Your credit score is much more than a number - it's an important reflection of your financial planning fortitude and future opportunities. Building your credit score is important. If you have a poor credit score, like a 523, you'll pay more interest than most people when you apply for loans. In some cases, you may not be able to qualify at all. On the other hand, if you have a good score, such as 745 for example, financial opportunities abound.
According to MyFico.com, there are five major components that make up your credit score:
- Payment history (35%)
- Amounts owed (30%)
- Length of credit history (15%)
- New credit (10%)
- Credit type (10%)
With this framework in mind, below are five tips to help build your credit score and keep it strong, as an important component in your overall financial plan:
Consistently pay your bills on time
As you can see above, your payment history may account for 35 percent of your overall credit score. To ensure you don't miss a payment, and that you stay on track with your financial plan, use online bill pay tools to schedule your payments in advance.
Use debt responsibly
You might have grown up believing that debt is bad. However, from a credit score and lending perspective, responsible debt management is good. Lenders want to see a positive track record of paying off loans. They also want to see that you have the financial discipline to not use all of the credit available to you. To optimize your score, use 30 percent or less of your available credit.
Mind the length of your credit history
FICO research has shown that those who apply for many accounts within a short amount of time are at the greatest risk of overextending themselves. Pace yourself. Be cautious about for applying for credit too often. Keep accounts open even if you're not using them to help establish a longer credit history.
Beware of canceling accounts
Account utilization is part of your credit score history. If you close an account because you're not using it, you could inadvertently damage your credit score by lowering your total available credit (and therefore increasing the percentage of credit used) or by shortening the length of your credit history.
Maintain a few types of credit
Generally, lenders like to see that you have experience with all types of credit, from mortgage loans to installment loans and credit cards. Having credit cards and installment loans with a good credit history can raise your score according to FICO.
Want to monitor your credit score? Consider signing up with one of many credit monitoring services. You can regularly check in on your score and watch the impact as you pay off debt, build credit and fulfill other aspects of your financial plan.