The Big Three
Pay Your Bills on Time
This is the number one rule to ensure you build and maintain your credit score. Late or missed payments can have a big impact on your score and your ability to secure new credit. The best way to ensure on-time payments is to set up auto-pay, or to set reminders for your due dates.
Use less Than 30% of Your Available Credit
It is advised to keep your credit utilization below 30% as credit scoring models look at how close you are to being maxed out. It’s best practice to always keep your credit balances low but maintain consistent usage and ensure to pay off your full balance every month.
Only Apply for Credit & Loans you Need
Any time you apply for a credit card or a loan, your credit score is checked by the institution you are applying through. This is often referred to as a hard inquiry and it will have a negative effect on your score. Credit score formulas will look at your recent credit application activity and see it as a need for credit. If you do this too often, it can be a signifying factor that your financial circumstances have had a negative change, thus negatively affecting your credit score even more.
Other Tips & Tricks
Once you have the big three components covered, there are still other steps you can take to help manage and improve your credit score.
Don’t Ignore Your Utility Bills or Service Agreements
While on paper utility bills and service agreements are very different from credit cards or loans, they can still negatively affect your credit score if not paid on time. Even though these companies do not charge you interest, late payments can be reflected on your credit report. If you do not pay at all, these accounts can also be sent to collections, which is very bad for your credit.
Create a Financial Budget
Creating a budget to help you maintain your credit score might seem a bit odd, but by sticking to a realistic monthly budget it will help you better understand what you can and cannot afford. This will help you know what you can spend on your credit card each month. If you are unsure of how to create a budget check out our financial fitness learning modules.
Monitor Your Credit Score & Activity
Monitoring your credit score and activity can easily be done through many different mobile apps. Firefighters First Credit Union provides you a Free FICO Score check at different times of the year through online and mobile banking. To monitor your score on a daily basis, you can download apps like Credit Karma where you can monitor all your activity like….
- Credit Score
- Credit Utilization
- Credit/Loan Accounts
- Hard Inquiries
- Credit Age
- And more…
Monitoring your activity not only allows you to view your credit history in one place but it also can help to ensure you avoid fraud by catching suspicious activity on your account early. You can also obtain a free annual credit report that will provide you with the most accurate and detailed data.
Managing your credit will always be a great way to ensure you maintain or increase your credit score, in turn developing more financial freedom. If you are new to credit, you can consider getting a product designed to help you build credit. Firefighters First Credit Union offers a Visa Classic Secured credit card designed to help members establish and build credit, as well as shared secured loans.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to explore more financial fitness topics, please check out our financial literacy page or visit firefightersfirstcu.org for more information on all our products and services.