Do you ever hear people talk about their bad credit as if it’s some sort of medical condition? These are people who say things like, “I’d love to replace my old car, but I can’t because of my bad credit,” or “That’s a great idea, but unfortunately I have bad credit.”
Having bad credit is not a disease, and it just doesn’t happen to you like a meteor falling on your head. You are in charge of your own credit report and credit score. You are the one who took action, or failed to act, which resulted in your bad credit. If this sounds like you, then you need to stop using these five pathetic excuses, and start turning around your bad credit:
1. There’s all sorts of incorrect stuff on my credit report. Sure, credit reports can have errors , but that’s not an excuse for having bad credit your whole life. By law, you are entitled to have access to your credit report twice a year, and you are also entitled to dispute any errors that you find. You can obtain your free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. You can also obtain a free credit report if you are denied an application for credit, insurance, or employment, based on information in your report. If you find incorrect information in your credit report, the law let’s you dispute the information in writing. And if you are the victim of identity theft, you have to freeze your credit reports and go about correcting all of the problems. The longer you wait, the worse it will get.
2. I don’t understand credit scores. Lawyers and judges like to say that ignorance of the law is no defense. This means that when you are caught committing a crime, you can’t get off just by saying that you weren’t aware of the law. Likewise, it’s no excuse to have bad credit because you don’t understand credit scores. Your credit score is the contents of your credit reports condensed into a single number, so it’s not rocket science. There are several different scoring formulas out there, but the most popular one is from a company called FICO. It’s scores range from 300 to 850 with the higher scores being better. From there, it’s a little subjective with scores above 740 being considered “excellent,” scores between 680 and 739 thought of as “good,” 580 to 699 is “fair,” and anything below 580 is “poor.”
Your credit score itself is mostly made up of your payment history (35%) and the amounts you owe (30%). Other parts of your credit score include your length of credit history (15%), you new credit accounts (10%), and your mix of different kinds of credit (10%). In short, you just have to pay your bills on time, and carry very little debt, and you will almost certainly have great credit.
3. My credit doesn’t matter to me much anyways. You might think that nobody cares about your credit history, but you’d be surprised how important it can be. First, having good credit is vital to your ability to get any loan, such as a credit card, store charge card, a car loan, or a home mortgage. In addition, nearly all prospective landlords will do a credit check before offering you a lease. And if you have bad credit, even the most desperate landlord will try to find some else to rent his or her apartment to. Also, you utility providers will likely perform a credit check before connecting you to services like electricity, phones, and television. If you have bad credit, you will probably be asked to place a sizable deposit down first. When it comes to insurance, you will likely be charged a higher premium if you have bad credit. Finally, many employers will perform look at your credit history as part of a pre-employment background check. And if you’re not good at being responsible for your own money, they probably won’t want you to be handling theirs.
4. I can’t improve my credit because no one will give me a loan. Yes, it’s hard to get a loan if you have bad credit, but there are products designed specifically for your situation. For example, a secured credit card is available to all applicants who can prove their identity and don’t have any pending bankruptcy proceedings. These credit cards work much like any other cards, except they require the payment of a refundable security deposit before the account can be opened. But afterwards, you use them just like you use any other credit card. You’ll receive a statement every month, and you will have a monthly payment due (which does not come out of your security deposit.) And just as with any other credit card, you can avoid interest charges by paying your entire statement in full each month, or carry a balance. You may also receive cardholder benefits such as extended warranty coverage and rental car insurance. And best of all, there are secured cards available with low annual fees, and some with none at all. After a year of on-time payments, and no other negative information on your credit report, most secured card holders find that their credit has improved enough to qualify for a standard, unsecured card.
5. I move around a lot, so I sometimes miss my bills. Unless you are moving through time, changing addresses is no longer an excuse for not paying your bills. Because you are reading this, you must have access to the Internet. Every single credit card issuer offers online access to your account, and nearly all have mobile apps. In addition, you can set up email and text alerts of your due dates, so that you never forget a payment. You can also set up automatic bill payments, so that it’s impossible to miss a payment. Finally, most credit card issuers will waive an occasionally late payment fee and even interest charges, if you call and ask.