Five Truths Regarding Your Credit Score
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: September 25, 2017
Your credit score is not only a reflection of your financial health today, but also a powerful influencer of your financial future tomorrow. Yet, for something that carries that much weight, the credit score is grossly misunderstood. Here’s to clearing things up.
1. You Have More Than One Credit Score
Though it is most often referenced in the singular form, you actually have multiple credit scores.
Your FICO score is the most well-known, of which there are dozens of versions that vary dependent on the purpose for pulling the score. For instance, FICO has separate auto scores, mortgage scores, bankcard scores, and the like.
In addition to FICO, each of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — use the VantageScore model. Each of your scores varies across all three bureaus, as creditors may report your credit history to one bureau, but not another.
2. Your Credit Score Affects More Than Your Ability to Qualify for Credit
If you have no interest in financing anything — be it a car, a home, or purchases on a credit card — what difference do your credit scores really make?
Well, in some cases, a lot.
It’s not just lenders who care about your credit scores. They’re also used to determine insurance rates. Some employers use them in making hiring decisions. And, increasingly, both men and women are factoring credit scores into the dating process.
3. The Way to Access Your Credit Scores Depends on the Source
If you want your FICO score, you’ll have to pay for it at myFICO.com.
If you want your VantageScore from each of the three main credit bureaus, they want your money, too. However, there are other places you can access these score for free.
Without spending a dime, you can monitor your:
- Experian VantageScore by going to Credit.com and/or CreditSesame.com
- Equifax VantageScore go to Quizzle.com
- TransUnion VantageScore go to CreditKarma.com
4. Your Credit Scores are Determined Only by Your Credit History
Contrary to popular belief, gender, employment, and income do NOT affect your credit score. It is calculated solely on your history relative to credit, including:
- Payment History
- Credit Utilization Ratio
- Length of Credit History
- New Credit
- Types of Credit
That said, an alternative scoring model is growing increasingly popular — credit scores based on social data. Though FICO and the VantageScore do not factor social media behavior into credit scores, a number lenders are relying on alternative scores that take into account your connections and activities (among other things) on social networking platforms.
5. You Can Always Improve a Bad Credit Score
No matter how much damage has been done to your credit, there is always something you can do to pave the way toward improvement:
- Use the debt validation process for old “zombie” debt.
- Once debt validation has been exhausted, settle remaining debts with collectors.
- In the debt settlement process, negotiate removal of the negative listing.
- Pay down debt so as to improve your credit utilization ratio, the goal being to use no more than 30 percent of your credit at any one time.
- Take on new credit, be it a new credit card (secured, if necessary) and/or an installment loan.
- Use your credit cards regularly, but only as much as you can afford to pay off every month, so as to maintain a zero balance.
- Pay all of your bills on time.
- Request and review your free credit reports once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Note, this is no magic, quick-fix formula, but rather a long-term commitment to lifelong good credit behavior. That’s how you boost your credit score, gradually inching up the scale over many months, turning into years, time.