For many people, the phrase “credit score” causes anxiety. Credit scores are associated with judgment, risk and debt – so consumers would rather not think about them.
But reviewing your score on a regular basis can be important for your financial health: knowing your credit score means you’ll be more informed when it’s time to borrow money for a major purchase like a new house or car.
In addition, regularly checking your credit report helps prevent identity theft. If you spot credit inquiries that you don’t recognize, you can catch a potential fraudulent new account before it’s even opened.
Cinfed offers a FREE service to help members track and manage these reports: My Credit Score. Simply log into your Cinfed Digital Banking account and register at no cost. My Credit Score provides the same data for which many services charge a fee or subscription.
Your credit score has several components, many of which you can manage with some careful planning. Start with these tips:
Check your score regularly. With My Credit Score, Cinfed members can check their reports as often as they like, although once or twice a month is usually sufficient for monitoring any changes. In addition, alerts can be set up to notify you when a change to your credit report occurs. Consumers are also entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report from all three reporting agencies once every 12 months. To request a copy, visit the authorized website – AnnualCreditReport.com – or call 877-322-8228. You will have to provide your address, Social Security number, and birth date to receive the reports. When reviewing your credit reports, keep an eye out for any account activity you don’t recognize; call the creditor immediately with your concerns.
Be wise about opening and closing accounts. Before opening or closing a credit account, think about how it might affect your credit score. While it positively affects credit scores to have a wide array of accounts – such as credit cards, personal loans, home equity lines of credit, etc. – it can be harmful to your score to open more lines of credit than you can manage. Opening new lines of credit can also drag down your credit age, which indicates to lenders how long you have had experience with credit.
Make on-time payments. Your payment history, or how reliably you make on-time payments, is the most important factor in calculating your credit score. This information indicates to potential lenders how likely you are to pay them back should they choose to lend to you. To avoid missing deadlines, consider using automatic bill payments or setting up alerts.
Optimize your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is your debt-to-limit ratio; it measures the amount of credit you are using compared to what you have available. High credit utilization ratios may cause potential lenders to think you’re overextended and may not make timely payments on future debts.
Dispute errors. If you see something on your report that you don’t recognize, don’t assume it should be there. Contact both the credit reporting company and the organization or company that provided the information (that would be your lender or credit card company). The Federal Trade Commission recommends sending a detailed letter with copies of all relevant documents via certified mail.
Your credit score can play an important role in your personal finances and can greatly impact your borrowing power, so it needs to be managed accordingly. Using a dependable resource like My Credit Score can help; members can also talk with the branch manager at their nearest Cinfed location. Following these basic steps for managing your credit score can keep you feeling informed, confident, and financially secure.