Five credit myths that may be hurting your credit score
When it comes to your credit score, there’s a lot you should know beyond just the three-digit number. Financial literacy, including understanding your score and credit report, is an important part of building positive credit. And, as we know, having good credit comes with a lot of perks.
Need a credit crash course? These five credit myths may be hurting your credit score:
Myth #1: I don’t know my credit score because checking my score or requesting my credit report will hurt my score and I don’t want to risk it.
TRUTH #1: The rumor that checking your score or requesting a credit report will hurt your score is a long-standing myth, but it’s untrue. Knowing your credit score and reviewing your credit report is the first step in building positive credit. You can check your credit score for free through a number of services, such as CreditKarma.com or CreditSesame.com. Additionally, you’re allowed to get a copy of your credit report from one or all three of the major credit reporting bureaus for free once every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com. What does hurt your score is a hard inquiry – any sort of credit check for an application, such as a loan or credit card. Try to limit hard inquiries to once or twice a year.
Myth #2: Even if I don’t have a credit card, I’m still building positive credit by paying my rent, utilities, phone, and cable bills on time.
TRUTH #2: While paying all of your bills on time – rent, utilities, phone, cable, and more – is a good habit, it’s not necessarily building positive credit. In most cases, your service provider and/or landlord isn’t required to report your payment history, unless you are delinquent. So, while paying on time may not be building positive credit, not missing payments or falling behind isn’t docking your credit. What you could do to build credit is consider paying your bills via credit card using a service like Plastiq.com.
Myth #3: It’s OK to open multiple accounts to take advantage of store specials as long as I close them after paying them off.
TRUTH #3: As mentioned above, you want to limit the number of hard inquiries you’re making each year. While opening a store credit card may be tempting to get a discount or promotion, you should weigh whether the new card is worth the savings and if you’ll use it again after the promotion is over. Additionally, just as opening too many cards can hurt your score, closing cards can also hurt your score. While closing out an account with a small limit and short history may not be terrible for your credit score, your overall credit history accounts for 15% of your score. The longer your credit history, the better!
Myth #4: I don’t need to worry about my credit score because I have a great job that makes me a lot of money – of course, my credit is good!
TRUTH #4: Your credit report includes a lot of information about you, but a few things it doesn’t include is your job title or income. Sometimes, your credit score may not even include your place of work. While your income is important when calculating how much credit you may be extended, it doesn’t factor into your credit score at all. Your credit score is strictly based on your relationship to credit – do you make payments on time, skip payments, max out your credit cards, etc. If you’re not responsible with your credit, then it really doesn’t matter how much you make.
Myth #5: There’s no point in caring about my credit score. It’s already bad, and it will never get better!
TRUTH #5: Nothing is permanent – not even your credit score. While a low credit score is a setback, it doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to build positive credit. The trick is to use credit responsibly and have some patience. Good credit doesn’t happen overnight, but it is possible. Equip yourself with the knowledge of your credit score, the understanding of your credit report, as well as some financial best practices (pay your bill on time and in full each month!). Then choose one of the unsecured credit cards for fair credit or bad credit on our list and use it responsibly, and you’ll be on your way to improving your credit score.
The right and wrong ways to use a credit card
If you have bad or fair credit, chances are you don’t have the best relationship with credit (Hey – it’s happens! More than a quarter of consumers have a score between 300 and 600, according to data compiled by TransUnion and Credit.com in March 2017).
To help you make the most of your new unsecured credit card for fair or average credit, here are some right and wrong ways to use it:
Right: Pay your balance off on time and in full
We repeat this constantly because it’s true – paying your debt off in full and on time is one of the best ways to improve your credit score! Your payment history and the amount you owe account for more than two-thirds of your credit score. Miss a payment or make a payment late and you’re putting your score at risk. If sticking to the due date is something you struggle with, then take some time to set up reminders. You can sign up for payment reminders from your card company, use a financial management app that notifies you, or set a calendar reminder on your phone. Either way, make sure you’re hitting those deadlines each and every time!
Wrong: Canceling a credit card you no longer use
Let’s say you previously had a secured credit card and upgraded to one of the unsecured credit cards for fair credit or bad credit on our list. What should you do with that old secured card? Don’t cancel it! While it may not seem harmful on the surface to cancel a credit card you no longer use, it can hurt your credit score in the long run. That’s because another 15% of your credit score is based on the length of your credit history. When you cancel a card, you cancel out that history. Keep your cards open whenever possible. If your card has an annual fee, contact the company and see if you can transfer to an account with no annual fee.
Right: Shopping around to find the right card for you
There are hundreds of different credit card options out there, so if you aren’t shopping around you may be missing out. Many credit cards for bad or fair credit offer a pre-qualification check so you can assess your options without a hard inquiry on your credit report. If you have fair or average credit, you’ll want to consider one on this list; however, if you travel a lot, you may want to consider one of the best airline credit cards. The point is that you’re limiting yourself if you just sign up for the first credit card you see and may not be getting the best terms or offers. Make a point to stay up to date on credit card news and especially check out what new options may be available as your credit score improves.
Wrong: Completely avoiding credit cards
If you’ve had a bad experience with credit in the past, you may be hesitant to take on another credit card. Additionally, Millennials are more likely to avoid credit cards as well. A new survey found that “63% of people aged 18 to 29 did not own a credit card.” The only way to build positive credit, though, is to use credit. The key is to find a credit card that fits your needs and then use it responsibly – keep your balance low, make your payments on time, and pay your balance in full to avoid interest. Avoiding credit cards altogether won’t improve your credit score, and may even hinder it since you won’t have a lengthy credit history.
Right: Being proactive about your financial health.
Things happen, and your credit score may take a dip; however, you should be proactive about your financial health to ensure that you’re building positive credit and not worsening the problem. This means checking in on your credit score regularly (some cards offer free monthly credit score monitoring) and requesting a copy of your credit report at least once a year. When you get your report, make sure to double-check everything to ensure all information is correct, and dispute any inaccuracies that you may find.
More options for bad or fair credit
If, during your pre-qualification check, you realized you might not qualify for one of the cards on our list because your credit score has been severely impacted, try not to stress out. Many factors may affect your ability to qualify for an unsecured credit card, such as limited or damaged credit, a very short credit history, or more. In those cases, though, you may want to consider using a secured credit card for a limited time. While a security deposit is required, some cards offer refunds after a certain period of responsible use, and as your credit improves, you can consider “upgrading” to one of the unsecured cards on our list. As with any card, it’s important to ensure you’re using the card responsibly to build positive credit.
Rebuilding your credit doesn’t happen overnight. However, when you equip yourself with the right tools and resources, you can begin to make small improvements that add up to big changes. Using an unsecured credit card – like the or the – is one of the first steps you can take to improve your credit. Be sure you’re using it responsibly, though, by making payments on time and in full each month to avoid paying interest and increase your credit score.
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