C R E D I T…….those 3 digit numbers that can make or break you when it comes to finances. You want to get a loan? You want to get a credit card? You want to rent an apartment? You want a certain job? You want to buy a car or a house?
On any path to property ownership- whether it be your first home, a 2nd home, or an investment property- you will need to know where you stand with your credit.
There are so many things that can affect your credit score.
Slow payments, missed payments and late payments can all negatively affect your credit score. Even high available credit limits with low balances can affect it. Potential creditors view this as having access to almost too much credit. Given the right circumstances- accessing all of that credit will sink you into debt pretty fast. Applying for lots of credit (shopping for a new car, or buying furniture or appliances from a rent to own retailer) lets credit bureaus know you are living beyond your means.
Prepaying and overpaying on your debts can positively affect your credit score. Not opening new lines of credit and having a longer history with your current credit cards will also work in your favor. Having a low income-to debt ratio will positively affect your credit too.
It is recommended to check your credit score on a regular basis. There are numerous ways you can do this.
There are websites such as creditkarma.com, which is a free and allows you to check your score at any time. However, it only shows the scores from 2 of the three credit bureaus.
One nice option is you can request a copy of all three of your credit reports once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com for free. But keep in mind, checking only once a year doesn’t help much when you want to keep close track of what’s happening. Your reports can also be purchased online at any time, however that can get a bit pricey for all three scores.
Some credit card companies will monitor or regularly display your credit score when you open a credit card with them. My Capital One Visa displays it regularly when I log into the website.
However you decide to check your score, it’s good to keep track on what’s going on. You need to make sure the information is correct, checking carefully for any errors or misinformation. If there are errors, correct them immediately. If there are charges or accounts that you don’t feel are valid, you have the option to dispute them. Unfortunately, disputing charges can be a tedious process to go through. It’s worth it, but you will have to submit documentation to back up your dispute.
Some credit bureaus will list disputes on your report which can temporarily affect your score. If applying for credit while something is under dispute, some lenders won’t make an approval until the dispute is resolved. This can also be a long process. When disputed, credit bureaus have up to 30 days to investigate. They also have an additional 15 days if more documentation is required or there are special circumstances.
Disputes can be made through the credit bureaus or through the company that the information is from. If the information is verified to be incorrect and is then corrected or removed from your credit score, your score will improve.
There are also other ways to improve your credit scores if all of the information on your reports are correct. I will get into those, in more detail, in my next post.