close up of a piece of paper with a 425 credit score printed on it

Your credit score is the most important factor in your ability to get a loan, credit card, insurance, and utilities – or to rent a home or apartment.  It also generally determines the interest rate you’ll have to pay for financing.  That’s why it’s so important to understand your credit report, know your credit score, and determine how you can improve your credit over time. 

You can start by accessing your credit reports from the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) through annualcreditreport.com, the best free site to access reports. Then, take the time to review what’s currently impacting your credit rating, and make a plan to maintain or improve it in the future.

 

What makes up a credit score? 

A credit score is more than a record of regularly making payments on-time, it’s a complete reflection of your ability to responsibly manage the amount and types of debt you have.  Several factors impact the score, including the length of your credit history, borrowing capacity, and the types of debt you’re carrying (high finance accounts are considered ‘bad’ debt, while a home mortgage could help build value over time).

 

Overall, your credit score shows potential lenders if you’re living within your means, or if you’ve stretched yourself thin with higher balances or multiple credit accounts.

The score can range from 280-850 as provided through Equifax, and breaks down into four general categories:

  • 700+ is excellent.
  • 640+ is good.
  • 590+ is okay, but needs improvement.
  • 589 and below is poor…and needs to be rebuilt before applying for financing.

 

What are steps you should take if you want to improve your credit score?

If your credit score is lower than you expected, take a thorough look at all three reports to figure out if anything has been mis-reported, or if any fraudulent activity has taken place.  If you see anything suspicious, file disputes on those items ASAP.

If the report is an accurate reflection of your financial history, you can still rebuild your credit score over time:

  • First, create a plan that prioritizes paying down your debts until they’re paid off.
  • Second, set a reasonable budget for making those payments while keeping up with other bills.
  • Third, be accountable to someone. Share your plan with a family member, friend, or a Vocal team member who will encourage you in reaching your goals.
  • And fourth, track your progress. Here’s a helpful list of apps that can help you manage your spending, and show you the gains you’re making in paying down your debts.

 

Why is it important to make an effort to build and maintain a strong credit ranking? 

Plain and simple, having a strong credit score will make it much easier to get financing.  You’ll be offered more options with flexible terms, and better rates – giving you the ability to choose which options work best instead of a lender telling you what to settle for.

 

Vocal offers financial counseling opportunities to help you take these first steps toward improving your credit, and to help you keep your plan in place for the long haul.