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How Your Credit Score Is Determined, and Three Ways You Can Improve It.

Maybe you’ve applied for a loan in the past and the loan officer gives you your credit score. It may be high, it may be low, but you’ve probably wondered how exactly is it measured?

First, credit scores are usually used to differentiate the likelihood that you will pay back a loan, or not. The main consumer credit scoring models, FICO® and VantageScore®, rank consumers using a 300-to-850 score range. The lower the number, the more risk a lender sees. The higher the number, the less risk there is of you defaulting.

Second, how is this number calculated? FICO® Scores are calculated using several different pieces of your credit history in your credit report. This data is grouped and weighted into five categories: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and credit mix (10%).

It’s important to know that your FICO® Score is calculated only from the information in your credit report. However, when you apply for a loan, loan officers may look at many things when making a decision, such as your income, how long you have worked at your current job, how long you have lived at your current address, and the kind of credit and amount of credit you are requesting.

Many members ask us “how can we improve our credit score?” Dialing that 800 number from a roadside sign promising to give you a better credit score fast is not only expensive, but they also rarely work. Here are three things you can do right now that will help you earn a better score.

  1. Pay Your Bills on Time. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most important. You’ll want to pay all bills on time—not just credit card bills or any loans you may have, such as auto loans or student loans, but also your rent, utilities, phone bill, and so on. It’s also a good idea to use resources and tools available to you, such as automatic payments or calendar reminders, to help ensure you pay on time every month. Behind on some payments now? Bring them current as soon as possible. Although late or missed payments appear as negative information on your credit report for as long as seven years, their impact on your credit score declines over time: Older late payments have less effect than more recent ones.
  2. Dispute Any Inaccuracies on Your Credit Reports. Check your credit reports at all three credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) for any errors that may be unnecessarily bringing your credit score down. Verify that the accounts listed on your reports are correct. If you see errors, dispute the information and get it corrected right away. Monitoring your credit regularly can help you find the errors before they do damage.
  3. Don’t Apply for Too Much New Credit, Resulting in Multiple Inquiries. Opening a new credit card can increase your overall credit limit, but the act of applying for credit, especially with a new lender creates a hard inquiry on your credit report. Too many hard inquiries can negatively impact your credit score, though this effect will fade over time. Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years.

A low credit score won’t just potentially keep you from getting a loan, it also determines the rate you pay when you do get a loan. The lower the credit score, the higher your rate, which means a higher payment and more paid interest over time. A low credit score can also increase your insurance premiums and potentially keep you from renting a home.

Want to learn more about your credit score and get tips from an expert on how to improve your credit score, and ultimately your finances?

Caro wants to help. Did you know we offer credit report reviews and debt counseling through our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness? It’s available free of charge to all members. Reach out and schedule a time to meet with them today. We promise, there’s no judgment. Our job is to give you a proper perspective and help you achieve a better financial life.

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