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You may have heard someone talk about credit or credit scores, and you might not know how they work. There is no need to be embarrassed since understanding how credit scores work can be pretty complicated. One in every five Americans between the ages of 20 and 29 don’t know their credit scores. In this article, we will answer four commonly asked questions about credit so that you can improve your understanding and use it to increase your financial power.

1. What Is Credit?

The term credit generally refers to a contractual agreement between a borrower, and an institution, where the borrower receives money from the institution with the intent of repaying it later, often with added interest. However, when the average person refers to credit, they are referring to credit history or credit scores. 

When applying for large loans for purchases such as houses or cars, the institution handing out loans will look at your credit score and history. A good credit score makes acquiring these loans at lower interest rates easy. 

2. How Are Credit Scores Calculated?

Your credit score is an essential measure of your credibility as a loanee. The most widely used credit scores are FICO and are called FICO scores. They range from 300 to 850, with 300 being the lowest and 850 being the highest. Although FICO does not reveal the algorithm it uses to calculate your score, it incorporates five components with differing levels of importance. These five components, along with their weighted effects on your FICO score, are:

● Payment history (35%)

● The amount owed (30%)

● Length of credit history (15%)

● New credit (10%)

● Credit mix (10%)  

Generally, a FICO score upwards of 670 is considered a good credit score, but some institutions may have their own benchmarks for what constitutes a good credit score.

3. How Can You Fix Your Credit Score?

Unfortunately, rebuilding or boosting your credit score has no instant fixes. It requires consistent, intelligent financial behavior over a prolonged period. Some methods you can adopt to help improve or establish your credit score are:

●      Avoid making late payments: Your payment history is the lynchpin of your credit score. Try to make all your payments on time and in full.

●      Refrain from opening new accounts: When you open a credit account, you can decrease the age of all your accounts. Though one new account won’t matter much, if you open several new accounts, the effect can compound and noticeably reduce your credit score.

●      Regularly review your credit reports: This can help you keep track of your accounts and debt. It also alerts you to any potential errors or fraudulent activity.

●      Keep your debts low: Your credit score calculates what percentage of your credit score you use. Keeping your credit usage below 30% is generally considered good.

4. Is It Possible to Build Credit Without a Credit Card?

You can build credit without a credit card since credit card companies are not the only companies that report your payment history to the credit bureaus. Activities such as purchasing tradelines or paying federal loans under your name also build your credit. Some rent and utility companies also report your history, which can work toward building credit.

Endnote

Gaining good credit is a part of your financial power and can significantly ease getting a loan for your dream house. Understanding how credit works and how to improve it will help you financially in the long term. We have hopefully provided enough information to help you understand how your credit scores work and how to improve them if they are dwindling. Using your credit responsibly and conscientiously will make it easier to achieve your financial goals.

Score Check

If you suspect that you might have adverse credit, then the first thing that you need to do is to check your score. There is no shortage of companies offering free credit reports, where you can check your full credit history. Many of these companies will also make credit card offers to you, although if your score’s very low, then it’s highly unlikely that you will actually be able to take out a credit card. Some score-checking agencies also offer their own credit-building cards, which are worth considering.

Credit Card

A credit card can be an extremely effective way of building one’s credit score. The only caveat is you already have to have a reasonably good score in order to qualify for one, just like a mortgage. If your score’s not great but isn’t really bad, then you may still be able to get a high-interest credit card with an undesirable company. You can then use this card to build up your score, by making every single purchase with it. Your credit card company will report to the credit bureau, noting down every purchase you have made, and every subsequent repayment, which will then increase your score.

Credit Builders

Credit builders are like credit cards, except you don’t get any credit with them. With credit builder cards, you top the card up yourself (and pay the card’s monthly fees), and then make all of your purchases with it. The more top-ups that you make, the higher your score goes. Credit builders are available to people even with the lowest credit scores, so you should be able to get it, no matter your credit score. A credit builder card is usually offered over a twelve-month period, so it is something you will have to commit to short-term.

Paying Bills

In recent years, energy providers have started reporting energy payments to the credit bureau. This means that you can actually boost your credit score by just paying your energy bills on time. If you set up a direct debit with your energy providers, then you won’t even have to lift a finger. It is worth noting, though, that because energy providers report back to the credit bureau, this means that if you miss any payments, your credit score could potentially drop. For this reason, make sure that you have a direct debit set up and money in your account to cover your payments.

Credit Use

A good way to increase your score is to keep your credit usage low, even if you have a credit card. If your short-term debt total is above a certain figure, lenders won’t look favourably upon you, and your score won’t go up. If you do owe a large amount of money on a credit card or to a debtor, then repaying this in full will help your credit score to go up. It should take about a month from the date that you repaid your debt until your credit score goes up again.

Proving Address

A very simple and effective way of increasing one’s score is to prove where you live. If you can prove your address to the credit bureau (such as by signing up for the electoral roll in Britain), then the credit bureau will instantly increase your score by a large margin. Proving one’s address is definitely a very effective way of increasing your credit score, because you don’t have to do much, and don’t have to pay any money toward anything. The longer you stay in an address, the higher your score goes also.

Credit Steps

On most credit score provider sites, they will offer you a series of steps that you can follow, which if followed, will increase your credit score. If the site that you are using offers you credit steps, then it’s a good idea to take them. These credit steps are calculated uniquely for you, by assessing your credit score, and the things that it’s lacking. It’s common to see ‘take a credit card out’ or ‘sign-up for the electoral roll’ in these guides. If you have any queries about your credit steps, you can reach out to the service’s provider and ask for more information.

Open Accounts

It’s a good idea to keep your old accounts open. The longer that you have an account, the better it will be for your credit score. A lot of people close their accounts down once they are done with it, but this is a bad idea. If you have closed accounts on your credit report, then the credit bureau won’t think that you are reliable or may think that you had to close your account because you were in debt or were unable to continue repaying your account. Open accounts with long credit histories are very desirable and can increase your score.

Fraudulent Activity

One last thing to watch out for is fraudulent activity. If a fraudster gains access to your personal and financial information, then they could theoretically sell this information to other criminals, who could, in turn, use it to commit identity fraud. It is very common for criminals to take out credit cards in other people’s names. Obviously, if a credit card was taken out in your name, then this would negatively impact your credit score. If you notice any fraudulent activity on your report, then report it immediately to the credit bureau.

Conclusion

There are many benefits to improving one’s credit score. One of the main ones is greater financial freedom. The better your score, the more likely you will be to qualify for large loans and credit cards, which can positively change your life.

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