Healthy credit habits for the new year
It’s always a good time to reassess financial goals and work toward improving your overall financial health. No matter what your financial goals may be, having the right information and tools in place is key to getting you on track to take control of your credit.
Taking the first step towards financial wellness can provide a sense of empowerment as you get rid of everyday financial stressors, which is why many see a positive connection between financial control and self-perception. Though increasing your credit score might seem daunting, following these healthy credit behaviors can help you make positive changes to your financial health and even your personal well-being.
Understand your credit: When starting on your journey to better financial health, begin by familiarizing yourself with your current credit standing, as well as understanding what factors may be negatively impacting your credit score. A great place to start is with your Annual Credit Report, which provides one free credit report each year from all three nationwide credit reporting agencies. The information in these reports directly impacts credit scores, so it’s important to carefully review for any factors that could cause your score to be lower than it should be. This TransUnion Credit Score Overview is also a helpful educational resource and provides tips towards building a healthier credit standing.
Review your report and take action: While assessing your credit report, carefully review for any inaccuracies or problem areas that may negatively affect your credit score. For instance, high accumulations of debt such as maxed out credits cards and unpaid bills will likely be reflected in your credit report. Unpaid collections are also commonly reported delinquencies that can cause a big hit, even when as low as $100 or less. Prioritize addressing these smaller problem areas first before they get worse. Inaccurate information caused by identity theft can also lower your credit score and should be disputed online.
Create a plan for better credit: After resolving any outstanding issues identified while reviewing your credit report, create a plan towards improving your financial health, which should include:
1) On-time payments: Paying your bills on time and in full each month is key as it builds a positive history of on-time payments and responsible credit use.
2) Credit utilization: It is recommended to maintain a low credit utilization ratio, that is, how much of your available credit you’re using at any given time. It is recommended that you use no more than 30 percent of the available credit, otherwise, your score could be suffering.
3) Evaluate your credit cards: Before opening or closing any credit cards, do your research on the different types of credit cards and the benefits they have. Do one or more of your cards have an annual fee that you could live without? Strategize which cards you use regularly and keep daily spending concentrated to one or two cards total. However, don’t close an old account just because you aren’t using it. Longstanding credit accounts are vital for building credit as this demonstrates a responsible credit history.
Remain vigilant about credit monitoring and protection: Once you’re in control of your credit, the next step is to be diligent about monitoring your credit and cautious about your personal information, which includes fraud protection. Fraudsters may take out loans, lines of credit, or rent apartments in your name, which can negatively affect your credit if it results in a non-payment. If you think your information has been compromised, you can protect your credit by freezing it at all three credit reporting agencies. With TransUnion, you can simply freeze and unfreeze your credit with the touch of a button through the myTransUnion app at any time.
Understanding and managing personal information is vital to achieving life goals such as owning a home, financing your education or having the convenience of credit cards for everyday purchases. With responsible financial behaviors, discipline and consistency, you’ll be on your way to improving your credit, and in turn, feeling more confident about your overall financial health.
For more information, visit TransUnion.com.