Whether you plan to buy a new home this year or several years from now, good credit is essential. And your credit score can impact more than just your potential future home. Why is good credit so important? A good credit history and rating helps you get lower interest rates on mortgages, car loans, business loans and credit cards - just to name a few. Your credit history can also factor into how much you pay for car insurance and even whether or not you can be hired for certain types of jobs! Your credit profile is determined by three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Each bureau uses unique scoring models so your score can vary a bit between the different credit bureaus. In honor of National Credit Education Month, we offer 4 tips to help you improve your credit score.
Tip #1: Check Your Credit Report!
Everyone can get a free copy of their credit report from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months through www.annualcreditreport.com. Carefully review every piece of information on each report from each bureau. If you find errors or items that are not yours, follow the instructions to report errors or submit disputes provided with each report (each agency handles this a little differently). This will help you make sure inaccurate information isn't negatively impacting your credit!
Tip #2: Keep Balances Low
Keep your balances low on credit cards and other "revolving credit" types of debts. For the best boost to your credit profile, your balances should stay below 30% of your total available credit limit. So, if your credit limit is $1,000, ensure your balance is always under $300 as a good credit practice.
Tip #3: Don't Debt Shuffle
Work on paying off debt instead of shuffling it from credit card to credit card. Moving debt back and forth between accounts can harm your overall credit profile. Shifting debt once to take advantage of a low interest offer that allows you to pay down that debt is fine, however, when shuffling debt from place to place becomes the regular pattern, the credit bureaus will notice and it will lower your score.
Tip #4: Pay Bills On Time
Even a day or two delinquency here and there is enough to have an impact on your credit score. Set up reminders or automatic payments to ensure all bills are paid on time. If you do have a late payment issue or delinquency, contact the creditor to discuss your situation and get caught up as quickly as possible.
Everyone makes mistakes with their credit at some point in life. These 4 tips for improving your credit score will help you rebound from those mistakes and build your best credit profile. Consistently monitoring and maintaining your credit profile will benefit your entire financial life but also get you the best rates available when you are ready to buy a new home.