Article courtesy of GreenPath(TM), a partner of ECU, offering ECU members access to free and confidential financial wellness counselors and resources.
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We’ve all heard so much in recent years about credit scores. But, what are they and how are they used?
A credit score is a number lenders use to help them decide – “If I give this person a loan or credit card, will I get paid back on time?” It is a key factor in determining your interest rate, and is one of several pieces of information that lenders use when evaluating your application for credit.
Your credit score is based on information in your credit report, such as:
- Payment history - current and historical delinquencies
- Amounts owed - outstanding debt balances, both in terms of dollars owed and percent of available credit
- Length of credit history
- Pursuit of new credit - generally these are called inquiries and are less important than some of the other categories
- Types of credit in use, such as a mortgage, car loan, credit cards, and unsecured loans
Your credit score is not based on factors prohibited under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, such as race, age, gender, religion, national origin or marital status. Other excluded items include income, employment and where you live.
The most common model for credit scoring is the FICO score. FICO scores range from 300 to 850 with the higher the score, the lower the risk of default. A “good” score is a number that matches the level of risk a lender is willing to accept for a particular loan or credit card. For example, a score of 750 may qualify you for a gold credit card, whereas a score of 675 may indicate you’re a better match for a standard card. What’s considered a good score will vary from lender to lender.
While you can improve your credit score, it is unlikely that any single action you take will have a large impact on your score immediately. That’s because your score reflects your credit pattern over time.
With this in mind, there are things you can do now that will improve your score in the future:
- Most importantly, pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on your score. As delinquencies get older and you pay all other obligations on time, the delinquent information has less impact.
- Pay down your balances. High outstanding debt can affect your score.
- Apply for new credit sparingly. “Shopping” for credit can have an adverse effect on your score. Support good credit habits like paying bills on time, using revolving debt responsibly, and avoiding a large and quick build-up of new credit.
Need to find out more? As a member of ECU, you can take advantage of the GreenPath Financial Wellness program, a free financial education and counseling program. GreenPath counselors are available Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (EST), Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To use this service, simply call 1-877-337-3399 or visit them on the web at www.greenpath.com.