Understanding your credit score and how it works can help you determine what financial steps you need to take to improve your score regularly so that when it comes time to rent an apartment, take out a mortgage, or apply for a loan, you won’t be caught off guard.
We explain all about a credit score, and how it works.
So what is a credit score? A credit score is a rating that each person has which depicts their level of credit worthiness or lender worthiness.
Your credit score is a single number anywhere between 300 and 850.
The higher the number, the better it is.
That number is based on a lot of moving factors.
The most important thing to understand about a credit score is that it is regularly updated, every couple of weeks in fact.
A credit score is not just a single number, it is a representation of how trustworthy you are when it comes to managing and repaying money.
Why is it important? Because a credit score is one of the biggest factors in a lender’s decision to give you money. A variety of businesses may run a credit report for you before doing business.
For example: Let’s say you have $10,000 to put down on a new car that costs $35,000. You need a loan from the bank for the remaining $25,000. If you have a credit score of 400, the bank will probably not give you a loan so you can’t get the car. If you have a credit score of 600, the bank might give you a loan but with an interest rate of 15%. This means that you are paying an additional 15%, or $3,750 on top of the $25,000 you already owe. So, in order to get that new car you are going to spend $38,750. If you have a credit score of 815, you might get a loan with an interest rate of 1%. This means you only pay an extra $250 bringing your total for the car to $35,250.
An excellent credit score is any number between 800 and 850. However, generally speaking any credit score that is above 700 is still likely to get you lower interest rates when borrowing for a loan.
Now that you understand the six different categories that change your credit and the fact that your credit score gets updated every week, you might see that there are a lot of ways you can improve your score.
For example, make payments on time. Even if you don’t have a lot of lines of credit you can use third-party resources to route things like the rent you pay on an apartment or your monthly cell phone bills so that they show up on your credit score. The more lines of credit you have that you pay down regularly, the better it will be for you.
The longer you have lines of credit, the better.
If you use only a small amount of your credit card compared to how much you have available on your credit card, that will help you improve your score. For many people this just means paying down the amount owed on a credit score slowly, without adding to the debt.
Having multiple lines of credit such as a few credit cards, a personal loan, or an auto loan all at the same time can show that you’re very trustworthy, but you want to space these out so that you don’t have a lot of new accounts opened all at once or a lot of recent inquiries.
The short answer is, no, credit scores are not a scam and really are used to determine if a business is willing to take a chance on you.
The long answer is, it’s complicated. Like with all systems in the United States, credit scores are vulnerable to racial and economic inequalities.
While the credit score we use today was developed in order to remove certain biases formally used to determine financial risk (e.g. sex, race, and marital status – yikes!), it does not take into account the generational wealth white folks in the United States are often more likely to have than Black Americans and People of Color.
Researchers are working on how to improve credit scores so that they are less prone to racial and economic bias. Some researchers have suggested including things like cash flow and payment histories on things like rent and utilities (Forbes, “From Inherent Racial Bias to Incorrect Data—The Problems With Current Credit Scoring Models”)
So, ultimately, the system isn’t always fair, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can just stop playing the game.
You may have a legal option to fight back. Tell us what happened and our team will let you know if we can help:
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