Understanding Your Credit Score.
Ever wonder how your credit score is calculated? It is a common question and can be helpful to explore.
Your credit score is a number based on a formula using the information in your credit report. The result is an accurate forecast of how likely you are to pay your bills.
Your Credit Score Considers Five Areas of Your Credit History.
As the video explains, your credit score is calculated using five major components, with varying levels of importance. These credit score factors, with their relative weights, are:
Payment history (35%)
Amount owed (30%)
Length of credit history (15%)
Credit mix (10%)
New credit (10%)
All of these categories are taken into account in your overall score. No one factor or incident determines it completely.
Why Credit Scores Are Important.
Credit scores are especially important if you are considering applying for any type of loan. If you’ve gotten a loan, a credit card, or even auto insurance, the rate you paid was directly related to your credit score.
The higher the score, the better you look to lenders.
People with the highest scores get the lowest interest rates.
Credit Score or Fico Scores?
Your credit score communicates the idea of “risk.” That’s because credit scores are used by lenders to determine the risk involved in doing business with a borrower.
Credit scores look at the information that can predict your future behavior.
If you’ve been paying your bills on time for the past 25 years, you’re likely a low-risk person to lend to. In contrast, imagine you got your first credit card two years ago and have had four late payments during that time. Your balance on the card is at the credit limit. You have applied for new credit four times in the last six months. Based on these facts, you will have a lower score and are considered a higher risk.
Credit scores can and do change. Often, a negative item on a credit report can result in a quick and sudden decrease in the score. However, improving a credit score usually takes time and patience. There is no “quick fix” for damaged credit.
Here's How To Improve Your Credit Score.
1. Be Punctual With Payments.
Paying your bills on time is the biggest single factor used to calculate your credit score. Late payments, past due accounts, and accounts in collections have a negative impact on your credit. Always aim for consistent, timely payment (even it’s the minimum amount). Punctuality pays off: a positive payment history across 18 months or longer increases the likelihood that you’ll receive more favorable loan terms from lenders.
If you’re falling behind, be proactive in your financial planning. Create a realistic monthly budget that accounts for bills and everyday expenses like gas and groceries. Struggling to keep track of multiple bills? Consider automation. Automated payments can minimize late fees. If you know you will miss a due date, call your credit card company or lender. They may be able to help by moving your due date out.
2. Pay Down Your Debt.
How much you owe is another big factor when it comes to credit score calculation. If you have a large amount of debt or are carrying balances on credit accounts for extended periods of time, it can negatively affect your score.
Make it a goal to pay down your debt. Take inventory of any categories where you can reduce non-essential spending so that you pay a little extra on your credit accounts. A credit counselor can walk you through different options for dealing with debt and may be able to help you pay it off more quickly.
3. Don't Max Out Your Credit Limit.
The amount of credit you use (also called credit utilization) also affects your score. Our financial counselors suggest using less than 30 to 40% of your available credit. Spending above that threshold or carrying high balances relative to your credit limit will cause your score to fall. If you are using more of your credit limit than you would like, consider making adjustments in your budget and spending choices to reduce your overall reliance on credit.
Keep in mind that regularly utilizing small amounts of credit (and paying it off) will increase your score. People without established credit history typically receive lower credit scores.
4. Maintain Good Habits.
Your credit score is built on patterns over time, with an emphasis on more recent activity. Improving credit and rebuilding a credit score that has fallen will take some patience, but it can be done! Credit scores can and do change.
A history of timely payments and accounts that you have held for five years or longer have a positive effect on your credit score. Quickly opening multiple accounts, carrying high balances for a sustained period, or even closing unused accounts have a negative effect on your score.
Events like foreclosure and bankruptcy, while they serve an important purpose for those with severe debt, have a significant and lengthy impact on your credit score. (We are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. If you are considering one of these options, we encourage you to consult a legal professional and to investigate other alternatives as well.)
5. Chat With A Credit Counselor.
While talking to a credit counselor won’t have a direct effect on your credit score, you can gain valuable insight and information. We will work with you to understand your financial situation, explore different options, and make a personalized plan. We can help you review and understand your credit report. If debt is preventing you from making progress, we can help you explore debt management plans and other options that can accelerate your path forward.
Free Credit Report Review
Now that you know how your credit score is calculated and the ways to improve it, speak with a GreenPath NFCC-certified credit counselor who can walk you through a free review of your credit report. They will explain how to read the report, how credit scoring works, and answer your questions.
Together we’ll make a plan for managing your credit score to support your goals.