You probably know by now that your credit score has far-reaching effects on both your financial and life goals.
Looking to switch jobs? Some employers check job candidates’ credit histories. So if you want to get a better job, you might want to get better credit first.
Making a major purchase like a home or car? You’ll need good credit to qualify for a loan to help pay for it.
Want to be happier and minimize your stress? Improving your money management skills can also help you get your finances under control and reduce your money-related panic.
By focusing on cleaning up your credit and improving your score, you’ll clear obstacles that could keep you from reaching other important achievements, too.
Here’s why 2017 is the year to get started— and how to make it happen.
Borrowing will be more expensive in 2017
Loans and credit interest rates are rising and are expected to keep inching upward in 2017.
The Federal Reserve sets rates that are tied directly to many consumer rates, from auto loans to credit card. In Dec. 2016 the Fed raised its rate, and is set to raise rates three more times in 2017.
An upcoming Donald Trump presidency has also pushed up some rates. Mortgage rates, in particular, saw a large leap following his November election. Overall, it looks like borrowing money will become more expensive in 2017 and beyond.
And in the face of higher interest rates, building good credit is more important than ever. A high credit score can help you get lower interest rates and control your costs, despite rising rates.
Good credit is like an insurance policy
Your first financial line of defense against emergencies should be an emergency fund. Having cash on hand to cover urgent expenses can help you avoid debt.
But a good credit score can also act as a lifeline in a time of hardship or financial crisis. If you’ve exhausted your cash and need funds to stay afloat, a good credit score will grant you access to credit at reasonable interest rates when you need it most.
Avoiding and limiting debt is important, especially in times of financial distress. But knowing that you have good credit can be an extra layer of financial security. That’s why you should always improve your credit as much as possible.
A good credit score is a kind of insurance policy against awful rates. It will lower the cost of borrowing and protect you against high costs should you find yourself in a position where you need to take on debt.
7 ways to start building credit in 2017
Ready to learn how to improve your credit score? Whether you have no credit, bad credit or a good score that could be better, here are some ways you can give it a boost in 2017 and beyond.
1. Get a secured credit card
If you’re starting from square one with building credit, it can be tricky to find loans or credit options that are accessible and affordable.
Yet, you need to repay credit to demonstrate responsible behaviors. Kind of a Catch-22, am I right?
That’s where the secured credit card comes into play. You put up a cash deposit as collateral against the cash you’re borrowing. Usually, this deposit will be equal to your credit limit.
It’s easier to qualify for and get a secured credit card, especially if you keep your balance low and make payments on time. And when you use it responsibly, it’ll only be a matter of time before you start seeing your credit score rising.
2. Become an authorized user
Another way to qualify for credit in your name, even with poor credit, is to get a shared account. The easiest way to do this is to get added as an authorized credit card user.
You can ask someone you trust to add you to their credit card account, and it will be included as an account on your credit reports. As long as it’s in good standing, it should reflect well on your creditworthiness and help your score increase.
Just make sure the original cardholder is someone you trust who is responsible with their debts. Any over-borrowing or missed payments will hurt both of your credit scores.
3. Review your credit report
About 20 percent of consumers have a reporting error on at least one credit report, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission study. About a quarter of these errors were negative marks that hurt the consumer’s score.
It’s worthwhile to get copies of your annual credit reports and review the information on them. You can catch and dispute credit report errors. And these reports will often include insights into other factors that are affecting your credit.
4. Monitor your credit with free tools
Your free credit reports are helpful. But unfortunately, they do not include an actual credit score.
Luckily, there are several free credit monitoring tools that can be used to watch your credit score from month to month. It’s also possible this service is already offered by your bank or credit union as a benefit of your credit card or bank account.
Or, you can use a service like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to check up on your score, track your progress, and receive strategies on how to build credit.
5. Pay down debt balances
Paying your debts ahead of schedule is another borrowing behavior that can positively affect your credit score.
Paying down credit card balances, in particular, can help you lower your credit utilization ratio — a key factor in how credit bureaus calculate scores. Working to prepay loans or other forms of debt can also help when you’re learning how to improve your credit score.
6. Request a credit limit increase
On top of paying down credit card balances, you can ask your credit card issuer to raise your credit limit.
Your credit limit is the total amount up to which you can borrow through the card. The higher it is, the lower any balance you carry will be in comparison.
This makes it easier to keep your credit utilization ratio lower. And maintaining a low credit utilization (around 20 percent or less) over time will keep your credit score trending upward.
7. Always pay bills on time
You can have decent credit without doing everything 100 percent right, all the time. But it’s nearly impossible to achieve and maintain good credit with derogatory remarks on your credit report thanks to late payments or delinquent accounts.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re always paying your bills on time, each month. Setting up automatic payments can help avoid forgetting or mixing up bill payments and due dates.
At the end of the day, find a system that works for you and use it to build good credit. It takes time to learn how to improve your credit, but by the end of 2017, you might be amazed by how far you’ve come.
Interested in a personal loan?Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2017!
|Lender||Rates (APR)||Loan Amount|
|* = includes AutoPay discount|
|4.77% - 14.24%*||$5,000 - $100,000|
|5.75% - 16.24%1||$5,000 - $50,000|
|5.67% - 29.99%||$1,000 - $50,000|
|8.00% - 25.00%||$5,000 - $35,000|
|5.25% - 12.00%||$2,000 - $50,000|
|9.95% - 36.00%||$1,000 - $35,000|
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