Did you know that March is National Credit Education Month? In honor of National Credit Education month, I have created a list of my top 5 credit tips. How you manage your credit can either set you up for financial success or leave you battling debt for many years. Establishing positive credit can open many doors – from renting an apartment to getting a car loan to buying a home. It’s never too late to develop a strategic plan for managing your credit.
- No Credit or Bad Credit? Build Your Score Wisely. Having no credit is often just as bad as poor credit to a lender because they have no idea how you will handle a line of credit if they were to give you a loan. Having no credit is a big question mark on your credit score. If you have no credit history, build it wisely by applying for a credit card or financing all or at least some of your vehicle with an auto loan. If you have colorful credit, you might consider a Credit Builder Loan or a Secured Credit Card (like the ones offered by 1st Financial Federal Credit Union). Just be sure to make all of your payments on time. Before you know it, you’ll have a positive credit history to show future lenders!
- Choose a Credit Card Carefully. Before opening a new credit card be sure to read the fine print and know exactly what you are signing up for. It’s always a good idea to compare a few different cards before making a final decision. Do you need a store credit card (like a Lowe’s or Kohl’s card) or a credit card from your trusted credit union? Be sure that you are aware of all fees and your interest rate. At the credit union, we offer a great low rate card or a rewards card depending on what you’re looking for.
- Check Your Score Frequently. Even if you think your credit history is sufficient, things change. There could be an error on your personal credit report, or your score could fluctuate depending on whether you make credit card payments on-time, among other factors. In addition to factors that are in your control, you should also check your scores to ensure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft. I make it a consistent initiative to monitor my scores each month with Credit Karma, so that I’m never in the dark! You can also come into the credit union for a free, no-hassle debt review and we can take a look at your credit score with you.
- Focus on Meeting Payment Deadlines. Making payments on time is one of the key factors to increasing or keeping a high credit score. If paying bills late is one of your bad habits, set up payment reminders and auto payments with online and mobile banking. By automating the process you’ll be able to make your payments on time and never miss a payment again.
- Reduce Your Debt. It’s easier said than done but paying off an outstanding balance can be a great way to improve your credit score. Even if it’s reducing it by small amounts, it’s important to try to pay off debt. Once eliminated, make it a priority to stay debt-free.
Now is a great time to focus on your credit. Whether it’s paying your bills on time, reducing your debt, or just doing your annual credit check, these steps will put you on the path to good credit. Your future self, and your credit score, will thank you!
Until next time,