Be familiar with credit score

This was originally published on Monday, October 31 ,2016 in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Halloween is a time to be spooked by zombies and witches. As we grow older, our fears become less of the supernatural and more of the actual. In the personal finance world, many fear the unknown such as their credit score.

Your credit score is your financial report card. It lets you know how well you are doing financially. Your credit score is a tool used to measure how reliable you are in repaying your debts. Your credit score is also known as your FICO score.

Fear stems from the unknown. If you take time and understand what and how your score is calculated perhaps it would be less scary.

There are three credit bureaus that keep track of your score: Equifax; Experian and TransUnion. The three bureaus usually have three different scores, because each company uses your information differently and not every credit issuer reports to every bureau.

There are five major factors that go into calculating your score.

  • Payment history is about 35 percent of your score. This factor will show lenders your accounts, past or current. This section also tells the bureau how well you meet your payment deadlines and if you are behind, how many days you are past due. It also reports if you have missed payments. This category also shows if your accounts have been turned over to a collection agency or if you have filed for bankruptcy.
  • Current amount owed will factor for about 30 percent of your credit score. Recorded in this area are the number of credit accounts you have such as credit cards, loans, mortgages or in-store credit cards. Your balance on each account is also noted. High balances or large amount of debt from many sources will lower your score. Also, having a lot of credit with no debt could have an adverse effect on your score. Usually small debts that are paid off in full will raise your score.
  • Length of credit history will calculate for about 15 percent of your score. This section concentrates on how long you have maintained your credit. For most creditors, time equals stability. Having a credit card but not using it can actually drop your score compared to carrying a balance on a few different accounts and paying them off on time.
  • Types of credit used will count towards 10 percent of your score. Being more varied in the types of accounts you use will increase your score. A person who carries only one credit card may have a lower score than a person who shows that they can responsibly manage more than one account.
  • New credit inquires accounts for the last 10 percent of your score. There are two types of inquires that can be made a soft inquiry and a hard inquiry. A soft inquiry can be from a financial institution or potential creditor just wanting to look at your score, a perspective employer or you viewing your credit history. Soft inquires don’t affect your score. Hard inquires come from a financial institution that you have applied for a line of credit or loan, such as a car dealership. The increase in hard inquires lowers your score. Usually, if someone has opened a lot of accounts in a short time period, it may suggest potential financial troubles.

Become familiar with your credit score. It’s a valuable tool that can keep you from being frightened of your financial well-being.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like him to cover, email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at http://www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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