Get Smart About Credit

Are you smart about credit? Read on for a simple explanation of credit scores and how to improve yours!

The American Bankers Association sponsors Get Smart About Credit Day every October to help consumers understand the role that credit plays in their life and how to smartly build good credit. Many people don’t realize that their credit score impacts their ability to rent an apartment, buy affordable car insurance and even find employment. Here’s a refresher on credit!

What is a credit score?
A credit score is a number that represents a person’s creditworthiness. The higher the score, the better a consumer looks to potential lenders.

Why is it important?
Your credit score and credit history affect a number of practical areas of your life. Credit worthiness determines what loans you qualify for and the interest rate you pay. Typically, the higher your credit score, the better your interest rate. It can also impact your ability to rent a home, qualify for a credit card, buy a car, get good car insurance rates or even get certain kinds of jobs. In other words, a good credit score can save you money and even improve your life!

What Factors Affect Your Credit Score?
– Payment history, including the number and severity of late payments.
– Your Credit utilization rate which is the amount of revolving credit you are using divided by
the total amount of revolving credit you have available. A lower credit utilization rate shows
you are using less credit than is available to you.
– Type, number and age of credit accounts.
– Total amount of debt.
– Bankruptcy.
– How many credit accounts you’ve recently opened.
– Number of inquiries for your credit report.

What is a good credit score?
Excellent              800-850
Very Good            740-799
Good                    670-739
Fair                       580-669
Very Poor            300-579

How is my credit reported?
Your credit is reported to three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Any time you apply for a credit card or loan, apply for each insurance, pay a bill late or on time, or pay off a line of credit, this information is reported to become part of your credit report. Visit a reputable site like http://www.annualreport.com to obtain your free annual credit report. Review your report for accuracy by making sure that you are familiar with every account listed and that the information is correct.

How do I improve my credit score if I have already made mistakes?
– Pay your bills on time.
– If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.
– Avoid being sent to collections because a collection account will stay on your credit report
for seven years.
– Keep balances low on credit cards.
– Make a budget and a plan to pay off your debt.

Having good credit is important but building good credit doesn’t have to be hard for the average person. Simply show that you can handle your debts responsibly and your score will naturally grow.