If you own a credit card, you probably know that maintaining a good credit score is very important. By doing so, you ensure access to a better line of credit and other benefits, but that’s not possible unless you understand what factors affect your credit score.
Your credit score is a number that typically ranges from 300 to 850 and is affected by five main factors that can hurt or help your score. By going through them in detail, you will hopefully find it easier to monitor your credit score efficiently.
- Payment history. It makes up 35% of your FICO score and is considered to be the most important ingredient in credit scoring. This means that a late payment can end up having a negative impact on your credit. The credit bureaus measure late payments by 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, and 180 days late. Any payment later than 30 days has a greater negative effect on your credit score the longer the payment is delinquent. Payments 180 days or later are typically defaulted or charged-off. Once an account is charged off, it is closed and there is no longer an opportunity to catch up on late payments. Lenders need to protect themselves by ensuring that you can make payments on time, so having a clean credit history is the best way to build your credit and achieve a high credit score.
Creditors typically report missed payments as 30/60/90 days late to credit reporting agencies. According to FICO, once a creditor reports the account as 30 days past due, a person’s credit score can drop about 50-100 points. Each new delinquency will further lower the score, and the creditors will add a notation in the report labeling you as a slow pay, which will severely hurt your credit.
- Credit utilization. Your utilization ratio is determined by two factors: current total revolving credit and total of all your revolving credit limits. It accounts for 30% of your FICO score and thus can affect your credit significantly. The purpose of this ratio is to provide a snapshot of how reliant you are on non-cash funds but also gives insight into how much of your available credit you are utilizing. As one of the most significant factors, credit utilization shouldn’t be overlooked. Maxing out your credit cards and keeping them highly utilized results in lower scores. Smart use of the amount charged vs the credit limit can help increase scores.
- Credit history length. The factor that makes up 15% of your FICO score looks at a specific period of time and determines how long you’ve held credit accounts. This includes your oldest accounts age, the credit age of your newest account, and the average of both. If you have a longer credit age, you will have a higher credit score and vice versa. It is important to mention that canceling old credit cards and getting new ones is bad for several solid reasons. Canceling your old credit cards means that you are not building credit history, but in the case of separation or divorce, high annual fees, or too much temptation for spending. A closed account will remain on your report around 10 years (if positive) and up to 7 years (if negative). FICO score considers the age of both closed and open accounts. There were some cases where someone getting approved for a new card with a very large credit limit wound up being better for their score than keeping the existing card even though that card had a longer credit history.
- Credit mix is a factor that occupies 10% of your FICO score and takes the portfolio of your credit accounts into consideration. This can include business loans, car loans, student loans, and other credit products. Credit mix looks at different accounts you might have, the total number of them, and how well you are handling all of them.
- New credit. The last 10% of your FICO score is determined by the number of your newly opened credit accounts, as well as the number of hard credit inquiries lenders make when you apply for credit.
These are the five most important factors that affect and determine your credit score. By understanding what affects your score, you can easily work on improving your credit. Certain core features of your credit file can have positive or negative impacts, and here are some actions that influence those impacts:
- A missed payment can lower your payment history score significantly. Even a 30-day late payment has a negative effect on the overall number.
- Utilizing too much of your available credit. Credit utilization ratio sends clear signals to lenders that you are heavily dependent on credit. As far as they are concerned, you should keep it under 30%.
- Applying for too many credits in a short time frame. When a lender requests your credit report, a hard inquiry is added to your credit file, and it stays there for two years. This can have a long-term effect on your score that will result in lower score numbers. All lenders look at the number of times you have requested a new credit. A high number of requests can indicate that many lenders already rejected you and cause a concern that you won’t be making payments on time.
Identity theft is a rising threat to your credit score
Each minute, 4,087 data records are lost or stolen. Statistically speaking, the numbers say that you’re likely to become a victim of a breach. A lot of your personal information is held by enterprises that have proven time and time again that they can’t handle large quantities of user data. When you check your credit, everything may seem fine, but in just a few moments, things can take a drastic turn.
In 2018, 350,000 Americans lost $1.48 billion to fraud. And while the number of victims is decreasing, the value of losses is increasing. If someone gets ahold of your credit card information, without a timely response, you could end up with an empty bank account. Cybercriminals can also use your personal information to open new credit card accounts under your name. This is something that can be prevented with proper credit monitoring, and it is also why consumers turn to solutions like Split by Consumer Affinity.
We offer credit monitoring, convenience learning, and identity restoration for identity theft victims. Apart from full protection and identity restoration service, consumers have access to curated and custom content that educates you on the subject of privacy, cybersecurity, and standard tools used by cybercriminals.
Improving your credit score
If you aren’t satisfied with your credit score range, you can start working on improvements by following some standard steps:
- Make any outstanding payments on delinquent accounts
- Always pay your bills on time (not just credit card accounts) as even delinquent utility bills can negatively impact your credit score
- Search for and dispute inaccurate information on your report
- Manage your new credit requests by limiting them to efforts when you’re shopping for new rates instead of new cards
- Reduce your monthly credit card balance so that you have more credit available
Many factors affect your credit score, but there are ways to improve it and keep it at a healthy level. Creditors value responsible consumers, so you should pay attention to your bills and late payments. Fixing bad credit is never easy, but with the help of Split, you can make things a lot easier for yourself.
Depending on your financial situation, you can start practicing new routines and start improving your FICO score. Simply by making regular payments on your current credit accounts, your next credit request may be approved a lot easier by lenders. Monitoring is always useful for consumers that want to stay in the average credit score range, so try to keep a close eye on the numbers. It is easy to bring them down but it is an uphill struggle if you do make that mistake.