Let me tell you a story.
When I came to America thirteen years ago, I didn’t know anything about credit scores. One of the first thing that I noticed was that people had credit cards and I saw them using it at the mall and at the supermarket. They just swiped it and it seemed like they can buy anything with it. I wanted to have one.
So, after about three months of living in Hawaii, your budget pal here went to Sears and applied for a credit card. And guess what?
I got DENIED!
My world was shattered.
Why did I get denied? Simple. I didn’t have a credit history and/or my credit score was low.
Just what is a credit score? A credit score represents how financially responsible an individual is. If you have GPA in school, credit score is the report card on how you handle your finances. It’s a measurement of trust if you ask me. Creditors (lenders) base their decision in lending you money on your credit score. The higher the better. If you have a high credit score, you are trustworthy in the creditor’s eyes. If you have low score, they would probably think that you are a high risk. The score ranges from 300-850. I probably had 301 back then.
And who are these boring guys that measure these credit scores? There are three bureaus actually. They are: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. They are the ones who record and analyze your spending patterns and payment history. And in turn, they report how financially responsible you are to your creditors.
Anyways, let me tell you how I established mine.
Since I didn’t had a credit history at that time, my first stop was my credit union. I asked for their advice on how I can build my credit history and they offered me a secured credit card. It’s basically a prepaid card where I deposit $500 on the card and they give me a credit limit of $500. All I had to do was use the credit card, pay it off, and never to go beyond my credit limit.
Repeat and repeat and voila!! Credit history! My 301 probably climbed up to 401 or 501 after a few months. That was easy! The following were the things that I did to improve my credit score. Maybe you can try these too if you are trying to improve yours.
Tips on Improving Your Credit Score:
1.) Always pay your credit card ON TIME.
Cliche but this is of utmost importance. If you borrow money, pay it off on or before the due date. By doing this, you will have a stellar credit history. If the three bureaus recorded that you had late payments, that’ll be a red flag to your creditors that you are a high risk, but when they see that you pay on time, they would think that you are trustworthy and a responsible individual.
2.) Don’t Max Out Your Credit Limit
Having a credit limit of $1000 and you charging $1001 is BAD BAD BAD. I actually maxed out one of my credit cards before. Yikes!! But I have learned my lesson. According to the great Suze Orman, it is advisable to only spend 30% of your credit limit. For example, if you have a $1000 credit limit, it is advisable to only spend $300 of that.
3.) Check Your Credit Report And Score Regularly
Each of the three bureaus are mandated by the government to give one free credit report every year. That means that you can get one free credit report every 4 months. Go to Annual Credit Report to do so. Why do you need to check? Because there could be transactions in your name/account that you are not aware of. I’m sure you have heard about internet fraud, hackers, and identity theft. You have to be on top of your credit.
You also need to check your credit score regularly. I recommend you to check it at least every quarter. But doesn’t checking your credit score damage your credit? No. It doesn’t. You need to know your credit score so that you know where you’re at. How can you navigate a road if you don’t know where you are? You can check your free credit score at Credit Karma.
4.) Be Consistent With Your Responsible Use of Credit
In a relationship, whether it be your personal or work life, you need time and mutual trust to grow it. It is the same thing with your credit. If you are responsible with your finances over time, creditors will deem you trustworthy.
Having a good credit score is
almost a necessity nowadays. Not only banks check your scores but also employers, utility companies, and others whom you may financially transact with. It has become the basis for good financial behavior.
And to close, there are invaluable benefits of having a good credit score. I am going to just enumerate a few. For one, you get low interest rates which could save you quite amount of money. You also have more negotiating power when you’re applying for loans. Another perk which I love love love is the ability to apply for cards with travel rewards. I love to travel. Check out my trips financed partly (or majorly) with travel rewards here, here, and here. And of course, on top of all these benefits, it feels awesome to have a good credit score.