Your credit score has a huge bearing on many aspects of your life. Your credit score helps financial institutions and lenders determine your creditworthiness. According to Fico.com, the FICO score was first introduced in 1981 by the Fair Isaac Company (now called FICO.) “Lenders use credit scores to evaluate the probability that an individual will repay their debts. A person’s credit score ranges from 300 to 850, and the higher the score, the more financially trustworthy a person is considered to be.” Says Julia Kagan, a personal finance director for Investopedia.com. Keep reading to learn more about the ins-and-outs of your credit score, and tips on how to improve it.
Obtaining Your Credit Report
The first step in learning more about your own credit score is to obtain a copy of your credit report. There are multiple ways you can do this. The first way is by requesting a free copy of your report from Annualcreditreport.com. This website is backed by the 3 main credit bureaus, as well as the federal government. Be wary of other websites claiming to offer free credit reports. They may up trying to charge you or even steal your personal information. Another way to obtain your report is by calling 1-877-322-8228. Whether you use the website or phone number, you will be required to provide information to verify your identity. You are entitled to one report annually from each major credit bureau. You can opt to receive these reports digitally or by paper mail.
Reading and Understanding Your Report
Your credit report will typically contain 5 pieces of information. These include payment history, the total amount owed, length of your credit history, types of credit, and new credit. When reading your credit report, your first step should be to make sure all of your personal information is correct. Is everything spelled correctly? Is your address correct? Next, you should make sure that all of your current credit accounts are listed correctly. If you see accounts that you do not remember opening or even delinquent accounts that you don’t believe are yours, corrections to your report may need to be made. Another factor to look at is inquiries made on your credit score. Do you remember applying for a credit card or loan with a certain institution? If not, these errors can also be disputed and corrected. If your credit report is blank, this simply means you do not have any credit established, meaning no loans, credit cards or debt. If you believe there are mistakes in your credit report, you are able to request corrections to be made. You can start the process of correcting these mistakes by contacting the credit bureau who gave you the original report, as well as the company who has added the information to your credit report. Here is a resource you can use to learn more about correcting mistakes on your credit report.
Improving Your Credit Score
Improving or repairing your credit score takes time. There is no quick way to improve your credit score. The best method to improve or repair your score is being responsible with your credit over time and make smart choices as to what is best for you and your score. The first step to improving your score is reviewing your report and making sure all of the information listed is accurate. Another important factor in building good credit is paying your bills on time. Your FICO score can be negatively impacted by late payments, delinquent accounts, and accounts that are sent to collections. One way to avoid late or forgotten payments is by setting reminders for yourself, keeping a calendar or planner, or even setting up automatic payments through your bank. If you have accounts that are behind or delinquent, get them to a paid status and keep them that way. Most financial institutions are willing to work with you to get an arrangement set up that works for you and your budget. Another way to improve your score is by reducing your overall debt amount. This can be achieved by keeping balances on credit cards at a low and manageable amount and avoid moving the debt from card to card. You should also avoid opening credit cards you don’t actually need. MyFICO.com has a lot of resources on how you can build and improve your credit score.
Credit can be a scary part of adulthood if you are unprepared or uneducated on the subject. Take time to research your options and learn how certain decisions impact your score. Making smart financial decisions will not only help you improve your score but can also help propel you forward into a comfortable and prosperous future.