1/21/2011

Consumer Credit: Tips for the Way to Better Credit

In spite of general information available online, many consumers are still "in the dark" about how credit scoring functions and the best actions to take to improve it.
In spite of advice on repairing credit, a tip from an professional who has been in the business for many many years, often the best way to improve your credit is to simply pay your bills on time and reduce your credit line debt as much as possible--your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score.
Many consumers have recently experienced reduction of their credit lines, which then increases the percentage of debt, which then lowers their credit score. If a line of credit allows up to $50,000 and the outstanding debt is $45,000, but then the line of credit is suddenly reduced to $30,000, the borrower now appears to have exceeded the credit line. So now, the FICO score may be lowered, even though the borrower is always on time with payments.
Another factor that can impact credit scores is that not all banks report their credit limits for a borrower, but instead reports the highest balance--this actually can end up lowering the borrower's credit score because the debt utilization percentage does not show up. (See Liz Pulliam's "Weird Stuff that Hurts Your Credit.")
Borrowers, in an effort to simplify their credit history, make the mistake of voluntarily closing a credit account. This actually can be a very bad thing, especially if it was established much earlier in the consumer's credit history.  Your credit history accounts for 15% of your score, so you could anticipate seeing that much of a reduction on your score: A score of 750 could be reduced to less than 650. And, for instance, if you had a bankruptcy, you may be categorized with others who have also, but if you have that bankruptcy removed from your record, you will now be compared differently, which can impact your score negatively.
Something else not generally known, is that simply by paying bills on time and reducing debt, your FICO score can also improve in a short period, sometimes in as little as 30 days (or a few months), depending on the various factors of your credit history. The FICO score is a mathematically produced number based on certain elements that are used by the Fair Isaac Corporation, and is very complex, but you can know its basic components:
  • Type of Credit:               10%
  • New Credit Inquiries:      10%
  • Payment History:             35%
  • Length of Credit History: 15%
  • Amounts Owed:              30%
Further, many borrowers think that the credit scores they obtain online from a free credit reporting site is an accurate representation of their score, but in fact, they cannot substitute for the ones lenders must obtain when working with a potential homebuyer or refinance borrower.
Further, many borrowers believe that it is best for them to pay down all debt prior to obtaining a home loan, when that is not always the case.
Another important thing to know is that Fair Isaac Corporation, the maker of the FICO score, changes its model, and may be doing so again at this moment--this can change how much you are going to pay for your home loan. If you are looking into borrowing or refinancing at this time, current information would be extremely important for you.
One company works on "credit mapping" as opposed to credit repair. The borrower is advised to investigate what either type of company could do for them, but in general credit repair companies may cost $800 or more and in certain cases has not helped the borrower through it's actions. Another company uses credit mapping outlines for a particular borrower--at a much lower fee cost--based on their credit report and other circumstances, and what may best work for them, as opposed to the generic information found on sites such as http://www.myfico.com/ .  For more explicit information about credit mapping and general advice, see this article in the Orange County Register published last September.
In summary, you really need to know about your particular situation to best know what to to, before you make a move.
More tips about credit:  Improving Your Credit Score, Recognizing a Credit Repair Scam




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