Without even knowing it you might be doing things that are damaging your credit score, which affects your ability to get credit and the interest rate you pay when you do get credit. A 2014 survey by Credit.com found that consumers sometimes don’t understand which actions will and will not help them improve their credit scores.
To take the right steps to boost your score, you need to start by understanding the basics of credit scores. The FICO credit score is the most widely used score in lending decisions and ranges from 300 to 850. A FICO score of 750 to 850 is considered excellent, and those with a score in that range have access to the lowest rates and best loan terms, according to myFICO.com, the consumer division of FICO. A score of 700 to 749 is good, and those with a score in this range will likely be approved for loans but might pay a slightly higher interest rate.A score of 650 to 699 is considered fair, and those with a score in this range will pay higher rates and could even be declined for loans and credit, according to myFico.com.
The three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – also have created the VantageScore, which ranges from 501 to 990, and the VantageScore 3.0, which ranges from 300 to 850 (to mimic the FICO range). The VantageScore is growing in popularity among lenders but still isn’t as widely used as the FICO score. No matter the name, scores can vary by credit bureau depending on when the score was calculated and what specific method was used to make the calculation. Each credit bureau has its own formula.
You can get a free VantageScore 3.0 and a credit score from Experian through Credit.com. Credit Karma provides a free VantageScore and a TransUnion credit score with its credit report card. And Quizzle offers a free VantageScore 3.0 from Equifax. Or you could pay $19.95 per FICO score from each of the three bureaus at myFICO.com.
Once you know your score, you can start taking the right steps to improve it. To do so, follow these six habits of people with excellent credit scores.
1. Pay on time. Payment history is the top factor in most credit scoring models, says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at Credit.com. So payments that are 30 days or more late can quickly drag down your credit score. And one late payment is enough to hurt your score, she says. According to myFICO.com, 96% of consumers with a credit score of 800 pay credit accounts on time; 68% of those with a score of 650 have accounts past due.
Even if you can only afford to pay the minimum, always pay on time because that will have a bigger impact on your score than the amount you pay, Detweiler says. Set up automatic bill pay through your credit account or bank account so you don’t miss a payment.
2. Minimize use of available credit. Usually the second most important factor in your credit score is how much debt you have compared with the amount of available credit you have, Detweiler says. Those with a credit score of 800 use only 7% of their available credit, on average, according to myFiCO.com. But most consumers with a score of 650 have maxed out their available credit.
You can see a significant increase in your credit score shortly after you pay down highly utilized credit accounts, Detweiler says. If your credit cards are maxed out and you can’t pay them off quickly, she recommends consolidating your balances with a personal loan from a bank because the so-called credit utilization ratio (total credit balance divided by total credit limit) for those loans isn’t calculated in the same way and doesn’t weigh heavily on your score.
3. Maintain low or no balances. People with excellent credit almost always keep low balances on their credit cards, and often don’t pay interest because they pay their balances in full every month, says Jason Steele, a credit card expert for CompareCards.com. In other words, they only use cards for things they can afford to pay off with cash, he says. To become disciplined with credit and avoid racking up balances, Steele recommends logging into your credit account online after making a purchase to pay it off. If you’re already carrying a balance, see How to Pay Off Your Credit-Card Debt in a Year for steps to pay off what you owe.
SOURCE: Cameron Huddleston