Your credit score affects every aspect of your financial life – from loan rates to cost of insurance. Yet, according to a survey by CreditCards.com, more than 50% of American adults haven’t checked their credit scores or reports in the last 6 months, and 18% admitted that they’ve NEVER checked their score or report.
Your credit score is used by lenders to determine whether to loan you money and at what rate. Basically, the better your score, the more you save. Well likewise, your credit report shows financial activity associated with your name. If you’re not checking them regularly, you won’t find out that someone has stolen your identity until it’s too late.
That’s why we’re making it easier to monitor your credit score AND credit report by offering 24/7 access to them FOR FREE when you log into Online Banking and our Mobile Banking App. You’ll be able to:
Keep Balances Relatively Low
How much you’ve charged relative to your total available credit is a key factor in calculating your credit score. Most lenders recommend that you keep a credit utilization rate of 30% or less. For example, if you have a credit card with a $5,000 limit and you’ve charged $1,500 on it, that’s a 30% credit utilization rate.
This is often calculated across all of your credit lines. If you have a few open cards that you don’t regularly use and have zero balances, they can actually help demonstrate purchasing discipline and up your score.
Maintain Old Credit Lines
When you’ve handled debt responsibly over a long period of time, your credit score picks up. The longer you have a personal credit history, the better it is for your credit score. Thinking of closing that small dollar card you’ve had since college? Think again, especially if leaving it open shows you’ve had a solid repayment record, it’s a no-fee card, and you’ve kept both the balance and total credit line low.
Look at Your Credit Score
This one may seem simple, but many times we’re inclined to ignore money matters that stress us out. Credit ignorance is not bliss, so get used to scheduling an annual reminder to get a free copy of your credit report. Checking your credit report is especially important if you’re planning on a major purchase in the next several months. You’ll be able to see where you need to make improvements, and this “soft” inquiry won’t hurt your score.
Think Beyond Credit Cards
Remember, our credit score is composed of all our owed balances, so don’t forget to keep an eye on all of your bills. This includes auto loans, student loans, and even utilities like your phone bill and public services. Reading your credit report is one of the best ways to ensure you are thinking of all of those non-card payments that affect your score.
Understand Negative Reporting
Negative information stays on your credit report for seven years and will lower your score. While we often think of late or missed payments as the tough stuff, keep in mind that settling an account for less than you owe is unfortunately going to lower your score. A settlement also does not remove the problem from your credit report, so it’s essential to understand the full terms of a “re-negotiation” if you’re working through a debt that you can’t pay in full. While it’s always better to pay something in a settlement than not paying or declaring bankruptcy, be sure you think through all your options if payment troubles strike.