Living in this current economic climate has been a struggle for Millennials. With auto loan debts and zero retirement savings weighing down many young adults, it seems impossible to dig themselves out of the hole. But you can solve a handful of money troubles by adopting important habits. One of these includes paying more attention to your credit score.
A credit score is a number that helps lenders, employers, and landlords determine if you are a reasonable financial risk. When you apply for loans and credit cards, your credit score determines your interest rate. It also determines how much money you can borrow. Credit scores range from 300 to 850. In the US, the average credit score according to CNBC is 716, which is considered a good score.
Your score is primarily influenced by three things:
Payment history. How often you pay your bills on time and in full has a big impact on your credit score. If you maintain a clean record of paying bills on time, then you’re likely to have a high score.
Credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of your total debt versus how much available credit that you actually use. The lower the ratio, the better because it suggests that you are not overextending yourself and that you are able to pay off your debts.
Length of credit history. Your length of credit history refers to how long your accounts have been open and how long your oldest account has been open for. If your accounts are all old, established, and well-managed, then it’s likely that you will have a good score.
However, applying for new credit can also impact your credit score. This is because lenders or credit card companies will perform inquiries on your credit. They can either make a hard or soft credit check. However, the former is the one you need to worry about.
A post on hard and soft credit checks by Upgrade Points details the differences between the two. Soft inquiries are made when a company wants to check your credit history for reasons unrelated to lending you money. For example, if you are applying for a new mobile phone contract, the company will make a soft credit check to determine whether or not you are eligible for the contract. Soft checks do not pull your credit score down.
On the other hand, hard checks involve lenders or credit card companies pulling your entire credit report to determine if you are eligible for a loan or if you qualify for a credit card. If you have been applying for new credit, then it’s likely that you will have a hard inquiry on your report. And this is the number one reason why your score will drop.
While soft credit checks do not harm your credit score, the more hard inquiries that appear on your report, the lower your score will be. This is because lenders see a high number of inquiries as an indication of financial instability and potential risk.
So, why maintain a good credit score? Good credit can help you secure a better interest rate on loans and credit cards, saving you money in the long run. Applying for a new loan on bad credit can be a one-two punch. Not only will the company disapprove your request, but their inquiry will lower your score further.
With the US Federal Reserve announcing its sixth interest rate hike to combat inflation, it’s crucial more than ever to maintain a good credit score. Remember to pay your bills on time and apply for new credit only when you absolutely need to.
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