Understanding behaviors that impact credit score is important
According to a 2018 Credit Health survey by Discover, 85 percent of U.S. consumers are aware of their credit standing, a statistic that increased 12 percentage points over the previous year. Consumers across the U.S. seem to grasp the importance of the credit score – but may fall short of understanding the specific behaviors that affect it.
A study from U.S. News & World Report on Americans’ understanding of credit scores suggests that although 60 percent of consumers know they should check their credit report at least once a year, many are not clear about the actions that impact their score.
The survey showed only a third of consumers know using more than 30 percent of a credit card’s credit line could hurt their credit score; just 26 percent of Americans know that closing an old account could be a problem for their credit; and more than 20 percent of consumers believe checking their credit can hurt their score. Further, nearly half of consumers understand bad credit could deny them new credit or subject them to a higher interest rate, but many do not realize credit can affect their ability to access other financial products.
Tips for improving your credit score
- Obtain copies of your credit report. You can find your report on annualcreditreport.com. Be sure to review thoroughly for accuracy. Under federal law, consumers can obtain a free report from each of the three national credit reporting companies every 12 months.
- Pay bills on time. When it comes to improving your credit score, paying all your bills on time is crucial.
- Keep credit utilization under 30 percent. Actively using credit cards is a great way to keep your credit score healthy, but make sure you’re not using more than 30 percent of your available credit at any given time.
- Always pay your credit card balance in full each month. You don’t have to carry a balance and incur interest charges to build good credit.
- Leave old debts on your report. Once you finally pay off a debt, you might want to eliminate it from your report, but as long as your payments were timely and complete, those debt records can help your score.
- Start using credit early. Don’t wait to start using credit. Even if you open a card and then charge and payoff a small amount each month, you’ll be building a solid credit foundation.
- Diversify your credit. Research alternative credit options such as financing a car or consolidating credit card debt with a loan. Paying off different types of credit can improve your score.