Most of us know the importance of maintaining a good credit score. But despite our best intentions, building an A+ score is much easier to say than do.
There are several things that stand in our way of achieving a high rating. Maybe you’ve had too much fun with your credit cards and accumulated a ton of debt. Or perhaps you always forget to pay your credit and loan bills on time — a clear credit score killer.
But while some people know exactly where they stand credit-wise, others are left in the dark. The truth is, unless you check your credit report and score on a regular basis — at least annually — you may not know the true condition of your credit health. However, there are tell-tale signs that your credit might need work, indicating the urgent need for a major credit clean up.
1. You’re rejected for a loan or another line of credit
You might apply for a loan or credit card with complete confidence that the creditor will approve your application. But if you’re greeted with a rejection letter, there’s a chance that your credit needs work.
Of course, getting denied doesn’t automatically point to a troubled credit past. Although a low score can stop applications, the creditor might reject your application for other reasons, such as a short employment record or too many existing debts.
To get to the bottom of a rejection, wait for the creditor to send a rejection letter which states the reason behind the decision, and then order your free credit report to review your credit history. Sometimes, mistakes on your credit report can make your credit history appear worse than it actually is.
2. You’re paying a higher interest rate
You may feel that your credit is in good shape because you’re getting approved for loans and credit cards. However, what’s your interest rate on these lines of credit?
Approvals don’t always indicate the best credit. A creditor may review your application and credit, and determine that you’re eligible for financing. But if your credit isn’t in the best shape, the bank will charge a higher interest rate to compensate for the extra risk.
3. Your creditor reduces your limit
Periodically, some credit card companies conduct routine credit checks on existing customers. And unfortunately, if your credit situation changes (for the worse) since the time you applied for the credit card, the creditor may adjust your credit limit.
Getting a letter from your credit card company stating that the company will lower your credit limit is a tell-tale sign that your credit needs work. Typically, credit card companies do not reduce the limit of customers with excellent credit.
4. You need a cosigner
If you’re applying for an auto loan, student loan or another loan, and the lender requires a cosigner, this means that your credit history isn’t strong enough to get financing on your own.
Now, if you’re in the early stages of establishing a credit history, this is perfectly normal. It takes time to build your creditworthiness, and adding a cosigner reduces the bank’s risk. However, if you have an established credit history, yet you still need a cosigner on a loan, you need to improve your credit history.
5. You’ve fallen behind on bills
If you’ve fallen behind on bills, such as your car payment or your mortgage loan, chances are you’ll need to spend the next few months or years repairing your credit.
Credit problems are common after a major financial crisis, such as a job loss or an illness that prevents working. And if you don’t have enough cash in your savings account, you might rely on credit to get by, and you may not have enough cash to keep up with minimum payments. Since timeliness makes up 35% of your credit score, getting behind on payments can shave several points off your credit score each month.
6. You don’t receive pre-approved credit card offers in the mail
Pre-approved credit card offers can get annoying. However, if you don’t receive these offers in the mail, there’s a strong chance that your credit needs work.
Since banks and other lenders only send these notifications to people with high credit ratings, the fact that you don’t receive offers means that lenders do not feel that you’re a suitable applicant.
What Can You Do?
Now that you’ve determined that your credit might need a little work, here’s what you can do:
– Stop using credit cards and pay cash for items
– Increase your minimum payments and aim to pay off credit cards in full each month
– Check your credit report for inaccuracies, and dispute errors with the bureaus
– Seek professional help if you’re unable to manage debt and credit yourself
– Pay all your bills on time, and contact creditors if you experience payment problems
Managing your credit and debt might not be the easiest job. But even if you’re not the best credit manager, you can successfully improve your bad credit history and build a superb credit score. It’s all a matter of getting the education you need, and having the right professionals by your side.