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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of TransUnion. The opinions and text are all mine.
If you ever plan to apply for a mortgage, a personal loan to start a business, or borrow money from a lender, it’s important to have good credit health.
Not only can having good credit health increase your chances of your application being approved (and make the application process a lot easier), the biggest benefit of good credit health is that it that it may lower your interest rate which can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
I like to liken your financial health to your physical health – it’s not something that you take care of in short bursts. The consequences of spending an entire year eating fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner while binge-watching reality TV isn’t going to be entirely erased by eating salad and working out at the gym for a week. You need to eat healthy and flex those muscles regularly.
Likewise, it’s important that you’re flexing your financial muscles regularly. Good credit isn’t something that you’re going to wake up with overnight. It’s a process (an extremely important one!) but it can be done.
I arrived as an immigrant to the United States in 2011 after marrying my husband, an active duty soldier. Thankfully, my husband had always been very careful with his money and as such, had excellent credit.
However, having just arrived in the United States, my credit score was non-existent.
Buying a house together was in our future plans, and I also wanted to get car financing. I wasn’t about to pay 10% interest on a car loan and raise our mortgage interest rate by a percent (and tens of thousands of dollars in loan repayments) just because my credit score was non-existent. So, I started working on building my credit, stat.
Fast forward to the present day and my TransUnion VantageScore® credit score is just under 800, which is excellent. And it’s been hovering around that mark for a number of years now.
If you’re in a similar situation (an immigrant) or someone who has a low or non-existent credit rating, I’ve teamed up with TransUnion to show you some steps you can take to improve your credit health.
How to Establish Healthy Credit
Protect Your Identity
Just like your physical health (there’s that analogy again) your financial health, and more specifically, your credit, is something that you should be regularly monitoring.
The last thing you want to happen is for some dishonest person to take out a credit card or loan in your name. Unfortunately, there are people out there who do exactly that – apply for credit cards, car loans and even mortgages using a stolen identity.
For anyone that’s experienced this, it’s a nightmare and can result in your credit taking a nasty hit. The best way to avoid this from happening is to protect your identity.
TrueIdentity is a free service provided by TransUnion that will help to prevent a fraudster from using your identity to take out a loan, for example. With this service, you can sign up to receive real-time alerts every time a loan or credit card is applied for in your name when your credit is locked. If it was you who applied for the credit, then you simply unlock your credit with the swipe of your finger to continue the application process. If it wasn’t you, then you can take action to protect yourself. This is one of the best, easiest and most convenient ways to ensure your credit is protected. It’s free to join TrueIdentity – click here to join.
Monitor Your Credit Report for Errors
When companies handle billions of data updates each month, mistakes can happen and mistakes can impact your credit rating.
TrueCredit is a free service provided by TransUnion that allows you to access your full TransUnion credit report as much as you want so you can monitor your credit report for errors. If you do find an error on your report, contact TransUnion immediately to dispute it. Join TrueCredit here for free.
Apply for a Credit Card & Use It Responsibly
I don’t recommend taking out multiple credit cards just to try and raise your credit score, and I definitely don’t recommend applying for a credit card if you are going to feel tempted to max it out.
Having said that, applying for a credit card and using it responsibly can help improve your credit health. Make sure you only use your credit card for purchases that you can actually afford and always pay off the balance in full at the end of the month. A good rule of thumb before you make a credit card purchase is to think to yourself – would I be able to buy this if I didn’t have a credit card? If the answer is no, then don’t buy it.
Keep Your Debt-to-Credit Ratio Low
When you’re dealing with credit cards, it’s important to remember that you want to keep your debt-to-credit ratio low. Your debt-to-credit ratio refers to the amount of debt you have used compared to the amount of debt you have available to take out.
For example, you may have $10,000 of available credit, but the amount you’ve actually used is $1000. The best way to keep your debt-to-credit ratio low is to avoid maxing out your credit cards and paying off the balance in full every month.
Automate Your Payments
If you have a tendency to forget to pay your bills and make payments on your loans, then I recommend automating your payments.
Most companies have the ability to take direct deposit as a form of payment, and it’s usually very easy to set-up. Not only will automating your payments help to avoid hits on your credit due to non-payment, you’ll also save money because you won’t be paying late fees.
One of the factors that comes into play when calculating your credit score is time. Lenders want to see that you have a long history of paying your bills on time, avoiding debt and using credit responsibly.
Obviously, time isn’t something we can change (if it was, my credit would be even higher). Admittedly, I found this a bit frustrating, but I understand why it’s an important factor. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this so my best recommendation is to focus on all of the other ways you can increase your credit while you’re waiting.
Improving your credit health isn’t complicated. Ultimately, it’s a matter of being responsible with your money, paying your bills on time and making sure that you’re protecting your identity by using a service like TrueIdentity.
And while it may seem like a daunting task (especially if you’re starting from scratch) the benefits of having good credit will definitely make it worth your while.