A survey from NerdWallet and Harris Poll found that many Americans do not know the rules of credit scoring. Here are some of the findings:
- About half of Americans don’t know that having bad credit can limit their option for cell phone service, and more than half don’t know that people with poor credit will pay higher utility rates.
- Almost one-quarter of Americans in the survey didn’t know that they might be unable to rent an apartment due to poor credit.
- Nearly 45 percent didn’t know that they might pay higher car insurance premiums if their credit scores are low.
- About 41 percent erroneously think that carrying a small balance on credit cards will hurt their credit scores.
Knowing the rules of credit-scoring is important because having bad credit is expensive. You will pay higher interest rates on your credit cards and loans, as well as higher premiums on insurance, and higher deposits for utilities.
Here are the basics of credit-scoring. FICO scores are calculated from data reported to credit bureaus by lenders. This information includes:
- Your payment history accounts for 35 percent of your credit score. If you are 30 days or more late on a payment, your score could drop.
- The amount of credit you use accounts for 30 percent of your score. You will have a higher credit score if your credit card balances never exceed 30 percent of your credit limit. And, as your loans age, your score will increase, assuming you pay your loans on time.
- The age of your accounts determines about 15 percent of your score. The older your accounts, the deeper your roots, and the better your score.
- Having a healthy mix of credit accounts for about 10 percent of your score. Creditors want to see that you can juggle different types of credit, so they assign better scores to people who have, at a minimum, three credit cards and an installment loan or credit rebuilder loan.
- Credit inquiries account for 10 percent of your score. Unless you are rate shopping, your score will drop a few points every time you apply for a credit card or a loan.
The first step to rebuilding your credit is getting a copy of your credit report. Yes, I know that’s an extremely simple first step, but it is an essential one. When rebuilding your credit, it is wise to review your credit report at least once every six months. If your credit score is low, you may want to pull your credit report quarterly. This won’t negatively affect your credit score. After getting your credit report, look for errors. If there aren’t any, good! You can now focus on rebuilding your credit score. If there are errors address them immediately if they are severe. In Step Five of my program, I explain that almost 80 percent of people have errors on their credit report, and 25 percent of these errors are severe enough to cause a person to lose a loan or a job opportunity. This is one reason it is essential to know what’s on your credit report. When finding an error on your credit report, what should you do? First and foremost, if you think you are a victim of identity theft, call the three credit bureaus right away to put a freeze on your credit account. This way, no one else can open credit in your name. If the mistake doesn’t seem to indicate you are a victim of identity theft, you can start by filing an online dispute at each of the three credit bureaus. Following are the three credit bureau links:
If a bank or credit card company is responsible for incorrect information on your credit report, contact them. Ask them to investigate the mistake they reported to the credit bureaus. Make sure you have documentation to support your statements. One of the most common (and dangerous) errors you will find is an inaccurate credit limit. So why does an inaccurate credit limit hurt your credit score? The credit-scoring agencies give higher credit scores to people with lower utilization rates (your credit card balance as a percentage of your limit.) If your limit is, for instance, $2,000, and your balance is $600, you have a utilization rate of 30 percent. Maintaining a 30 percent utilization rate is good. It should improve your credit score. If your credit card company is reporting your limit as $1,000 instead of $2,000, this is an error. Your utilization rate will appear to be 60 percent (a $600 balance on a $1,000 limit). This is a bad utilization rate because it may seem that you rely on credit. This will cause your credit score to drop. Notify the credit bureaus of the error on your credit limit by filing a dispute with all three credit bureaus. At the same time, place a call or send a letter to your credit card company demanding they report your correct limit. Correcting errors help rebuild your credit score. After all major errors are corrected, get another copy of your credit report to verify it is error-free. If it is, focus on rebuilding your credit to increase your credit score. FYI: Your credit score will not decrease if you get a copy of your credit report. Inquiries into your credit score by lenders will cause a dent in your score, but you are not penalized for getting your own credit report. This is considered responsible financial behavior. Therefore, get your credit report as often as you desire to check for errors and/or to rebuild your credit score.
The easiest and fastest way to increase your credit score is to become an authorized user on a family member’s credit card account.
This is an excellent strategy for teen children or people who have suffered a severe financial crisis. Both are interested in building or rebuilding their credit. As an authorized user, they receive the benefits of someone else’s credit but have no contractual obligation to pay the bills.
A person’s individual credit score is not considered when becoming an authorized user. Neither is his or her credit report reviewed. There is no pre-qualification for an authorized user status on a credit card. However, the credit card’s history will be reported on the authorized user’s credit report as long as the authorized user is related to the account holder.
Becoming an authorized user on a family member’s credit card will quickly raise your credit score, even after bankruptcy or other financial disaster, by allowing you to “borrow” the account holder’s clean credit history.
Family members may not be receptive to adding you to their credit card accounts if they believe you will not honor your commitment to repay the charges you make. You must assure them of your ability to re-pay. Show them how you will repay charges or tell them you do not want a credit card or access to their account. Your goal is to become an authorized user to increase your credit score.
To protect the family member adding you as an authorized user, here are two suggestions:
- The account holder should shred the credit card that arrives in your name.
- The account holder should never give you the account number, credit card expiration date, or card security code.
Both of you will then benefit. How? Your credit score will increase because you have a good credit report. The account holder benefits because he or she is able to help a family member without worrying about irresponsible behavior on your part.
Authorized users must be related to the account holder for their bad credit scores to benefit from this strategy. Try to choose someone with the same last name and address. Otherwise, the credit-scoring bureaus might not recognize your status as an authorized user and your credit score might not improve.
Call the credit card company and ask if they are reporting your status as an authorized user. You can also check your credit report to see if the account is appearing. If not, choose another account holder.
Be sure that you also choose a responsible relative with an account in good standing. If you become an authorized user on an account that becomes delinquent, guess what happens? Your score will drop. Therefore, pick an account with a clean history of payments and a utilization rate of no more than the 30 percent limit. If the balance exceeds 30 percent, or if the account holder makes a late payment, you should immediately remove your name as an authorized user so the negative information does not hurt your credit score.
Authorized users usually see a quick jump in their score. In twelve or eighteen months remove yourself from the account because you should be able to qualify for loans on your own.
We live in a credit-driven society. You need credit for just about everything from buying a house to getting a job. Since many people use credit in lieu of currency, it is no surprise that many hard-working people have not managed credit wisely. As a result, they have bad credit. But there is hope. Here are five steps to rebuild bad credit.
Before examining the steps to rebuild your credit, let’s see how the credit bureaus determine our credit scores. There are 22 different criteria for determining a credit score. Unfortunately, the only ones who know the actual formulas are the credit bureaus. Not much information exists on rebuilding credit. Therefore people often make common mistakes that seem like the right choice, but in the end these choices hurt their credit score.
If you have bad credit and want to increase your credit score, follow these five steps. Prior to doing anything, you need to make sure you know your credit scores. Odds are you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. Your credit scores are the blueprint of your credit history. The only way you’ll know what corrections are needed is to get your credit report.
Quick Fix #1: Check for Errors
One of the most common sources of a bad credit score can be attributed to reporting errors. Check your credit limits first! Make sure your credit limits are reported correctly because your credit limits are used to determine your utilization rate. This rate is based on the percentage of your credit limit you use each month. If your credit limit is not reported correctly, your utilization rate will not be accurate. A high utilization rate lowers your credit score.
Also check for duplicate notices from collection accounts that are being reported as active. Often a collection account is transferred to more than one collection agency. All of these collection agencies might be listed on your credit report. That’s not a problem, but only the agency currently trying to collect the debt should be listed as active. All other collection agencies should be listed as transferred since they are no longer responsible for collecting the debt.
If more than one collection agency is reporting the collection account to the credit bureaus as active, you have a problem. Since the single collection account is reported as two separate accounts, your credit score will be lowered.
Quick Fix #2: Reduce Your Credit Card Debt
Most people do not know why the amount of their credit card debt is significant because it has never been explained to them. I call this tip the 30/30 rule. Thirty percent of your credit score is based on your outstanding debt. If your credit balance is more than 30 percent of your credit limit, your score will drop. Here’s an example: If your credit limit is $1,000 and you charged $600, you are at 60 percent of your limit in debt. When you’re over 30 percent of your limit to debt and you’re only paying the minimum monthly payment each month, your score is going to drop, even if your monthly payments are “on time.” You must reduce your credit card debt to 30 percent or less to maintain the 30/30 rule and rebuild bad credit.
Quick Fix #3: No Credit Equals Bad Credit
Credit scores are based on the information in your credit history. If don’t have a credit history, you are treated like the person with bad credit. When evaluating your credit worthiness, companies would rather lend or give better interest rates to those whose credit history proves they are a good investment. Think of it this way: Let’s say you needed heart surgery, and you met a guy who said he was the best heart surgeon in the world. He might be the best heart surgeon in the world, but if he had no credentials and no references, there’s no way you’d ever let him open up your chest.
The credit scoring bureaus think of you the same way. If you don’t have a credit history, they consider you high risk. Prove your credit worthiness by getting three to five credit cards as well as an installment loan. Doing this will help rebuild your bad credit and provide enough information for credit bureaus to judge your risk fairly.
Quick Fix #4: Becoming an Authorized User
If you don’t have much credit (less than three major credit cards and an installment loan) or have bad credit and want to rebuild your credit, you may want to explore becoming an authorized user. Ask a relative with good credit to add you as an authorized user to their account. It helps if you and your relative have the same address.
Becoming an authorized user allows you to piggy-back on your relative’s good credit standing and reap the benefits of their credit history. This only works if the credit card company reports your status as an authorized user to the credit bureaus and if the outstanding debt on the card never exceeds 30 percent of the credit limit. While this is a great way to improve your score, if the account falls into poor standing, your credit score will also be negatively affected.
Quick Fix #5: Use Credit!
It’s natural to steer clear of credit if you have had bad credit. Avoiding credit is not helpful when it comes to rebuilding your credit. The only way to rebuild bad credit is to establish a credit history. For more information on why this is so important, get my free e-book Credit After Bankruptcy & Foreclosure. Although bankruptcy or foreclosure may not apply to you, the information in the booklet is still valid for anyone rebuilding bad credit.
After a bankruptcy, rebuilding your credit may be the last thing you want to do. Avoid the urge to walk away from the loans and credit cards that precipitated the bankruptcy. Instead, focus on rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy. Whatever you do, don’t wipe your hands clean of credit.
Contrary to popular belief, using credit appropriately in the wake of a bankruptcy is the best way to rebuild your credit. If you follow a smart plan to re-establish your credit, it is possible to rebuild your credit score to 720 within a couple of years. This is the most important action you can take after bankruptcy.
This twofold plan begins with opening new lines of credit and concludes with paying your bills on time and in full. Therefore, keep small balances on your credit cards to ensure you are able to pay what you owe each month.
Rebuilding Your Credit after Bankruptcy Rule #1: Open new lines of credit!
Have you heard claims that you can have a bankruptcy wiped from your credit report? Do not believe these claims because they are not true. There is no legal way to wipe a bankruptcy from your credit report. However, time does reduce the impact of a bankruptcy on your credit report. All three credit-scoring bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—are more concerned with your recent credit behavior rather than your past credit behavior. The trick is to persuade credit bureaus to pay more attention to your recent good behavior than to your past behavior. By establishing new credit and using it responsibly, you can prove to the bureaus that you are a new person. Demonstrate to them that the bankruptcy forced you to get rid of negative credit habits and replace them with smarter financial strategies.
After declaring bankruptcy, open three new credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, or American Express) and one installment loan as part of your plan to rebuild credit after bankruptcy. Keep the credit cards active by using them at least every other month. Make only small charges, preferably less than 10 percent of the limit, and pay the balances in full.
Know that you will pay high interest rates with the credit cards and installment loan. This is one of the results of your bankruptcy. Another is that you will not qualify for the best interest rates with a low credit score. That’s why it is important to pay credit card and loan balances in full as quickly as possible.
Open credit cards and an installment loan as soon as possible after your bankruptcy. The credit-scoring bureaus respond best to accounts that have been open for a long time. Your future credit score is dependent upon opening all accounts now and paying them in full monthly.
By opening new lines of credit, you begin to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy. This allows the credit bureaus to re-evaluate your credit based on the new information it receives from your creditors. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are now able to judge your credit worthiness based on your current credit information. Use this as an opportunity to show them you have changed your patterns of behavior.
Don’t delay. Immediately begin proving to the credit bureaus that your bankruptcy allowed you to turn over a new leaf and change your payment behavior.
Rebuilding Credit after Bankruptcy Rule #2: Never, never, never make a late payment!
After a bankruptcy, the credit-scoring bureaus will have an eye on you, even as your score begins to climb. If you make a payment that is even one day late, the bureaus will assume you are back to your old ways, and your progress will be for naught.
The best strategy to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy is to pay your bills on or before the due date every month. This means that you must live within your means.
For more information on rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy, read this article on how to create a budget, find money, and establish habits that best afford you to bounce back after a bankruptcy.
Do banks lie to their customers? Has your bank ever said your credit score will not affect you?
If your bank has ever said your credit score will not affect their financial relationship with you, do not believe them! Your credit score affects your all of your major financial purchases.
After conducting a private class on “How Credit Scores Affect You,” one of the participants, Lori P., sent me an email showing how banks lie to their customers.
“I am involved in an entrepreneurial program that helps people become business and home-loan ready, as well as get them ready for business start-up. Four of us in the program had attended a meeting with a founder of a bank here in Los Angeles that explained to us how to become loan-ready for his bank. He mentioned that all we needed was a 630 credit score along with other criteria.
I thought, ‘Wow, only 630? That seems easy.’
Then when I listened to your program, it made sense why we only needed a 630 – It would be money in the bank’s pocket.
After reading Lori’s email, I was livid! Her attempts to help people in her community take control of their financial future were hindered by a banker more interested in his financial bottom line than the customers he serves. That banker was thrilled to deal with customers with less than a 720 credit score because he could charge them higher fees. In my opinion, that is outrageous. How can hardworking Americans get back on their feet financially if banks are not disclosing how a customer’s credit score affects the fees they pay?
Do you believe your bank deliberately withholds information concerning your credit score and bank fees? This happens more often than you may think. If your bank does not tell you the relationship between your credit score and bank fees, you are paying higher fees than a person with a 720 or higher credit score.
There is an easy solution to eliminate all doubts of banks lying to you about the relationship between your credit score and bank fees. They can educate customers on the easy steps people can take to fix a bad credit score.
In most cases, instead of telling the truth about how credit scores affect you, banks across the country are letting their customers pay an arm and a leg in interest rates.
The banker Lori met with didn’t tell her that the difference between a 630 credit score and a 720 credit score was $63,720 over the course of a 30-year loan on a $216,000 mortgage. His bank would earn $63,720 in fees of Lori’s hard-earned money if she was approved for a home loan with a 630 credit.
That bank was deceiving customers with a 630 credit score to the tune of $63,720 over 30 years!
I wrote 7 Steps to a 720 Credit Score because I wanted to help my mortgage clients learn how to build credit and lower their interest payments. Then I decided to spread the word about how credit scores affect you. I went to bank after bank, telling them I would give them access to my book so their clients could learn how to raise their credit scores and negotiate lower interest rates.
Guess how many banks signed up? Not one.
Why would they do the right thing when they could pocket $63,720 or more?
This is so typical of what happens every day. While the “little guy” struggles to get his head above water, the government is busy bailing out big business because they are “too big to fail.” These very same businesses turn around and lie to their customers. This is flat-out unfair and wrong.
Learn how your credit score affects you, and stop the banks from stealing more of your hard-earned money. Download The 35 Things Your Bank Doesn’t Want You to Know About Credit
If you ever attend my Question and Answer sessions, (about how to raise your credit score), you know there is a common theme – debt, debt, and more debt.
How can someone with a lot of credit card debt raise their credit score? It’s the chicken and the egg conversation over and over.
Here’s the bottom line: Sometimes the best first step for you to take is either bankruptcy or debt negotiation.
So many of my clients are SO worried about their credit score that they don’t make a logical decision about the debt they have. When this happens, they end up paying the minimum payments on their credit cards, and never get what they ultimately want – Debt free OR a high credit score.
As I say over and over, the key to raising your credit score if you have debt is to learn your options.
Since I get so many requests for introductions, I’ve done the research on great referral partners for my clients.
If you have debt you cannot pay-off, click here and I’ll give you and introduction to a bankruptcy attorney and a debt negotiator.
If you have back taxes of $10,000, click here and I’ll introduce you to a tax resolution specialist.
If your credit is bad and you simply want to raise your credit score, click here and I’ll introduce you to a partner of ours that offers our credit improvement program.
If you have student loans, and you cannot keep up with the payments, click here and I’ll introduce you to a partner of ours.
Bottom line is this… if you are having a hard time with your debt, you need to take a look at all your options.
Once you gather all of this information, talk to me on one of my Question and Answer Sessions and together, we can figure out the next best steps to raise your credit score.
If my credit program has impacted your life, you could please tell me how?
I have a dream of having 1,000 success stories on my web page, and I have a long way to go! So regardless of whether your story is one line long or ten paragraphs long, please let me know.
And if you feel uncomfortable giving your name, no need to!
Click here to be transferred to the page. Then click on “Leave Your Success Story.”
If you have had financial problems, you know how scary it is to have a low credit score. Sharing your success is going to inspire others to have hope in a bigger future. Thank you for sharing your story.
Just a quick reminder…
Don’t get carried away with your credit cards when shopping for holiday presents. Before the holidays are over, many consumers will charge an extra $600, $1,000, or $2,000 to their credit cards. Most shoppers don’t plan for this—it just happens. But by the time January rolls around, they have giant credit-card hangovers that leave them wondering how they can preserve their finances when they have migraine-size debt looming over them.
And remember: one of the keys to a high credit score is to keep a balance that is no higher than 30 percent of the limit. So not only will extra credit-card debt hurt your pocketbook, it will also hurt your credit score.
Keeping the right credit card balance is one of the most important things you can do this holiday season to protect your credit score. Here is my time-tested tip for avoiding the holiday credit hangover.
1. First, create a holiday spending budget.
I know a lot of parents who want to create lasting memories for their children, so they go overboard, buying tons of presents for their kids.
But think back to your own childhood. How many gifts are etched into your memory?
Probably not many. Your children will remember the time they spend with you more than the gifts they will receive.
And if you are racking up your credit card bills, you probably feel stress and anxiety, which will detract from the time you spend with your children.
So create a reasonable budget and determine how much you can afford to spend on each person on your list.
2. Leave the credit cards and debit cards at home.
I’m totally serious about this. If you don’t take credit cards or debit cards, you cannot overspend. It’s that simple. If you do take credit cards and debit cards, you can overspend and induce that hangover. So just leave them at home.
In fact, the more radical this idea sounds to you, the more important it is that you implement it.
Taking credit cards with you is just too tempting, even to the most disciplined shopper. The allure of “buy now, pay later” will allow you to make impulse purchases.
If you take only cash, on the other hand, you will limit your spending to the cash in hand. Those impulse purchases will be impossible.
3. Create “wallets.”
This is where my “envelope system” comes into play …
Before jumping in your car and hitting the local mall, pull out some plain white envelopes and write the name of each person you are going to purchase a present for on individual envelopes. (If you have eight people to buy presents for, you should have eight envelopes.)
Within each envelope, place the appropriate amount of cash you have budgeted for this person—no more and no less.
Each of these envelopes represents the wallet you have for each person on your list.
You might want to bring a little extra money for lunch, but be sure to leave your credit and debit cards at home.
When you purchase a present, use the money from the appropriate “wallet.”
This method will create a psychological barrier to impulse shopping. If you are tempted to splurge on a gift, you will be dissuaded when you consider whose wallet you will withdraw money from in order to cover the impulse shopping.
What do you think? Does this help you avoid the “holiday credit card hangover”? Leave a comment below and let me know.
P.S. And don’t forget to ignore the retail-store credit card offers this holiday season (and always!).
Many so-called experts say that you should adopt a cash-only policy and ignore credit cards. But here’s the truth…
They are dead wrong.
Avoiding credit won’t make life easier. In fact, it will make life a heck of a lot harder. It also won’t make your credit score improve. In fact, it will make your credit score drop like a lead balloon.
If you adopt a cash-only policy, you’ll end up with no credit. And no credit is just as bad as poor credit. You see, the credit-scoring bureaus want to see that you can responsibly handle many different types of credit before they award you a good credit score. If you don’t accumulate a proven track record, you won’t get a good score.
Now, a lot of people who have been through a financial meltdown decide that the only way to turn their lives around is to stop using credit. But think of it like this: Let’s say you took a math test in school, and you failed. Your grade was an F, so you decided to stop taking math tests—to just wipe your hands clean of math tests.
Would your grade improve? Heck no. And your credit score won’t improve if stop using credit cards either. I always say that having no credit score is just as bad as having a poor credit score. They credit-scoring bureaus won’t have any information on which to judge you, so they will think: Better safe than sorry. And they will give you a low credit score.
- You’ll have a hard time getting great insurance premium rates.
- You might be unable to find a job.
- Landlords might not want to rent to you.
And if you ever need a loan (and you probably will!), you will get lousy terms and pay an arm-and-a-leg in interest.
So they next time someone tells you to wipe your hands clean of credit, ignore them!
This doesn’t mean that you should get yourself into debt with your credit cards. It means you should use your credit cards wisely. Keep a low balance (less than 30 percent of the limit), and pay your bills on time every month.
And if you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below.