Your credit scores are determined by the information reporting in your credit reports which is an overview and history of the decisions that you have made while maintaining your credit.
Every decision you make to apply for a new account, open a credit card, pay your bills, charge your credit card, etc… impacts your credit scores and determines your ability to acquire credit in the future. This is why developing healthy habits is to vital maintaining and growing your credit scores. Ultimately, you’re in control of your credit scores by managing your credit responsibly.
So, let’s take a look at some healthy habits that will ensure a higher credit score.
1. Pay your bills on-time
Paying your bills on time is the single most important factor in responsibly maintaining and improving your credit scores. One late payment can drop your credit score over 100 points so pay your bills on time – every time.
2. Maintain a low Credit Utilization
The percentage of balance that you maintain on your active credit accounts in proportion to your credit limit or high credit amount typically accounts for 30% of your credit scores. It’s difficult to quickly pay down installment loans like mortgages and auto loans but, you can manage your credit card utilization. Don’t max out your credit cards, keep your credit card balances below a 20% credit utilization rate (balance/credit limit) to get the most out of your credit scores. For example, if the credit limit on your credit card is $1,000 – keep your balance at $200 or less.
3. Don’t close your oldest accounts
Length of credit history is another important factor in determining your credit scores. The longer your credit history – the better your credit scores. Length of credit history is determined in 2 parts; the age of your oldest active account and the average age of all of your active accounts. Keep growing your credit history by maintaining activity on your accounts and by not closing your oldest accounts.
4. Maintain a Mix of Credit
Lenders want to see that can be responsible for managing more than just one type of account. Maintaining a healthy mix of installment accounts (mortgage, auto loan, student loan) and revolving accounts (credit cards and department store cards) will ensure a higher credit score.
5. Limit your Inquiries
Every time you apply for credit, whether it’s a credit card, department store account, auto loan, mortgage, or any other financial instrument, an inquiry is placed on your credit report as a record of your application. Having too many inquiries on your credit reports makes you look desperate for credit and throws up a red flag for lenders. Limit your applications for credit to a maximum of one inquiry every 6 months.
6. Check your credit reports
According to a study by the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups, 79% of all credit reports contain errors. 54% contained inaccurate personal information such as misspelled names, incorrect social security numbers, wrong dates of birth, addresses, etc…. 30% listed closed accounts as opened, 22% had duplicate accounts, 8% were missing a major trade-line such as a mortgage or auto loan, and most alarming, 25% contained serious errors that could cause consumers to be denied credit. On top of all that, identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in America so, check your credit reports often to make sure that the information being reported about you is 100% accurate and won’t cause you issues when applying for credit.
7. Protect your personal information
As already mentioned above, Identity Theft is now the fastest growing crime in America. With recent breaches to Equifax, Saks Fifth Avenue, Orbitz, Yahoo, LinkedIn, AOL, among others – you can rest assured that your private information is out there on the dark web. Be diligent about checking your credit reports of any unauthorized inquiries or accounts, check your credit card statements for any suspicious charges, change your passwords every 6 months, don’t use the same password for all of your accounts, use 2 factor authentication when available, get a shredder and don’t open any suspicious emails, click any suspicious links, or download any suspicious files. Be safe, be diligent and protect your identity and personal information.
8. Don’t Co-Sign for anyone
This is a tough one because it’s human nature for us to help those close to us but, we have seen so many cases where credit scores were ruined because of a co-signed loan. If the person your co-signing for needs a co-signer it probably means that they have not done a good job of maintaining their credit responsibly. Unforeseen circumstances like a job loss, medical issue, or personal problems can derail not only your credit but, also your friendship. So unless you’re ready and willing to take over 100% of the payments and responsibility on the loan, if the personal you’re co-signing for can’t meet the financial obligation, don’t co-sign. Protect your credit for yourself and your family.
9. Maintain an Emergency Fund
Maintaining a 3-6 month emergency reserve can save your credit and help you overcome financial difficulties brought on by job loss, medical issues, natural disasters, or relationship problems. It’s easier said than done but, start by opening up a separate bank account and designating it as your emergency fund, then, put aside 5%-10% of your income into that fund every month until you have a 3-6 month reserve to live off in case of an emergency.
10. Work on Your Credit
If you have derogatory information reporting on your credit reports, work on removing it by leveraging consumer protection laws such as the FCRA, FDCPA, and FCBA. Investigate your information with the credit reporting agencies, validate your debt, request method of verification on verified accounts, try goodwill requests and permissible purpose verification, and everything allowable by law to remove as much derogatory information from your credit reports as possible.
If you need help, CreditFirm.net has helped thousands of consumers remove negative information such as late payments, collections, charge-offs, repossessions, judgments, tax liens, etc… from their credit reports and increase their credit scores.
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Repairing a shoddy credit report requires time, but there are few steps you can take to expedite the process. Here’s what to do if you’re hoping to give your score a boost FAST.
Pay down credit card debt.
One of the only surefire ways to give your credit score a quick boost is to pay down any existing debt you may be carrying on a credit card. This will have an immediate (and positive) impact on your credit utilization ratio, which essentially involves how much credit you are using versus how much is actually available to you.
Keep in mind, the move will only work if you pay down the debt then refrain from running up a big balance on the card. Issuers report current balances along with your payment status on a monthly basis so it won’t take long for these new charges to catch up to you.
Check your credit report.
Errors on credit reports are actually more common than you may think so combing over your credit report can benefit your score if it is indeed being pulled down by someone else’s negative information. If it isn’t, the exercise can be instrumental in illustrating what you need to do to improve your creditworthiness. Most versions of reports point out what items are particularly detrimental to the person’s score.
Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from one of the major bureaus – Experian, Equifax or Transunion – each year, which can be obtained by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
Commit yourself to making all your payments on time.
A first missed payment can cause a great credit score to fall 100 points or more. The good news is, so long as you don’t follow up this misstep with an even bigger one, you won’t feel the full effect for the entire seven years it takes the line item to age off your credit report. Begin to undo the damage by getting current on your payments and re-committing yourself to making all future ones on time.
To avoid unconsciously missing a due date, enroll in auto-pay by linking your credit card and debit card accounts. You also might be able to do enroll for these options via your issuer’s iPad or mobile app.
Lenders Still Want Great Credit Scores for Mortgages
These days, many consumers are likely finding it easier to obtain many types of credit, as lenders have significantly slackened requirements for most loans and credit cards. However, the qualifications to obtain a good mortgage rate remain stubbornly high across the country.
Even as credit conditions improve significantly nationwide and many financial institutions are once again broadening lending efforts, many are still being extremely tight with financing for mortgages, according to a report from the New York Times. In fact, even as subprime lending for credit cards opens up considerably, many consumers with low credit scores will find themselves extremely unlikely to even be considered for a home loan approval.
A recent study by the Federal Reserve Board indicated that consumers with a credit score of 620 willing to make a 10 percent down payment are now less likely to be approved for a mortgage than they were in 2006, the report said. Further, some were even reticent to extend financing to borrowers making a similar down payment when their credit rating was 720.
This is because most lenders are still extremely gun-shy about lending large sums of money to anyone but the most qualified borrowers, the report said. In many cases, those who are approved for a home loan will also pay far higher rates on the mortgage than those who have top-notch credit scores, even as the average interest rate has hovered below 4 percent for some time now.
“If you don’t have good credit, you’re not going to get that crazy low rate,” Deborah MacKenzie, the director of counseling at the Stamford, Conn., nonprofit the Housing Development Fund, told the newspaper.
Typically, the only way consumers can improve their credit ratings so that they can qualify for a home loan is by being smarter about managing their various lines of credit, including keeping credit card balances low and making all payments on time and in full. These are the two biggest factors comprised in a credit score. However, consumers can also be hurt by applying for too many new lines of credit within a short period of time, so avoiding this ahead of shopping around for a mortgage can be crucial to maintaining good credit health as well.
Credit Report Repair
If you have any questions about your credit report or would like to find out how Credit Firm can help you improve your credit history and increase your credit score please contact us.
In the last year or more, many consumers have made conscientious efforts to reduce their reliance on credit cards and increase the timeliness of their payments, leading instances of delinquency and default to slip to at or near all-time historic lows.
But lenders will likely see their net charge-off rates slip for one more quarter before expanding again by the end of the year, finishing 2012 with higher rates of defaulted accounts than they began with, according to the latest report from analysis firm Fitch Ratings, entitled “Credit Cards: Asset Quality Review.” At the end of the first quarter, the net charge-off rate observed by the nation’s seven largest credit card lenders stood at 4.02 percent, down from 4.2 percent at the end of 2011, and 6.39 percent in the first quarter of that year.
Further, charge-offs are well below the five-year average of 6.51 percent observed between 2007 and 2011, the report said. And because of trends in 30-day credit card delinquencies, which itself is well below the five-year average, it’s likely that the current charge-off rate will decline once again in the second quarter of this year.
However, the trend may soon reverse because consumers are once again feeling better about their finances in general, the report said. Portfolio contraction among major lenders more or less held steady in the first quarter of the year, and smaller card issuers actually saw more consumers opening new accounts.
As a consequence of this trend, which may also be the result of expanding credit standards that are allowing subprime borrowers to once again access lines of credit they were unable to tap just a year ago, it’s likely that defaults will begin expanding once again, trending back toward historical averages from the current levels. Many had long projected that there must be a logical point at which charge-offs bottomed out, and we could soon see that point.
Millions of accounts were written off by lenders as uncollectable during and immediately following the recent recession as card issuers tried to shield themselves from significant loan losses as a result of consumers who could no longer afford to pay their bills. However, the improving economy has emboldened most major lenders to once again extend credit to those who previously defaulted on their accounts.
Children are not supposed to have a credit report in their name, but new studies have found that the number of those who do is growing considerably, which can pose major problems for affected kids.
People under the age of 18 who have a credit report in their name are almost certainly the victims of identity theft, and this is a large and growing problem nationwide, according to a report from the Columbus Dispatch. Some studies have found that large amounts of kids have been a0ffected by identity theft, in which the crooks open large amounts of credit in their name and steal tens of thousands of dollars or more, and leave their young victims to carry the blame.
Often, this type of crime is carried out when a thief gains access to a kid’s Social Security number, the report said. Sometimes this can happen as a result of data breaches at hospitals or schools, and other times, their relatives may steal their identity. These youngsters are usually targeted because they will have no credit history and, since parents wouldn’t normally even think to make sure their son or daughter has a credit report in their name, the crime is unlikely to be discovered for a long time.
“These kids’ Social Security numbers are particularly valuable to thieves because they can go years without detection,” Bo Holland, chief executive of AllClearID, told the newspaper. “Because of privacy restrictions, the credit bureaus can’t share with parents what they find in their (child’s) files. So they don’t know who is using the Social number or what accounts were opened.”
The most common way a child who has been victimized by this type of crime discovers the problem is when they turn 18—sometimes even older—and apply for a line of credit, the report said. To their dismay, they may learn that they’re saddled with significant debts, such as those for auto loans, credit cards and sometimes even mortgages, that have gone long periods of time without payment.
One thing parents who are concerned about this type of crime can do is contact the credit reporting agencies and ask them to put a freeze on their kids’ credit until they turn 18 and are capable of obtaining some types of loans on their own.