When you find yourself with damaged credit, it’s important to catch your breath and begin laying the foundation for a brighter financial future. Testing your financial literacy and educating yourself are part of that. But the centerpiece of this effort should be your emergency fund. With money saved for a rainy day, you’ll be far less likely to miss payments and damage your credit if met by hefty emergency expenses.
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Payment history accounts for over one third of your credit score. So, while it may sound too simple to be true, the best thing you can do for your credit is to make payments on time. Every payment you make on time on any debt creates a positive item in your payment history. These payments stack up and offset missed payments that created negative items in the past.
Be persistent. You won't see your credit score dramatically change overnight. Repairing your credit actually means repairing your credit history. The score then reflects this. The best things you can do now, are pay your bills on time and pay down debt. Even then, it will probably take at least 30 days before these actions impact your credit.
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students allows you to earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points. This is a simple flat-rate card that doesn’t require activation or paying on time to earn the full amount of points per dollar, like the other two cards mentioned above. If you plan to do a semester abroad or often travel outside the U.S., this card is a good choice since there is no foreign transaction fee. Students with a Bank of America® checking or savings account can experience the most benefits with this card since you receive a 10% customer points bonus when points are redeemed into a Bank of America® checking or savings account. And, Preferred Rewards clients can increase that bonus 25%-75%.Read our roundup of the best student credit cards.
30% of your credit score is how much you owe on your credit cards. If you are maxed out on your credit cards, even if you make all your payments on time, you will see a dramatic decrease in your credit score. Don’t let your balances go to more than 30% of your credit limit; this is the sweet spot in the credit-scoring model. Even if you pay off your balances each month, the amount of credit you’ve used at the time of your monthly statement is the amount of debt used to calculate your credit score. Keep your balances low at all times during the credit card cycle.
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Over the next decade, credit reporting agencies went from localized companies to the nationwide credit reporting agencies we know today. Almost all lenders and creditors go through the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to get consumer credit reports. That’s good for consumers because it means they only need to worry about three credit reports. As long as you review those three reports regularly and make sure they’re error-free, you can present the best possible credit profile when someone checks your credit.
Every time you apply for credit, your credit report is accessed and analyzed. Every time your credit report is accessed a record of this transaction is placed on your credit report and it is called an inquiry. Inquiries can drop your credit score by as much as 5 points a piece. If you are looking to get new credit, be sure you will qualify for the credit card or loan so you do not have unnecessary inquiries on your credit report. In addition, having a lot of new credit (10% of your score) looks risky to lenders, and your score will suffer.
Since your credit score is based on information in your credit reports, you need to see what’s on them. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus and you can see all of your credit reports from the 3 major credit bureaus at once by going to annualcreditreport.com. Reviewing your credit report will allow you some insight on why your credit score is low.