe counts for 30% of your FICO score. Carrying a balance on your credit card isn’t necessarily a red flag...but maxing out your cards can be. Generally, lenders like to see a credit utilization ratio (aka the amount you owe compared to your credit limits) under 30% because it shows you’ve got a handle on things and probably aren’t financially strapped. Here’s a shortcut: call your credit card company and ask for a higher credit limit.
Fix your mistakes. If you have a bill in collections, try to wipe it out or work out a payment plan ASAP. Negative marks like these can hurt your credit score for years. But making good on your mistakes gives you a shot of striking it from the record (aka your credit report) sooner. And raising your credit score by a lot all at once.
Dispute other people’s mistakes. If you see something fishy on your credit report – like accounts that aren’t yours or mistaken missed payments – dispute them with the three credit reporting agencies quickly.
Let time pass. The longer your credit history, the better your score can be. Patience, young grasshopper.
Your lenders are judging you, and it pays to impress...by paying on time, keeping debt in check, and fixing any mistakes you see.
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