New Year, New Credit Score
If you’re like millions of other Americans, you began 2015 with at least one resolution to better yourself. Nearly half of us routinely begin January with some sort of commitment to self-improvement, usually to lose weight or perhaps establish a new credit score. Making the resolution is the easy part. Research out of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, however, shows just how difficult it can be to maintain those good intentions.
Overall, less than 10 percent are able to pull off a permanent change.
Still, just because you haven’t been able to transition from eating burgers to tofu doesn’t mean you can’t take other steps to make 2015 better than 2014. As a start, don’t give up on that resolution to establish a new credit score. Doing so will improve your overall financial health significantly by convincing mortgage and auto loan companies to offer you their best interest rates. Here are a few tips to make 2015 the year of your new and improved credit score.
Don’t run up that balance If you went on a spending spree over the holidays, now is the time to take a sober look at your credit card accounts and get to work paying them down. Thirty percent of the popular and widely-used FICO credit scores are determined by an analysis of how much you owe on those accounts. Ideal is a so-called credit utilization of just ten percent, which means that your balance is ten percent or less of the total credit available to you.
Always be on time Even more important than maintaining a modest credit utilization is simply paying your bills on time. Fully 35 percent of a FICO score is determined by your history of making timely payments on your bills.
Get out the magnifying glass Nobody is perfect, including the companies that compile the credit reports that are used to calculate credit scores. Take advantage of your right to view a free copy of your credit report and take the many hours required to sift through it to find
mistakes that might be harming your score. If you do find mistakes – like accounts that aren’t yours or charges you never made – dispute those errors with the credit reporting companies.
Minimize applying for new standard/prime credit cards Another red flag for credit reporting companies is when people apply for more credit. If you already have pretty good credit and credit cards that you can use, avoid generating any unnessecary credit score dings by holding off applying for any new credit cards.
Now, if your score is currently very low, or if you are trying to build a fresh new score, the tips are a bit different.
Tips for Building Low / New Credit Scores
Apply for store and department store credit cards These are typically easier to get than standard credit cards and do not require as high a credit score for approval. They can offer perks and discounts at your favorite stores and they will report to the credit bureaus.
Apply for a secured credit card These cards are also easier to get, although there are typically fees associated with secured credit cards. But, they can help to establish or build up a low credit score. And when you start using these cards, always pay on time. We offer a list of some of the top secured cards on this site. If you are in the market for one, check them out.
Whether you are in the market for the best mortgage rate you can find or trying to rebuild your credit, knowing your credit score and what is on your credit report is a very healthy exercise that will help improve your overall financial fitness.