As your brutally honest financial report card, your credit score has incredible power over your ability to borrow money. Whether you’re searching for a new home, eager to buy a car, or hoping to secure a loan, your credit score will make or break your chances.
This is great news for people with strong, healthy credit scores. But if your Credit Karma rating keeps reminding you of your “Poor” credit score status, you probably won’t qualify for funding.
But do you understand why – that is, why you’re getting that financial grade? Five specific factors push your credit score up or down. By understanding those factors and taking control of each one, you can boost your credit score and enjoy the buying and borrowing power that comes with it.
Your payment history is the single most powerful statistic used to rate your credit score, counting for some 35percent of it. Lenders want to know they can count on your paying bills in a timely fashion, even if you don’t pay in full. If your payment history is littered with 30- and 60-day late records, lenders won’t feel too confident giving you a loan for $20,000 or a shiny new car.
The following factors may send your payment history rating up or down:
- Do you pay your bills on time, every month?
- If you have paid late, were you 30, 60, or 90+ days late? The later you pay, the worse it hits your score.
- How many accounts do you have in collections? Each collection is a red flag that suggests you don’t pay back your debts,
- Do you have bankruptcies, foreclosures, wage garnishments, liens, or public judgments against you? Many lenders automatically deny applications when these public marks exist on your credit report.
- How long has it been since your last late payment? Time heals all wounds, and late payments exert less of an effect over your score after a few years. They can even be removed after seven years.
Credit Utilization Ratio
Your credit utilization ratio measures how much debt you have compared to your available credit – how close you are to your credit card limits, in other words. It counts for 30 percent of your credit score, so it’s only slightly less important than payment history.
It is best to owe a small amount, even if your credit limit allows you to borrow thousands of dollars. For example, owing $50 on a credit card with a $1,000 limit looks great; owing $7,500 on a credit card with an $8,000 limit looks irresponsible.
The percentage you owe is important too. A $500 balance on a credit card with a $1,000 limit dings you more than a $500 balance on a card with a $5,000 limit. The former equals a credit utilization ratio of 50 percent – you’ve used up half of the credit on that card – but the latter is only 10 percent.
Length of Credit History
The length of your credit history counts for 15 percent, which can be frustrating for young adults just starting to build their credit reports. This component looks at the length of time you’ve had obligations, your oldest account, and the average of all accounts combined.
Your ultimate goal is to show a long credit history of positive payments, but a short history can get the job done as long as you don’t owe too much and you pay on time.
Here’s an easy trick to boost this part of your credit score rating: Bring your credit card balance down to zero, then leave it open. The account’s age and low balance will boost your score over time.
New Credit Accounts
The number of new accounts you open and apply for counts as 10 percent of your score. Yes, that’s right: You are graded not just on the accounts you open, but the ones you try to open.
Lenders perform a hard inquiry on your credit score every time you fill out a loan application. One or two hard credit pulls won’t cause too much damage, but multiple, hard credit pulls in a short amount of time raise red flags. Lenders may assume you’re experiencing cash flow problems or planning to take on a dangerous amount of debt.
When it comes to new credit, slow and steady definitely wins the race.
Last but not least, accounting for 10 percent of your credit score, is the mix of credit you have. Mortgages, store accounts, credit cards, installment loans, and other types of debts are all considered in this formula. Lenders like to see a nice mix that demonstrates you’re a balanced borrower. Though it’s not the most powerful scoring component, keep it in mind before you’re tempted to open six new credit cards in your name.
Considering the influence your credit score has over your ability to borrow money and achieve major milestones like buying a house or car, make sure you monitor your credit score and take strategic steps to boost your score. You’ll thank yourself in the future!
Don’t wait to get out of debt! Read this: A Complete, Step-By-Step Guide to Get Out of Debt.