Marlborough, MA - Once you start accumulating credit, the most important thing to do is stay in control of it in order to achieve your financial goals. There are many benefits of having a good credit score, like enjoying a lower interest rate and saving money on insurance. It’s all about how you use credit that lets you maintain a good score.
“By establishing good habits for monitoring accounts and detecting potential fraud, consumers can stay ahead of their credit scores,” said Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the local BBB. “Smart financial habits are extremely important for maintaining a good credit score.”
BBB offers the following tips for managing your credit.
Know what goes into a good credit score. The more you know about what goes into your credit score, the easier it will be to maintain a good one. Five key pieces of information are used to calculate your credit score – your payment history (35%), amount owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), types of credit (10%), and new credit (10%).
Pay your bills on time. That goes for all of your bills, not just your credit cards and loans. Timely payment is one of the best ways to establish yourself as a good credit risk to future lenders. Using automatic loan payments from your checking account is a simple and convenient way to regularly make your payments. Always pay at least your minimum monthly payment. By paying more than the minimum - or better yet the full balance each month - this will reduce the finance charges you may incur.
Keep your credit card balances low. The higher your credit card balance is, the worse your credit score will be. Your available credit is how much credit you have left on a line of credit or credit card; it is the limit minus your outstanding balance. Your credit card balance should be within 30% of your credit limit to maintain a good credit score. Charging more than 30% of your credit limit is risky even if you plan to pay off the balance when your billing statement comes. Card issuers typically report the balance when your statement closes and if it has a high balance, your credit score will be affected even if you subsequently pay your balance in full.
Manage your debt. Credit card balances are not the only accounts that influence your credit score. Loan balances and lines of credit also impact your level of debt (30% of your credit score). Having too much debt can cost credit score points and make it difficult to afford your monthly payments. The lower your debt, the easier it will be to maintain a good credit score. If you need help with your finances, search for reputable financial advisors with BBB’s Accredited Business Directory.
Don’t close old credit cards. When you close a credit card, your credit card issuer no longer sends updates to the credit bureaus and the credit scoring formula places less weight on inactive accounts. After 10 years or so, the credit bureau will remove that closed account’s history from your credit report. If the account was an old one (which it would be after 10+ years), losing that credit history will shorten your average credit age and cause your credit score to drop.
Beware of credit scams. Look out for businesses offering “free credit reports” or “quick fixes for bad credit,” as these could be red flags for a potential scam. You are entitled to one free report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every year at annualcreditreport.com. If a business asks for credit card information in order to view your report, you may be unknowingly signing up for a monthly subscription or providing scam artists with your personal information.
Watch your credit report. Keep track of checks you’ve written, credit card transactions, and ATM card usage. Review your monthly statements when they arrive, and report any possible discrepancies immediately. Checking your credit report throughout the year allows you to detect these mistakes sooner so you can correct them and maintain a good credit score. Remember, consumers are entitled to one free report a year from annualcreditreport.com.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses and brands they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses, all available for free at bbb.org.