We recently discovered a website called Reviews.com. It was started in 2013 by “a small group of obsessive consumers with a passion for the truth and a desire to find the best.” They’ve reviewed everything from allergy meds to yoga mats, and they clearly do their homework before they recommend a product. Unbiased research is what they’re all about, and we strongly suggest you click on the link above and take a look around their site.
Among their passions is the critical importance of staying vigilant over your finances—no matter what your age. (We’ve written about it here.) Perhaps you’re new to credit even if you’re older. Maybe you have a grown kid who’ll listen to advice as long as it doesn’t come from you. Either way, the Reviews.com folks have some compelling insight. You can access their credit report guide here.
Your Credit, Your Self
We’ve heard it for years: responsible spending and immediately paying our bills results in a high credit score. In turn, we are granted lower interest rates and the ability to borrow large sums of money for our purchases. It seems everywhere you look there are tutorials and guides advising young people how to build their credit—but should that focus shift at different times in your life?
The twenties are formative years for laying the groundwork of adulthood. Those just starting out should strive to build their credit by establishing responsible use of money, credit cards, and loans. Keep in mind the major factors that contribute to your credit score.
Payment history: We’ve probably all heard the advice to pay bills on time, every time. One missed payment can have a great impact on your credit score, and worse, a habit of late payments can absolutely trash it. Use the tools at your disposal—such as automatic payments—to make sure you never miss a deadline. Of course, we are all human, so if you miss a payment, don’t hesitate to contact your credit card issuer. You may be able to negotiate the late payment off your history if you have a record of on-time payments.
Utilization rate: The obvious point here is to use a low percentage (aim for 30% or less) of the credit available to you. For those who have bills to pay, consider requesting an increase in your credit line. These days, many credit card companies make this a quick, painless process over the phone or via their website.
Oldest line of credit: Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to turn back time and open a credit card earlier. You can, however, start today if you haven’t yet. It can take years to build enough history to score highly in this area.
Many of the central tenets of maintaining credit overlap with the above. Yes, of course you should always pay your bills on time. Although some say that your credit score doesn’t matter after you retire, it might be wise to rethink that belief. You never know what life will throw at you, and financial stability isn’t always guaranteed. What if you want to buy a new home or refinance your existing home? Buy a new car? Co-sign on a loan for your child? Maintenance is key no matter where you are in life.
Staying Safe—and Smart
Monitor your credit report. Nobody is immune to breaches of personal data security, so staying vigilant and advocating for the accuracy of your credit score is an important exercise for both young and old(er). Order your credit report on a regular basis (sites like https://www.reviews.com/credit-report/ can help you choose a secure report provider).
Pay off old debts. Credit issuers regularly pull customers’ credit reports to see if you’re at risk for falling behind on payments. Keeping a high credit score can prevent against expensive interest rate increases.