Sometimes people ignore important warning signs — such as a stop sign, the expiration date on their yogurt, or that rapidly spreading rash. You might ignore those signs and come out okay, but why take that chance? Your credit report and credit score act as similar warning signs for your financial health.
Ignore them at your own risk.
Your credit report contains your collective credit history as well as your current credit activity. Lenders use algorithms that distill all that information into a single credit score for ranking purposes.
A low credit score tells potential lenders that it's risky to lend money to you. You may not qualify for a credit card or a mortgage loan, or you may have to pay higher interest rates if you do qualify. You may not get the best offers for life insurance, cell phone plans, or other services where a credit check is required. A low credit score could even contribute to being turned down for an apartment or a job.
If you always make payments on time, why should you bother to check your credit score? You should check it because it's possible to be responsible with credit and still have a low credit score.
If you don't use credit very often, your credit file may not have enough information for lenders to decide whether to extend credit to you when you really need it — even if you make all payments on time when you do use credit. Mistakes on your credit report could also give you a lower credit score than you deserve — for example, payments incorrectly listed as late.
However, there's one overwhelmingly important reason to check your credit report — fraudulent use of your account.
With all the security breaches and hacks in recent years, there's a decent chance that identity thieves have access to your personal information. Thieves could create entirely new credit accounts in your name, run up huge charges, and leave you to make payments.
If you don't regularly check your report for unauthorized charges or new accounts that you didn't create, you may not know about them until bill collectors come in search of payment. By then, your credit score could be ruined, and you'll spend months straightening out the mess.
By monitoring your credit score regularly, you'll notice the factors that make your score rise and fall. This will help you quickly spot trouble. If your score suddenly drops without any valid reason — such as a large credit purchase that pushes you close to your limit — you know that you need to check your credit report as soon as possible.
The five main factors that make up your credit score are:
- payment history
- the percentage of your available credit that you're using
- the age of your credit accounts and the length of time since each account was last used
- the mix of active credit types that you have
- the amount of new credit you are applying for
For the best credit score, you need to make all your payments on time, use a small amount of available credit, maintain accounts and use them regularly, have a suitable mix of credit types, and limit applications for new credit.
Worried about the time and expense of keeping tabs on your credit? Don't be. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free right now using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.
Now you have no excuses. You know what affects your credit score. You know the importance of monitoring your credit score for unexpected drops and checking your credit report for mistakes or signs of fraud. You have the free resource to make these checks.
Set up a regular credit-monitoring plan and stick to it — and watch out for life's other warning signs as well. You may be able to ignore stop signs, icky rashes, and ugly credit reports for a while, but eventually you're likely to face unpleasant consequences.
This article was provided by our partners at MoneyTips.