Most of us aren’t thinking about credit scores during the holiday season. But not paying attention to credit now may result in problems down the road. The following are 5 tips to help you maintain your credit score during the holiday season.
1. Protect Your Credit from Scammers
Credit card fraud is rampant during the holiday season. If a scammer gets any of your personal information they could potentially open new credit card accounts using your name. Once phony accounts have been opened, the late charges will be reported the following month and eventually collections will start in your name. You may not even realize you are a victim of identity theft unless the collection notices come to your address or your credit score drops significantly.
2. Don’t Apply for New Credit Just for the Holidays
Stores will offer plenty of promotions this time of year to get you to spend more money. Opening a new card, however, may cause your credit score to temporarily drop. Whenever you open a new account inquiries are made into your credit, and when that happens your credit score goes down. If you must, make sure to only open one new account. If possible, wait until a few months after the holidays to open any new accounts.
3. Do Ask for a Limit Increase
This may seem counterproductive, but most experts will tell you to never go over 30 percent of your limit. That means if your limit is $1,000, you should never carry more than $300 on the balance. If you do go over that amount your credit score will decrease. If you plan to use your card for several purchases it may be a good idea to ask for an increase. This will give you wiggle room to spend a little more without messing with your credit score.
4. Don’t Over Spend
The previous section was advice on how to be able to spend a little more without ruining your credit score. However, this should be done with caution. Overspending will lead to a larger minimum payment you may have trouble making the next month. Not missing any payments is the cardinal rule for maintaining a good credit score.
5. Don’t Miss a Payment
Missing even one payment can dramatically affect your overall credit score. FICO reports that payment history makes up 35 percent of your overall FICO score.
It’s important to make sure you have enough money set aside after the Christmas holiday to make at least your minimum payment. Finally, if you have more than one card make sure to pay off the one with the highest rates.
Your credit score is like a report card on how you manage your finances, and just as it is important to have A’s and B’s on your report card, it’s important to have a good credit score. Not only can your score play a role in whether you can get a loan, it also may affect what you pay for insurance and the amount of deposit you have to put down on an apartment. If your credit score is lower than it should be, you can follow these tips to give it a boost.
Bring past-due accounts current
One of the best and easiest ways to boost your credit score is to get current on any past-due accounts. If you are applying for a mortgage to check with the mortgage company first before paying any collections or charge offs. These accounts may not need to be paid before the loan is done and paying off old collections or charge offs will bring your scores down temporarily, or until they show some history of being paid and could cause a problem with getting the loan.
Accounts that haven’t been paid on time can greatly reduce your credit score, because your payment history accounts for more than one-third of your total score. If you have any accounts that are in collections, pay those off first and make sure the collections agency notifies that credit bureaus that you are now current. Then concentrate on bringing other accounts up to current status. One key thing to focus on, however, is that you want to make sure you don’t let any new accounts become past due while you are catching up on accounts that are already behind.
Pay down debt
Once you have worked to get all your credit accounts current, your next focus should be on paying down debt. The amount you owe makes up 30 percent of your credit score, and if you owe a lot relative to how much credit you have available, then it will affect your score. A general rule of thumb is your debt should be less than 30 percent of the amount of credit you have available. So if you have $10,000 worth of available credit, you should owe less than $3,000. This rule applies only to revolving credit accounts like credit cards, not to installment loans such as a car loan.
Don’t close accounts
If you pay off an account, you may be tempted to close it, but that can hurt your score, especially if the account has been open for a long time. The length of your credit history accounts for 15 percent of your credit score, so if you cancel accounts you have had for a long time, it can shorten your history and hurt your score. Keeping accounts open, even after they are paid off, will help boost your score.
Don’t open new accounts
The more credit cards you have, the more it can lower your score, especially if you have opened a lot of accounts recently. Opening a lot of accounts in a short time looks risky to lenders and can hurt your score. Doing so also can shorten your credit history, which can reduce your score as well.
In developing countries, where banks and banking infrastructures are practically nonexistent, financial institutions are figuring out a way to determine the creditworthiness of individuals in those areas.They are looking at how people use their smartphones.
Several startups are working within Kenya, the Philippines, and Indonesia to make the process of lending and borrowing less risky for everyone involved. These are countries where physical banks are few and far between, so the startups are working with potential lenders to develop new ways to assess the risk of potential “lendees”. It’s common that many consumers in these areas have smartphones, even if they do not have bank accounts, so there is a great deal to learn about people through their smartphone usage.
Studies have shown that individuals who send more text messages than they receive are perceived to be a risk, because they are not frugal with their time or money. People who make more phone calls in the evening are considered to be a “good risk” because these people are seemingly more aware of their spending (off-peak hour phone calls cost less money). However, the biggest factor in this smartphone use vs creditworthiness argument is the study of a person’s smartphone payment history. The timeliness of their bill payment is factored in, but there is a heavier observation of other transactions made via smartphone — many people make payments for groceries and personal expenses through their smartphone.
This new determination of credit is transformational in a few ways. For one, it’s creating a space for the masses within these countries, to have access to credit where there has never been “credit” before. This new process is also calling attention to how different the credit systems are around the world. Credit in one country is in most cases useless in other countries because of how different the metrics are. In more established countries, like the United States and The UK, South Africa, and India credit is determined by both positive and negative factors, which aren’t even available or relevant in developing countries. These developing changes in the field of credit are opening up the eyes of international financial institutions; consumer credit may be forced to evolve everywhere to keep up.
To see the article that inspired this blog, click here.