If a new house, car or loan are in your future for 2024, it may be a good time to learn about your credit score and ways to boost it.
A credit score is based on things like your current unpaid debt; history of paying bills on time; recent credit applications; how much credit you currently use; loan information (number and types of loans you've had and for how long); and whether you have filed bankruptcy, had a foreclosure or had a debt go to a collection agency.
This score helps predict how likely you are to make payments on a loan, insurance premium or credit card in a timely fashion. It helps creditors decide whether you qualify to borrow money, how much you are approved to borrow and at what interest rate. It may also impact the cost of your insurance premiums.
Most credit scores range from about 300 to 850. The higher credit score you receive, the easier it may be for you to qualify for a loan or credit product. Higher scores may also help keep your interest rate low.
If you are looking to raise your credit score, keep the following tips in mind. (Please note: Increasing your credit score takes time, so be patient.)
- Review your credit report annually. There are three main credit reporting agencies that collect your credit information and generate your credit report — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The report summarizes your credit history. Federal law requires the three agencies to provide your credit report to you every 12 months for free, if requested. By looking at this report, you can make sure there are no mistakes that could impact your buying power, and no signs of identity theft. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Pay your bills on time. More than one-third of your credit score is based on whether you pay your bills on time, every time. It's a simple step that could pay big dividends down the road.
- Don't use too much credit. Nearly one-third of your credit score is based on something called credit utilization. This is basically how much credit you have compared to how much you have used. For example, you have a credit utilization rate of 20 percent if you have charged $2,000 on your credit card and have a credit limit of $10,000. Aim to keep this credit utilization rate low by making payments to reduce your debt. You can also request that your credit limit be increased.
- Make sure you have a credit card. Using a credit card responsibly can improve your credit score. It helps to build a positive payment history. Just make sure to not spend too much money using the credit card and to make payments on time (consider an auto-pay option). WaFd Bank offers credit cards with competitive rates, no annual fees and great rewards.
- Limit the number of credit inquiries. When you apply for a new loan or credit product, the lender will need to pull your credit report. These inquiries may lower your credit score. If you are planning to get a new loan or open a new credit account, be careful about having your credit report pulled too many times. If shopping around for the best rates on a loan, try to submit your applications within a 14-to-30-day time period of each other. This ensures your credit score may not be impacted each time your credit history is pulled within that window.
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