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Members of the 850 Club can be broken into two groups. There are the super-knowledgeable tacticians trying to crack scoring algorithms, and the naturally prudent. Some are prepping for a loan. Others are just credit-score hobbyists. Paul Chua, 40, who works at San Carlos, Calif.-based Helix, a startup focused on personal genomics, is one of the tacticians.
But what these commercials aren't telling you is that the scores you're seeing aren't the same ones lenders are looking at. This doesn't mean they're worthless, but you have to understand exactly what you're getting so you aren't misled into thinking that your score is much higher or lower than it actually is. Here are the most important things you should know.
You can definitely build your credit from scratch by working to improve the factors that go into your score — except for the length of credit history. It’s impossible to travel back in time to open a credit account, so improving this factor just takes patience. Luckily, the length of your credit history isn’t the most important thing that determines your score.
Improvement Requires Reflection: Reviewing your credit report will give you much-needed perspective, making it easier to determine what you’re doing right (g., on-time monthly payments) as well as which areas of your financial performance need improvement (e.g., high credit utilization). Both the good and the bad will inevitably affect your credit score, but they have to hit your credit report first, and they’ll be easier to diagnose when they’re there. WalletHub makes things easy on you by grading each component of your credit, telling you exactly where you’re excelling and lacking.
When you open a new line of credit, a few immediate changes are usually made to your credit report. Most instantly, a new hard inquiry will probably be added to your report, and your average age of credit history could drop. Due to these factors, opening a new account is likely to drop your credit score in the short term. However, as you begin to diligently pay off your bills, the additional on-time payments, the higher number of total accounts and your now-growing age of credit history will likely outweigh the initial downsides, and your score can benefit in the long term.
Nothing in the scoring models suggest that carrying credit card debt month to month is beneficial. It is totally possible to establish a good credit score by paying off your credit card on time and in full every month. Don’t plan to pay interest — in other words, don’t pay just the minimum payment — to build your credit score. It won’t help with your score, and it will cost you a staggering interest payment.
An award-winning writer, editor and content strategist, Bob Musinski focuses on trends and issues related to credit cards and loans for U.S. News. He also has written dozens of stories for publications such as AAP News, Naperville Magazine and Natural Products Insider. He worked as an editor and reporter for three daily newspapers and an international wire service, where he covered events such as the World Series and Super Bowl and earned a national writing award from the Associated Press. His experience also includes planning and writing annual reports; strategizing, editing and writing for blogs; speechwriting; and strategic messaging development.
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Another common question is whether checking your own credit report or score can hurt it. The answer is no. Checking your own credit scores doesn't lower them. Checking your own credit report creates a special kind of inquiry (known commonly as a soft inquiry) that isn't considered in credit score calculations. Without the risk of harming your scores by checking your credit report and scores frequently, don't steer away from viewing them as often as you need to.
Generally, negative credit records, such as collection accounts, bankruptcies and late payments, will remain on your credit reports for seven to ten- years. Paying off the account sooner doesn't mean it’s deleted from your credit report, but listed as “paid.” Of course, it’s smart to pay your debts, but expect the major change in your report to come after negative records expire.
Then there are "educational scores," which the credit bureaus produce for you, the individual consumer, to educate you about your creditworthiness. Most free credit scores fall into this category. These scores typically employ the same 300-to-850 scale, but they use proprietary formulas for their calculations that are not the same as the FICO or VantageScores. However, they take similar factors into consideration, so they can give you a ballpark picture of where you're at. More importantly, free scores often come with information about which factors are helping or hurting your credit score. This can give you some idea of what you can do to improve your score.
There are different methods of calculating credit scores. FICO scores, the most widely used type of credit score, is a credit score developed by FICO, previously known as Fair Isaac Corporation. As of 2018, there are currently 29 different versions of FICO scores in use in the United States. Some of these versions are "industry specific" scores, that is, scores produced for particular market segments, including automotive lending and bankcard (credit card) lending. Industry-specific FICO scores produced for automotive lending are formulated differently than FICO scores produced for bankcard lending. Nearly every consumer will have different FICO scores depending upon which type of FICO score is ordered by a lender; for example, a consumer with several paid-in-full car loans but no reported credit card payment history will generally score better on a FICO automotive-enhanced score than on a FICO bankcard-enhanced score. FICO also produces several "general purpose" scores which are not tailored to any particular industry. Industry-specific FICO scores range from 250 to 900, whereas general purpose scores range from 300 to 850.