March 10, 2021 by Michael Higgins
Space Coast Credit Union is here to help its members in all facets of their financial lives. To celebrate Credit Education Month, we have answered common questions about credit scores and why they are so important.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a number that ranges from 300 to 850, which represents a consumer's creditworthiness. The higher the score, the more reliable a borrower looks to potential lenders. A credit score is based on credit history, including the number of open accounts, total levels of debt, repayment history, overall credit utilization, types of open accounts (mortgage, auto, credit card, personal loans, student loans), and new debts opened up in the most recent 12-month period.
Why is my credit score important, and how is it used?
Your credit score gives you power and options in multiple areas:
• Better Interest Rates - The higher your score is, the lower the interest rate lenders will offer you on loans and credit cards. This, in turn, will save you money over the life of the loan.
• Better Insurance Rates - Insurance companies will offer lower rates and benefits based on your credit score, and this can result in significant savings for both auto and home policies.
• Potential Lower Deposits - Rental companies, utility companies, and cell phone companies may waive or reduce deposit requirements based on your credit score's strength.
Do I have a "good" credit score?
The following is an example scale from Experian to give you an idea of credit score standings.
740-799: Very good
Where can I find my credit score?
You can go to annualcreditreport.com for your free credit report, which every individual is entitled to every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
If you are an SCCU member, you can check your free FICO® score as frequently as you would like without affecting your score in the menu of the mobile app or by logging into your Online Banking account and selecting "View FICO Score" under the "Quick Links" section. Watch our "How to Enroll and Check Your FICO Credit Score" video for additional help.
Don't be alarmed; your score will most likely be a slightly different number from each source you check. This is caused by varying models and versions of the FICO® score and how recently the report was pulled. The FICO® score in your SCCU Online Banking account is the same scoring model used by most lenders, but it may vary depending on recent changes to your credit report as this score is updated monthly.
What factors affect my credit score?
The five factors that weigh the most heavily on your credit score are:
- Payment History – Make your payments on time every month.
- Credit Utilization – It's recommended to keep this number under 30%.
- Credit History Length – Keep your longest-standing credit lines open.
- Credit Mix – Your mix could contain a mortgage, auto loan, credit card, or other types of credit.
- New Credit – Opening multiple, new lines of credit around the same time could decrease your score.
Should I be checking my credit report?
Yes, everyone should check their credit score to be familiar with what is on it, how it's being reported by creditors, and the accuracy of the reporting. This will help ensure you catch any errors that may have occurred and allow you to see if any accounts are opened in your name that may be fraudulent.
• How frequently should I check? At the very minimum, everyone should check their credit report once a year, and you can spread it out over three times per year by only pulling from one bureau each time.
• Do inquiry checks hurt my score? If you are interest rate shopping for the same type of credit, like an auto loan or a mortgage, and you have multiple inquiries within a short timeframe, the checks will typically not affect your score unfavorably. However, if you apply for different credit types multiple times over a short period, it can negatively affect your score by taking into account the number of trade lines opened and the available balances.
How do I submit a dispute on my credit report?
Typically, you need to identify the error in your credit report and file a dispute, in writing, with one or all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). The credit bureau(s) will then contact that particular creditor to verify the information and update it accordingly. You should file the dispute with proof of why you believe the information is incorrect. You may also file the dispute with the creditor you believe made the error, but each creditor is different in their process, so you will need to verify with them before making the dispute in writing.
Check out this Credit Score Help Document that includes a checklist to find options for repairing and improving your credit and other information regarding credit scores.