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5 Misconceptions About Credit Scores

Credit reports and scores have become an essential part of our daily lives since the 1980s when banks implemented a system to calculate consumers’ creditworthiness. Today, it is crucial to thoroughly understand your credit valuation as a borrower. However, most consumers have very limited knowledge about what improves and hurts their credit score. As a result, their ratings remain low as they struggle to make payments on balances with high interest rates. Below we have put together the top five misconceptions about credit scores.

1. There is only one credit score.

Contrary to this belief, there are several models to calculate credit ratings. FICO is the name of the most popular model used by many lenders. The score range is from 300 to 850. The higher the number, the better is your standing as a borrower. Before applying for credit, you can request your score from one of the companies. It will give you an idea what lenders will see when they pull your credit information. Keep in mind that scores from different companies may vary by several points.

2. Checking your credit hurts your score.

The answer to this is both yes and no. Nowadays, not only lenders may request your credit report, but insurance companies, landlords, potential employers may also look at your credit ratings to make financial decisions. However, unless you apply for a loan, most companies do a “soft inquiry” that does not affect your score. Your own requests are also considered a “soft” pull and will not hurt it. When reviewing a credit application, a loan officer makes a “hard inquiry” that will lower your score by a few points. Think twice about applying for new credit if your credit score[1] is low. It is unlikely that a lender will approve your request, and you will lose your credit points.

3. Closing credit accounts will improve my score.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions that consumers have.[2] Actually, closing your credit cards will have the opposite effect and will lower your score. Why? Because it decreases the amount of credit available to you in relation to the balances you owe. The higher this ratio is, the lower your rating will be. Even if you do not use your credit cards, the account history remains on your report. Together, good payment record and the length of time accounts have been opened contribute to a large percentage of your credit score. Leaving those accounts open improves your rating over a period of time.

4. It takes a long time to bring the credit score up.

So, credit rating plunged after a few missed or late payments. How can you bring it back up? Closing accounts with negative marks will not boost your score. Creditors can still view the information on closed accounts and can determine whether you can manage your debt well enough. However, there are ways to improve your creditworthiness. Scores update every 30 days and reflect your activity during that time frame. If you make payments on time and do not use any new credit, your number has a potential to increase by as much as 20 points in just three months.

5. Paying off collection accounts will not improve my credit score.

This is a very common misconception that does not have a definite yes or no response. It is important to understand that a credit report is a history of how you have managed your credit over a period of time. As you clean up collection accounts, make on-time payments, lower or pay off balances, the adverse records will no longer dominate in your credit file. As a result, your score and your creditworthiness will eventually improve. Keep in mind that collection accounts and other negative marks such as debt settlement, foreclosure, and bankruptcy, remain on the report for seven to ten years. As long as these marks are valid, they cannot be deleted. In some situations, credit repair specialists can assist in removing derogatory records from credit reports. If you find a collection account that has been paid off a long time ago or a delinquent account that does not belong to you, contact a credit repair company for assistance.

Featured photo credit: Acorns.com via 1y986jl0sf53nmdkrzen9mln-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com

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