The month of October is about more than just Halloween – there is another topic that can make you shriek and send chills down your spine just thinking about it – your credit! To ease your fears, the American Bankers Association created Get Smart About Credit to educate youth and adults about the importance of using credit wisely. October 18th is Get Smart About Credit Day – but credit education courses take place all month long! Susquehanna Bank employees volunteer during the month of October (and throughout the year) to provide credit education courses to young adults in our communities.
When you apply to borrow money, the lender will look at your credit report, so it’s important to understand how your credit score is determined! According to the Federal Reserve, your credit score is based on answering the following questions:
- Do you pay your bills on time? If you have paid bills late, have had an account referred to a collection agency, or have ever declared bankruptcy, this history will show up in your credit report.
- What is your outstanding debt? Many scoring models compare the amount of debt you have and your credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, it is likely to have a negative effect on your score.
- How long is your credit history? A short credit history may have a negative effect on your score, but a short history can be offset by other factors, such as timely payments and low balances.
- Have you applied for new credit recently? If you have applied for too many new accounts recently, that may negatively affect your score. However, if you request a copy of your own credit report, or if creditors are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make prescreened credit offers, these inquiries about your credit history are not counted as applications for credit.
- How many and what types of credit accounts do you have? Many credit-scoring models consider the number and type of credit accounts you have. A mix of installment loans and credit cards may improve your score. However, too many finance company accounts or credit cards might hurt your score.
The Federal Reserve also offers five steps you can take to improve your credit score:
1.) Get copies of your credit report–then make sure information is correct. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the only authorized online source for a free credit report. Under federal law, you can get a free report from each of the three national credit reporting companies every 12 months.
2.) Pay your bills on time. One of the most important things you can do to improve your credit score is pay your bills by the due date. You can set up automatic payments from your bank account to help you pay on time, but be sure you have enough money in your account to avoid overdraft fees.
3.) Understand how your credit score is determined.
4.) Learn the legal steps to take to improve your credit report. The Federal Trade Commission has information on correcting errors in your report, tips on dealing with debt and avoiding scams–and more.
5.) Beware of credit-repair scams. The Federal Trade Commission has resources available that explain how you can improve your creditworthiness and lists legitimate resources for low-cost or no-cost help.
By understanding how your credit score is determined, you can use the steps listed above to improve and maintain your credit score. Want to learn more? To schedule a time for a member of Team Susquehanna to visit your school or youth / scouting group, email the Susquehanna Bank Community Relations Office at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll help take the spookiness out of learning about credit!