Welcome to this week’s edition of our Tuesday Top 5, Econ4U’s weekly tips post to help you manage your money in five easy steps.
By now you know why a ship-shape credit score is in your best financial interests: It helps you qualify for the lowest interest rates on mortgages and other loans, saves you from having to put down a deposit on utilities, and it may even help you get a job.
What you may not know is how to add points to your FICO score, so here are a few tips to help you get the awesome perks that accompany great credit.
- Always pay your bills on time. Payment history is the most important part of your credit score. Even one late payment can ding your score. If you have not been making payments on time, now is a good time to start. Get and stay current on your credit-card and utility bills.
- Reduce your credit utilization ratio. Outstanding debt is the second-most important factor in calculating your credit score. You can figure out what your ratio is by dividing your outstanding balances by the amount of available credit you have; ideally, it should be under 20 percent. Lenders see high credit utilization as a red flag, and spending up to the credit limits on your plastic kills your score. To improve your score, don’t max out any of your cards and pay down the balances quickly.
- Keep your oldest accounts open. The age of your credit history is another key component of your credit score; ideally, you want the average age of all your accounts to be at least 8 years. If you open too many new accounts in a short period of time, your score will drop. Likewise, closing an older account with a high credit limit could temporarily knock 50 points off your score. If you think you’ll be applying for a loan in the next year, be judicious about opening new accounts.
- Maintain a good mix of credit. Showing responsibility for car notes, installment loans, and a mortgage in addition to revolving credit shows potential lenders that other banks have deemed you creditworthy. Some types of credit, like payday loans, are not factored into your credit score. This is a less important metric in your overall score, but consider it a reference for future loans.
- Don’t sweat it if your score is over 750. While it might be personally satisfying to shoot for the moon and go for a perfect 850, once you’re in the “excellent” credit range you’re already qualifying for the best rates. At this stage, you can sit back and enjoy the rewards.