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What’s your credit score and how do you improve it?

General Tim Hill, MBA 12 Nov

As credit has become more and more abundant in our society, your credit report, and thus your credit rating, has become more important in your daily life. Your credit rating affects all aspects of your financial activities when it comes to borrowing money. Your credit rating also has the ability to affect the job you get, the apartment you rent, and even the ability to open a bank account.

Your credit report itself is simply a listing of all of your mortgage and consumer debt. Here in Canada, the two main credit reporting agencies are Equifax and Trans Union. Both agencies have a credit history file on anyone who has ever borrowed money. Every time you borrow money or make a payment on a loan or credit card, the lender then reports the information about the transaction to these two agencies. In addition to credit information, you will also find liens and judgments on your credit report as well as your address and possibly your work history. The accumulation of all of this information is called your credit report.

The information on your credit report varies based on your creditors and what they have reported about you. Potential lenders and others, such as employers, view your credit history as a reflection of your character. Whether we like it or not, our financial habits have a lot to say about the way in which we choose to live our lives. The credit score, or beacon score, is a number which gives mortgage lenders an idea of your lending risk.

Credit scores range from 300 to 900, the higher your credit score the better. The mortgage products and interest rate that you will qualify for are often determined by your credit score.

One thing that many people do not know is that you have the legal right to obtain a copy of your credit report. A mortgage professional can help you obtain a copy of this report and go through it with you to verify that all of the information is true and correct.

The good news is that your credit report is a working document. This means that you have the ability over time, to repair any damaged credit and increase your credit score. At Primex Mortgages, we have devised a 5-Step plan to improve your credit score:

  1. 1. Ensure Your Information is Accurate: Request a copy of your credit report at least once a year to ensure your information is correct. When you request your own credit report, it does not affect your credit score. Solution: Contact Equifax immediately to ensure all of your information is correct. 

  2. 2. Stop Applying for Credit: Every time you apply for credit it reduces your score by approximately 5 points. People are mistaken when they think that simply applying for credit can’t hurt them and often think if they are denied the credit that others will know. The biggest factor that affects your score is the inquiry not the decision. SolutionOnly apply for credit if you need it for a specific purpose. 

  3. 3. Pay Down or Pay Off Your Balances: If you have a balance over 75% of the account limit, it is reported negatively each month even if you make your payments on time. This allows creditors to think that you are relying on your credit card and puts you at higher risk. Example: if you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit and the balance is $750 or higher, it gets reported negatively each month, which in turn lowers your overall score. Solution: Consolidate your debts if you can to one account and ask for an increased limit so that balance does not exceed 75% of the limit amount. 

  4. 4. Pay Your Bills On Time: Having a late payment is recorded to the credit bureau if you are 30 days beyond the due date. SolutionPAY ON TIME, while rebuilding your credit it is crucial to pay your bills on time. If for some reason you cannot, contact the credit company prior to the due date and advise them of when the payment will be made so they can put a note in your file. In this case, they may not report to the Bureau as a late payment. Lenders are on your side when they see good intentions of paying your debts.

  5. 5. Only Charge What You Can Afford: Intend on paying your credit card off each month. Only spend what you can afford. Getting in to this habit will leave you with a high credit score for the future as you become disciplined in managing your credit. People often stop using their credit out of fear however you must use credit in order to build it. Use it wisely. SolutionCreate a monthly expense budget and use your credit card for small purchases that can be paid off each month. THIS IS THE FASTEST WAY TO INCREASE YOUR CREDIT SCORE.