The truth of the matter is that everyone should strive to use as little credit as possible because credit equals debt. Having said that, most people find that they need to use credit on high ticket items such as vehicles, buying a house, home air conditioning systems, furniture, home repairs etc.
The three main credit bureaus in the U.S.A. are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and the Creditors and lenders will normally use one of these bureaus to check your credit rating when you apply for credit. The credit bureaus operate by collecting and continuously updating a consumer’s credit rating and then selling that information to businesses in a credit report. Each credit bureau operates independently and issues it’s own rating. Consumers normally know this as their credit score, one number that represents your reliability as a borrower.
Credit scores generally range from a low of 300 (poor) to a high of 850 ( excellent) and the score has a major impact on your credit options. Each individual business has their own model of credit score generation but the final ratings usually fall within a few points of each other. A lower credit score will put you at a disadvantage. You will find that you have less credit options, and the options that are available to you will come with a high interest rate and normally give you less time to pay the loan off. I think that it is always a good idea to get as high a credit score as you can, because you never know when you may need it.
The Fair Isaac Corporation formulated FICO credit scores. They are an amalgamation of the information found in the major credit bureau files on you. These scores are used by more than 90% of lenders when it comes to granting loans. They are also used when setting the interest rates, monthly payments, terms of each loan and loan approval. The FICO score is something that is normally supplied to many credit card holders on their monthly statements.
How To Get And Maintain A Good Credit Score
The first thing you will need is a credit history. If you have never used credit, you will have no credit rating and you will probably find it hard to get a loan.
The easiest way to begin your credit history is by getting a credit card. My suggestion is to use the card and either make sure that you pay it off every month or keep a low balance on it. The credit history uses data from you “on time” payments, use of the card and length of credit history. You normally find that if you pay off the whole card balance in full every month, you will not be charged interest, but that depends on the individual lender and you should read the small print on your agreement.
After you create a credit history, make sure that you make all of your loan payments by the payment “due date” and keep your debt to 30% or less of the total credit available to you.
The categories generally used to determine your credit score is:-
Payment History – 35%
Credit Utilization – 30%
Length of Credit History – 15%
Mix of Accounts – 10%
New Credit Inquiries – 10%
The two most important factors, according to the above figures are the payment history and the credit utilization. Payment history is self explanatory – pay on time, every time. Credit utilization is a calculation of the total available credit you have versus your total debt. If you can keep the ratio of debt to credit below 30% then you should be in good shape.
Example – Total Available Credit = $30,000
Total Debt = $9000
Credit Utilization = 30%
You never know when you may need credit and it doesn’t hurt to build yourself a good credit score for potential use.
If you can build and maintain a good score you will be able to take advantage of the best offers, such as:-
0% interest finance loans for several years with no prepayment penalties
18 month + 0% interest credit card offers
9% or less APR credit cards
4% or less mortgage loans
People with bad credit can still obtain credit but the interest rates are normally extortionate. Unfortunately, the people who pay the most interest on loans are the people who can least afford it, or the people who have neglected to cultivate their credit score.
I once saw a 70 point drop in my credit score due to one minor monthly payment that I forgot about. The minimum payment was so small that I could have easily paid the amount many times over. The payment was to a store type credit card, and I paid the forgotten payment the following month. I had been an account holder for several years, and I had used it, and got to a zero dollar balance several times over that time. This was the first time that I had missed a payment. This didn’t matter to the company. It took about a year to rebuild the credit score to a very good level. The company involved, was so fast to react to this one missed payment in my history of being a reliable customer that I payed off the whole thing the month after that and shredded the card, never to be used again. These things happen and it is inconvenient, try not to let it happen to you.
Yes, the system has the advantage. I am not advocating the system and I am not advocating borrowing money, but if we are diligent, we can use the special offers that are available to a person with an excellent credit score as a useful financial tool.