Credit Scores: GPAs for Adults

by Wade Barnes 10. May 2011

Improving Credit Score

Your credit score impacts every major (and some minor) purchase that you'll make during your lifetime. In regards to making a purchase that requires financing, (i.e. a house or car) your credit score can dictate the applied interest rate and in some occurrences, can prevent you from being eligible to receive financing at all. How about the impact on your career? Nowadays, many employers run credit checks before hiring.

Do you want to own a car, buy a house, have a career and be an all-around self sufficient individual? Mmm. Not much thought required there, huh? Of course you do!

So what is the best way to tackle this overly-exciting subject matter?

We asked our very own Wade Barnes, Vice President of Consumer Lending, to run through the ins and outs of a credit score with a word that we think will be all too familiar to you - the dreaded GPA.

"Professor" Barnes, meet the world.

The world, meet "Professor" Barnes.

700 - or above- is the score (or grade) that will get you on the honor roll of society. Like GPAs, credit scores are simply a numerical ranking of your credit performance.  The best way to think of a credit score is like a grade in school.  There are many parts to this grade like tests, quizzes, homework, participation, and attendance.  The teacher then weighs each factor in accordance with its importance and determines a final grade or score.  Credit scores are no different and look to the following factors. 

Not everything is treated equal - the return of "weighted averages."

35% of your overall credit score is determined by your Payment History, which is the single most impactful factor of your credit score. Be sure to make your payments on time every month. If you’re having issues paying your bills talk to your lender. Many lenders will work with you to help establish favorable terms for both you and the lender.

Next on the list is outstanding debt, holding a 30% weight.  It is important that you don’t carry high balances on your credit cards.  Carrying balances of less than 35% of your available credit limit is ideal.  Balances using 70% of your credit limit or greater are having a negative impact your score.

Weighing in at 15% is the length of time the accounts have been established.  It is helpful to have accounts with a long history reporting to the credit bureaus established.  For revolving accounts that have been managed well, consider keeping these accounts open so they continue to build history.

At 10% each, inquires and credit diversity are the least impactful but are nonetheless important to consider.  Be sure you aren't authorizing lenders to pull your credit report needlessly – keep this in mind when you’re checking out at your favorite retail store where they offer a discount for opening a store credit card.  With regards to diversity, be sure your debt instruments are spread amongst various loan products.  An individual who has a car loan, credit cards, and a mortgage will rate better than an individual who simply has multiple credit cards.

Is the test going to be graded on a curve?

Yep. Just like finals, these factors are scored on a curve type system where your performance is compared directly to other individuals.  Scores range from 350 – 850 where anything over 700 is good and anything under 600 needs improvement.

Be Aware

Perhaps the most important tip is to be aware of what’s on your credit report.  With over 290 million reports, mistakes are bound to happen.  You are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the reporting bureaus every year.  To obtain your credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com , an official site sanctioned by the bureaus to allow you free access to your report.  Put this on your calendar and make it an annual practice.

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you have about your credit score or any other credit question.

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