North West Credit Union Association.
WOOD – Today, your credit score has a huge impact on your financial life. It determines whether or not you qualify for a loan or credit card, dictates your interest rate, and is an important factor to consider when renting or owning a property. So it may come as a surprise that 1 in 10 Americans have no credit history and nearly 40% have no idea how credit scores are calculated.
With March 1 marking the start of National Credit Education Month, it’s the perfect time for Americans to learn about the ins and outs of credit. Idaho Credit Unions shared six tips for consumers to improve their credit scores:
Check your credit report regularly. In March 2020, the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – began offering free weekly credit reports to all Americans so they can protect their credit from the difficulties faced due to the pandemic. This offer continues until April 20, 2022. After this date, consumers can still get one free credit report per year. Free credit reports are available at annualcreditreport.com.
Challenge errors. Credit report errors are common. In fact, the FTC has found that 1 in 5 Americans have an error on at least one of their three credit reports. Check each of your reports for late payments you know you paid on time, closed accounts flagged as open (and vice versa), and listed as an account owner when you’re an authorized user only. Look for errors indicating an incorrect current balance or credit limit. Make sure all spellings of names and addresses are correct. Dispute errors quickly and directly with the reporting agency posting the inaccurate information.
Pay on time — always! Making payments on time is the number one factor in determining your credit score. Even one late payment lowers your score and it stays on your credit report for up to seven years. If you absolutely can’t make a payment, contact your creditor to see if they’ll work with you so you don’t get ripped off.
Apply for credit only when you need it. Applying for a new loan or a new credit card triggers a thorough investigation of your credit report. These requests lower your score for a period of time. It’s minimal if there’s only one, but if you request multiple types of cards or loans in a short period of time, those requests will lower your score significantly.
Keep a low balance. Another aspect that lenders check is your credit utilization rate – in other words, your current balance against your credit limit. Lenders suggest using no more than 30% of your overall limit, ie all of your cards combined. The higher your usage rate, the better your score, so keep those balances low.
Join a non-profit credit union. Credit unions don’t pay Wall Street shareholders; rather, they reinvest their earnings back into their members. This can mean free financial education, credit-building programs, and often a lower interest rate on your credit card. For example, analysis by the Credit Union National Association* found that last year the interest rate on cards issued by Idaho credit unions was 3.72% lower than rates charged by for-profit banks for their customers. Imagine how much you could save! To find a credit union near you, visit https://