Anna, his wife, let him direct the strategy for managing her accounts—whether to apply for new credit, when to ask for higher limits, how much of those limits to draw on. Her husband, a self-described credit card-obsessive, was also working on his own record. Six months ago, when some big credit blemishes finally dropped off his report, his score reached as high as 842. Within a year, Kelman thinks he can reach 850, too.
Having good credit is important because it determines whether you'll qualify for a loan. And, depending on the interest rate of the loan you qualify for, it could mean the difference between hundreds and even thousands of dollars in savings. A good credit score could also mean that you are able to rent the apartment you want, or even get cell phone service that you need.
Two companies dominate credit scoring in the U.S.: FICO® and VantageScore®. They calculate scores from information in your credit reports, which list your credit activity as compiled by the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion®. If you have a good VantageScore®, you're likely to have a good FICO® Score, because both consider the same factors: Payment history: your record of on-time payments and any "derogatory" marks, such as late payments, accounts sent to collections or judgments against you. Credit utilization: balances you owe and how much of your available credit you're using. Age of credit history: how long you've been borrowing money. Applications: whether you've applied for a lot of credit recently. Type of credit: how many and what kinds of credit accounts you have, such as credit cards, installment debt (such as mortgage and car loans) or a mix. A credit score doesn't consider your income, savings or job security. That's why lenders also may consider what you owe alongside what you earn and assets you have accumulated.
Your payment history comprises the bulk of what calculates your credit score (35%), so staying on time with your credit card, mortgage, auto or student loan bills is imperative to keep your credit score high. Too many late or non-payments can do the worst damage to your score, since it tells lenders that you’re an irresponsible borrower and credit risk.
When you sign up with NerdWallet, you get access to your TransUnion credit report. It's updated weekly, and you can check it whenever you want. You also are entitled to a free report every 12 months direct from each of the three big credit bureaus (the other two are Experian and Equifax) by using AnnualCreditReport.com. Because credit reports update far more frequently than once a year, it’s smart to monitor them at least monthly.
Like credit builder loans, secured credit cards are an easy way to build or rebuild credit history. The application process is the same, but secured credit cards require a deposit between $50 and $300 into a separate account. The bank then issues a line of credit that is typically equal to the deposit, allowing you to build a credit history without putting the lender at risk.
You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion® – once each year at AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228. You’re also entitled to see your credit report within 60 days of being denied credit, or if you are on welfare, unemployed, or your report is inaccurate.
The Citi® Secured Mastercard® requires a $200 security deposit, which is typical of secured cards and a good amount to establish your credit line. You can deposit more money if you want to receive a higher credit line, but if you don’t have a lot of money available to deposit, coming up with $200 is manageable. This card doesn’t have any additional card benefits like rewards or insurances, but you can access Citi’s Credit Knowledge Center for financial management tips.
If you’ve recently gone through a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even a civil judgment, it probably isn’t a surprise to you that your credit has been impacted. Any abrupt changes to your credit can seriously affect the number that shows on your credit report. Unfortunately, unlike the scenarios listed in previous points, these derogatory marks are the result of what lenders consider major delinquencies –– in other words, significant implications about your ability to manage your finances.
It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked. That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far.
Regardless of the reason for the less-than-stellar score, you’ll have a harder time finding a lender willing to service a loan, especially if the low credit score is a result of slow payments. You’ll represent a higher risk of default to a lender and may therefore be required to secure the loan with a down payment or with tangible personal property (otherwise known as “collateral”) before a loan offer will be extended.
Shopping for a private student loan, comparing the pros and cons of different lenders, and submitting multiple applications so you can accept the loan with the best terms is generally a good idea. Hard inquiries usually only have a small impact on credit scores, and scores often return to their pre-inquiry level within a few months, as long as no new negative information winds up on your credit reports.
Developing your credit score comes naturally as a result of building your credit history. You’ve heard the saying “if you build it they will come?” It applies to credit scoring as well. If you build your credit history then your score will come shortly after followed by more creditors that will want your business. The credit scoring models are looking for two things before they will “score” your credit files: age and activity. For some credit score models, you must have at least one account that is greater than 3 to 6 months old and at least one account that has been reported to the credit bureaus within the last 6 to 12 months. The same account can qualify you for a score. So, a credit report with one account open for 9 months that has reported to the credit bureaus within the past 30 days will qualify for a score. Once you’ve built a score, the challenge is to maximize it.
Free credit reports are available from several sources, including WalletHub, which is the first and only website to offer free credit reports and scores that are updated on a daily basis. WalletHub also provides an early-warning system for credit-report changes in the form of 24/7 credit monitoring, plus customized guidance to help you save more money. All you have to do is sign up (it’s 100% free).
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to credit reporting companies.