Our credit scores determine much about how we live our lives. We buy practically everything on credit. When applying for a loan, our good credit scores help us receive reasonable interest rates. In fact, from landlords, to insurance companies, to utilities, everyone looks at our credit scores, as they are a reflection of our financial health. A healthy credit score may determine what various agencies will charge for their services. Today, even employers check personal credit scores before offering a job.
Knowing more about our credit scores and the factors affecting them may help us build a positive credit history. But first, let’s look at how they are maintained by the various credit reporting agencies.
Three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - calculate credit scores. Though they use the same methods and formula to calculate scores, they sometimes come up with a different rating for various reasons. One agency may have more updated information about an individual. A creditor may have shared information with one agency only, but not with the others. Creditors, while checking on our scores, take the average of the three scores from these three agencies.
Credit scores range between 300 and 850. A score of 680 and above is excellent for obtaining mortgage financing at low interest rates. A credit score of 621 to 679 is an average score and you would have to pay a slightly higher rate of interest. A credit score of below 600 makes us potentially unreliable and harder to obtain credit. When a credit score falls below 600, credit repair steps should be taken immediately.
The following are factors affecting credit scores and basic steps to take to maintain an accurate credit score rating with the credit bureaus:
1. Routinely check payment history and the current credit debt held.
2. Credit history length is a determining score factor. Naturally, the longer a ‘good’ credit history, the better.
3. Do not close old or paid off accounts. These show the credit history length and contribute to higher credit scores.
4. Pay off debts to improve credit scores.
5. On-time payments. Delayed payments appear on credit reports and adversely affect it.
6. An individual’s race, sex, age, level of education, or marital status has no bearing on a credit score, nor does the fact that an application for credit was previously turned down.
Taking care to maintain a high credit rating enables us to receive credit and loans at good rates. Our credit score is a reflection of how we manage our finances and a determining factor for many aspects of our lives. Knowing early on how to have a healthy credit history is the best way to avoid bad credit and limited loan options in the future.