Archive for March, 2009
Improving your credit score takes time and effort. Damaging it, or ruining it altogether is easier than you might think. All it takes is a slip-up here, a late payment there, and then your credit score is damaged. It doesn’t take much to hurt your credit, either. And, if you’ve made more than your share of credit mistakes, you won’t have many options the next time you are in the market for a loan or a credit card. You’ll pay the price for your misadventures, in the form of high interest rates and exorbitant fees.
The easiest way to hurt your credit is to break any or all of the rules that are important to lenders and creditors, which we’ll go over in detail here.
- Being late with bill payments. One third of your FICO score is based on your bill-paying track record. It’s been said that a payment that’s 90 days late is just as bad as filing for bankruptcy, or a repossession. However, sometimes in life things go wrong and maybe you aren’t able to get that payment out on time.
Most lenders will work with you to a point, and they are usually willing to let an “oops” here and there go. Just try to bring the account current as soon as you can, and don’t skip payments. If you can only afford to pay the minimum, do that. It’s better than doing nothing at all!
If you know ahead of time that you won’t be able to pay on schedule, call your lender and explain your situation. Hopefully, they’ll be understanding and give you a little “wiggle room”. It doesn’t always work, but if you’ve had a history of on-time payments for years, it can go a long way.
We all know that we’re more than our credit score, but what’s inside doesn’t really matter to lenders, landlords, and even some employers. Many facets of our lives are controlled by that finicky three-digit number, and your score determines your chances of being approved for credit, and the interest rate at which you’ll receive it. Here, a basic breakdown of credit worth, by the numbers:
- 750 and above will get you primo interest rates on loans; you’ll essentially get approved anywhere and everywhere.
- 710 through 750 will get quite a few competitive offers sent your way, though you won’t get as many as a person with a score of 750+.
- 650 up to 710: You’ll get approved, but you won’t get the good rates that your friends with higher scores will get.
- 580-650: Prepare yourself for stricter terms and higher interest rates.
- 580 and below: Basically, if you don’t want to go through a loanshark, forget it!
It’s been said that a white lie never really hurt anyone. We don’t know if that’s true or not, but they might be good for your credit score. Here are a few little lies that may help your FICO. It’s not really being dishonest (there’s enough of that going around lately), it’s more like embellishing your side of the story so financial providers will look more favorably upon you.
Most lenders don’t report every single transaction or late payment. That’s not necessarily something you want to bring to their attention. If you’ve slipped up a few times, and have ended up paying late more than once, and it doesn’t appear on your credit history, just thank the powers that be and make every effort to pay on schedule in the future. Conversely, if your payment history is immaculate, you may want to say something if there’s something lacking on your report. Missing information can make your credit history look not-so-appealing to potential lenders. If a good portion of your accounts are missing some information, a creditor may not have enough info to decide whether or not you’re creditworthy. To flesh out your credit report, call those lenders who aren’t so good at reporting transactions, and ask them to start communicating more about your credit history. Another thing to consider: The reports you’ll receive from each of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Trans-Union, and Equifax) will most likely contain different information. Just because there’s a blemish on one report, doesn’t mean it will appear on the others.
Did you know that less than 1% of the United States population has “perfect credit?” The credit scale ranges from 300 to 850, and believe it or not, you too can reach that magical 850. All it takes is the mastery of a few key traits, and you’ll be a part of that 1% in no time:
- Keep the amount owed on all credit accounts less than 30% of your limit.
- Make sure you never have major discrepancies e.g. bankruptcy or foreclosure.
- Keep most of your accounts open for a long time, at least 10 years because you need at least 10 years of positive history to get anywhere close to 800 on your FICO score.
- A few “installments” in good standing e.g. auto loans or mortgage.
- Minimal late payments, overdraw charges, or any other account issues.
In addition to mastering these details, you really need to be checking your credit report at least once a year. This can help ensure that all your information is accurate and up to date. A quick tip, is that from each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion offer you one free peak at your report once a year.
If you’ve been hearing about free credit report and free credit score offers, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is. Unless you don’t have a problem with paying high interest rates and fees to lenders, you should consider getting some background information about your credit. Consider this, the range of your credit score can affect how much you will pay for your monthly mortgage payment, for example:
If you have a good credit score:
Mortgage Loan Amount: $250,000
Interest Rate: 6.75%
30 Yr Fixed Rate Payment: $1,621
Total After Finance Charges: $333,734