Is Your Credit Score Tanking?

Fight back with these tips

Your credit rating is an important part of your overall financial health. Poor credit will turn off lenders when you’re applying for a loan. You might end up paying higher interest rates for mortgages, credit cards, auto loans or other credit instruments. If your score is too low, you might not be able to qualify for a loan.

It’s important to know what your credit score is so that you can begin to improve your situation. Your credit score is also known as your “FICO” score (“FICO” stands for Fair Isaac Corporation). Financial Institutions make credit and loan approval decisions based on your FICO score. A FICO score under 680 makes you a big risk to lenders. Although not difficult, bringing your credit score up will require diligence in order to restore your financial health over the long term.

Tips to fight poor credit scores:

Review your credit report. Obtain a free copy of your credit report from all three major credit-reporting agencies – TransUnion (www.transunion.com), Equifax (www.equifax.com) and Experian (www.experian.com). You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each agency. For more information on obtaining a free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Review the reports and make sure they’re free from errors. If you discover any mistakes, contact the agencies to get the issue(s) resolved. Your credit report may come with a dispute form, or you may need to write a letter. Photocopy your credit report, and provide documentation if you dispute anything.

Pay down credit cards. Paying down your revolving accounts, such as credit cards, will help improve your credit score more than paying off installment loans, such as car loans. The best way to pay down cards is to not pile more debt on top of them. Begin by paying down the highest-interest card first. Once you’ve got that settled, move down to the next highest.

Don’t pay bills late. If you pay bills more than 30 days past their due dates, your credit rating will reflect the late payments for seven years. If you use online banking, request that email alerts be sent to you so you don’t forget to pay a bill.

Don’t max out your cards. It’s preferable to carry smaller balances on several cards rather than max out your credit limits, which can negatively impact your score and make it harder to get more credit. Charging too much on your credit cards can hurt your score, even if you pay off your balances every month. By carrying less than 30% of a credit card’s limit, you can help improve your score.

Review your limits. Contact your lender to make sure your credit card limits are accurate. Your scores might be skewed negatively if your lender is showing a lower limit than you actually have. Ask your credit card issuer to update your account to reflect the proper limit.

Don’t shut down your accounts. Closing your credit card accounts, especially cards you’ve had for many years, can negatively impact your credit score, because the length of your credit history is important to your overall credit score.

Revive your old credit card. If you have an older credit card that you’ve not used in a while, now might be the time to start using it again. A lengthy credit history is considered positive in regard to your credit score. Use your oldest cards several times per year to pay for inexpensive items, and pay them off in full each month.

Beware of transfers and consolidations. As mentioned, it’s better to have several credit cards with smaller balances than a large balance on just one card. Also, applying for a new credit card or loan and transferring balances from a high-limit card to a lower-limit card can hurt your scores.

Remove a late payment. If you’ve had an good overall customer history, a lender may agree to remove a late payment from your credit history. Call them to discuss this possibility, or make a more formal request in writing.

A poor credit score can impact your ability to qualify for credit, but it doesn’t have to last forever. A pattern of improvement is looked upon favorably by most creditors, so starting sooner rather than later is paramount to repairing your credit rating. For more ways on helping you repair your credit score. Visit any of our member service representatives at one of our eighteen convenient UCCU branches or give us a call at 801.223.UCCU (8228).

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