By Michael Boyce
What do you know about your credit score and how it relates to your credit health? Your credit score is a three-digit number that dictates much of your financial fate, and the reasons it rises and falls aren’t always clear. It can factor into whether or not you are approved for certain purchases and could affect financing and other opportunities. While everyone has one, not all of us fully grasp the importance of our credit scores. Even if you check yours regularly, you may not have been aware of these 8 surprising things about your credit score.
1. You have more than one number.
Your credit score might seem like one monolithic number, but in fact, there are several different agencies that generate these numbers, each with their own methodology. It might help to look into more than one source when checking your score, since your potential creditors are probably doing the same. Each score is created differently, so look into what your particular score is comprised of to get the full picture.
2. Your debt-to-income ratio matters.
It’s important to keep track of your debt-to-income ratio. This measure divides the total of all your monthly debt payments by gross monthly income. A balanced debt-to-income ratio (DTI) usually means strong credit health. A high DTI, such as 50 percent or more, may signal to lenders that the individual might have trouble making payments.
3. Keep an eye on all the factors in your score.
Staying on top of your score is paramount to keeping it healthy, and there’s more than one way to do just that. Be proactive about checking your credit score. And don’t just look at the score — it’s important to look through your full credit report to ensure your score appears correctly, and if not, then investigate why that might be. Did you miss some payments that you weren’t aware of, or could there have been fraudulent charges on your accounts that need addressing? If there are issues, then correct the record where needed.
If you have debts you can’t keep up with, consider consolidating them into a single personal loan. This could not only allow you to pay off higher-rate debts with a lower rate loan, but also potentially pay them off more quickly. It could also give you the opportunity to demonstrate how you can make payments on time.
It’s also a good idea to ensure you aren’t carrying too much revolving debt; this usually comes from not paying off your bills in full each month. Some people who would like to take better control of their debt use a debt consolidation personal loan to simplify debts into one monthly payment, making it more manageable. Personal loans typically have fixed rates. If the rate is lower than that on your current debt, you can save money on interest as well as decrease the time it could take to pay off the debts if you continued paying the minimum on your bills.
There are several places to check your score for free. Discover Personal Loans offers a free Credit Scorecard* with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more. And checking will never impact your credit score.
4. Your credit score could include factors outside of finances.
There are some surprising things that could affect your credit score, like your overdue library books. It’s possible some libraries are turning to collection agencies to gather outstanding debts, therefore if you have outstanding books, credit bureaus may be notified by these collection agencies. Suffice it to say, that it’s probably a good idea to stay on top of all your debts, and not assume that some are less important to pay off than others.
5. There’s strength in debt diversity.
Having a mix of borrowing sources could be helpful to achieving better credit health. For example, an individual with only one source of credit (say, a store card) is less likely to have strong credit health than if they had the store card, some manageable student loan debt, a mortgage, and a personal loan and stayed on top of these debts. By maintaining this type of credit mix, you’ll likely maintain credit health, as long as the borrowing sources are in control. This demonstrates an ability to use financial tools responsibly and a commitment to staying on top of finances.
6. Having debt is okay, as long as you manage it wisely.
Don’t fear debt. Did you know that a small credit balance can actually be a good sign that you can handle credit responsibly? If you’ve got none whatsoever, that may signal a credit naiveté. A manageable amount of debt usually shows that you can navigate the financial world, and can be trusted by creditors.
7. Longevity matters.
The age of your accounts, including a consistent pattern of on-time payments, can be a sign of credit health. For example, when you take out your first credit line, you’ll start building credit but won’t immediately have a score. Those people who make building credit a long-term goal and have held credit for a while, typically have great credit health. It takes time to build a reputation, and your credit is no exception.
8. Be nice to your landlord.
Consistent late rent payments can indeed affect your credit score. When you miss payments, businesses can report you to the credit bureaus and the same holds true for your landlord or management company. Make sure you keep up with your rent, and if disaster hits unexpectedly, letting your landlord know about your situation may go a long way in keeping the relationship you have with him or her (and your credit) healthy.
In the end, the best defense against poor credit health can be getting all the facts you need so you understand your score and can work on it, if need be. And most importantly, check and monitor your credit on a regular basis so nothing on your report comes as a surprise.
Are you ready to get a better handle on your debt and improve your credit health? Learn more about debt consolidation loans.