What is credit? Why do I have a credit score? We heard answers to these questions and more at the June 7th “Give Yourself Some Credit” event hosted at WeWork Custom House. Sponsored by Beneficial State Bank, this event featured Financial Beginnings volunteer Andrew Becvar, CFP. Andrew shared a wealth of credit knowledge with about 30 social-sector loving young professionals, who walked away with a better understanding of why credit matters and how to maintain it.
Interest on loan payments generate revenue for banks, who are looking for good investments in the customers they lend to. Credit serves as an indicator of someone's financial credibility. The easiest way for banks to determine credit is through looking at a credit score, which is largely influenced by a demonstrated history of repaying borrowed funds.
Credit scores range from 300 to 850. The ideal credit score is anything above 750 - once you surpass this number, it’s as good as it gets. Scores are calculated on a weighted combination of the following:
- Payment History (35%)
- Balance to Limit Ratio (30%)
- Length of History (15%)
- New Credit (10%), and
- Mix of Credit (10%)
Our credit scores and reports get looked at when we try to buy a home, set up phone service or utilities, rent an apartment, finance a car, apply for insurance, and apply for jobs. A good credit score can mean access to favorable interest rates on approved loans or lines of credit. A bad credit score will result in difficulty borrowing money and higher interest rates. Ultimately, having a low credit score can cost you more money.
A lot of things can hurt your credit score, but some of the most common are: maxing out your credit card, making a late payment, debt settlement, foreclosure, and bankruptcy. Any negative marks on your credit report can stick around for up to 7 to 10 years, but can be improved over time. As borrowers, it is our responsibility to only borrow what we can repay, read and understand the credit contract, pay debts promptly, notify creditors if we cannot meet payments, and report lost or stolen credit cards promptly.
Andrew ended the presentation with five key takeaways:
- Establish good credit early on.
- Make payments as agreed (or more).
- Do not overuse credit.
- Take good care of your credit - make sure no one steals your identity!
- Learn about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program if you have federal student loans and work full time in the public or nonprofit sectors!
Andrew also shared some (often free) resources on how to find your credit score and see what information is included on your credit report: