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Tips for Building Your Credit

A woman wearing a brown coat and scarf smiles as she throws fall leaves around herself

Your credit
score can affect many aspects of your life—from getting a loan to getting a
job or getting a house. Good credit is necessary for sound finances and many
major purchases. But there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to building good
credit. You must start by establishing credit, then embrace responsible credit
habits over time. This helps you create a record that shows lenders you’re a
low risk and a desirable customer.

The following tips for building your credit help you understand and improve on the key factors that the three major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit score. By following these smart financial guidelines, you can demonstrate your credit worthiness. That makes you a more desirable customer and borrower for many businesses and lenders.


1. Review Your Credit Report

In order to build your credit, you have to understand it. Start by regularly reviewing your credit reports. You can request your free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus and assess your credit as it stands right now. Review the following:

  1. Payment history
  2. Amount of credit you’re using
  3. Credit age
  4. Mix of credit account types
  5. Credit inquiries

Our free Credit Report Card can help you understand what is in your credit report and how those things affect your credit score. Our report card will help you identify areas that need improvement and help you make a plan to address these issues.

2. Dispute Errors and Inaccuracies

As you review your reports, keep an eye out for any errors. Credit report errors are not uncommon. In fact, a Fair Credit Reporting study found that one in four consumers found mistakes on their reports that can hurt their scores. You have the right to dispute those errors and fix your credit report. You can do credit repair on your own or hire a credit repair company to help you.

3. Keep Credit Accounts Open and In Good Standing

If you already have available credit, keep the accounts
open. Older credit accounts help assign a credit
age, which makes up 15% of your score. Closing an old account makes it look
like you didn’t start establishing credit until later, which can lower your
credit score.

And if you close a credit card, you also lose valuable
available credit for your utilization rate. It may be better to keep the card
open to support a lower debt-to-credit ratio—just don’t run up the balance.
Make small purchases two to three times per year and pay them off during the
following billing cycle.

4. Make On-Time Payments

Making on-time payments is one of the most important
things you can do to build your credit. Your payment
history accounts for 35% of your credit score. It tells lenders and
potential employers how reliable you are. Missed payments are serious signs of
trouble. Charge offs and defaulted accounts say you can’t be trusted to repay
your debts as promised.

If you are newly establishing credit, avoid late payments
and other poor payment habits. This is one of the two most impactful factors
for building good credit. If you already have a poor payment history, commit to
changing now. Over time, those old payments will have less impact. Eventually,
they’ll even fall off your report.

5. Use a Maximum of 30% of the Credit Available to You

Ironically, lenders would rather not give you credit if
it looks like you need it or you like using it too much. That may seem
counterproductive, since they make their money off loan interest and fees. But
using too much of your available credit is a warning sign.

Maxing out your cards and lines of credit may point to
problems with spending, debt and income. That worries creditors, since it means
you may stop paying your loans. That’s why your utilization rate is a vital
part of your credit score—accounting for 30% of the calculation in most scoring
models.

The most
desirable utilization rate is less than 10% of your available credit. At
most, keep it under 30%. If you make any large purchases on your revolving
credit accounts, pay them off as quickly as possible to keep your utilization
rate low.

6. Open Different Types of Credit Accounts

Having a mix of credit types is a good demonstration of
creditworthiness. This factor contributes 10% to your credit score. There are three
types of credit accounts to consider:

  1. Revolving accounts—credit cards and lines of credit. They have a credit limit and require regular payments.
  2. Installment accounts—student loans, car loans, mortgages and personal loans. The lender provides a lump sum, and you make payments until the debt is paid off.
  3. Open credit—charge cards, utilities and cellphone services. With charge cards, you have a credit limit, and you can make purchases and cash advances, but you don’t carry a balance. With open credit accounts, you need to pay off your charges each month.

To build credit, work toward maintaining an account
from each of these categories—as long as you can afford them.

7. Open a Secured Line of Credit

It may be difficult to build credit if you haven’t
established a credit history yet. If you have poor or fair credit, it may also
be hard to get approval for traditional credit cards or loans. However, secured
lines of credit—like secured
credit cards and secured
personal loans—can help you get started on your path to good credit.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Apply Now

on Capital Bank’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
17.39% (variable)


Balance Transfer:
N/A


Annual Fee:
$35


Credit Needed:
Fair-Poor-Bad-No Credit

Snapshot of Card Features
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
  • *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card

Card Details +

To get a secure line of credit, you will need to put up
some form of collateral—usually cash, a savings account, or other personal
property. With this credit option, you may get a decent interest rate. The
lender’s risk is lowered due to your secured asset. This means they don’t need
to charge a much higher interest rate, as is common with poor credit.

8. Limit Credit Inquiries

Be careful when applying for new credit. You don’t want
more than two hard
inquiries every six months or so. Too many requests for credit can look bad
to potential lenders. These inquiries account for 10% of your score. Only apply
for credit if it can help improve your score through one of the methods
discussed above or is necessary for making a large purchase such as a home or
car.

When you do apply, comparison shop. Carefully weigh all
the terms and the chances that you will qualify for the card or loan on offer.
Then, choose only one or two and apply. If you’re turned down, don’t try again
for at least six months.

Build Your Credit

These personal tips can help you build credit and work on improving poor or fair credit. Building good credit habits can have a bit impact on your credit score. Start by signing up for Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card to get personalized advice for your unique credit situation.

Sign up for the Free Credit Report Card.

The post Tips for Building Your Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Why It’s Harder to Get Credit When You’re Self-Employed

Around 6.1% of employed Americans worked for themselves in 2019, yet the ranks of the self-employed might increase among certain professions more than others. By 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that self-employment will rise by nearly 8%. 

Some self-employed professionals experience high pay in addition to increased flexibility. Dentists, for example, are commonly self-employed, yet they earned a median annual wage of $159,200 in 2019. Conversely, appraisers and assessors of real estate, another career where self-employment is common, earned a median annual wage of $57,010 in 2019.

Despite high pay and job security in some industries, there’s one area where self-employed workers can struggle — qualifying for credit. When you work for yourself, you might have to jump through additional hoops and provide a longer work history to get approved for a mortgage, take out a car loan, or qualify for another line of credit you need.

Why Being Self-Employed Matters to Creditors

Here’s the good news: Being self-employed doesn’t directly affect your credit score. Some lenders, however, might be leery about extending credit to self-employed applicants, particularly if you’ve been self-employed for a short time. 

When applying for a mortgage or another type of loan, lenders consider the following criteria:

  • Your income
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Credit score
  • Assets
  • Employment status

Generally speaking, lenders will confirm your income by looking at pay stubs and tax returns you submit. They can check your credit score with the credit bureaus by placing a hard inquiry on your credit report, and can confirm your debt-to-income ratio by comparing your income to the debt you currently owe. Lenders can also check to see what assets you have, either by receiving copies of your bank statements or other proof of assets. 

The final factor — your employment status — can be more difficult for lenders to gauge if you’re self-employed, and managing multiple clients or jobs. After all, bringing in unpredictable streams of income from multiple sources is considerably different than earning a single paycheck from one employer who pays you a salary or a set hourly rate. If your income fluctuates or your self-employment income is seasonal, this might be considered less stable and slightly risky for lenders.

That said, being honest about your employment and other information when you apply for a loan will work out better for you overall. Most lenders will ask the status of your employment in your loan application; however, your self-employed status could already be listed with the credit bureaus. Either way, being dishonest on a credit application is a surefire way to make sure you’re denied.

Extra Steps to Get Approved for Self-Employed Workers

When you apply for a mortgage and you’re self-employed, you typically have to provide more proof of a reliable income source than the average person. Lenders are looking for proof of income stability, the location and nature of your work, the strength of your business, and the long-term viability of your business. 

To prove your self-employed status won’t hurt your ability to repay your loan, you’ll have to supply the following additional information: 

  • Two years of personal tax returns
  • Two years of business tax returns
  • Documentation of your self-employed status, including a client list if asked
  • Documentation of your business status, including business insurance or a business license

Applying for another line of credit, like a credit card or a car loan, is considerably less intensive than applying for a mortgage — this is true whether you’re self-employed or not. 

Most other types of credit require you to fill out a loan application that includes your personal information, your Social Security number, information on other debt you have like a housing payment, and details on your employment status. If your credit score and income is high enough, you might get approved for other types of credit without jumping through any additional hoops.

10 Ways the Self-Employed Can Get Credit

If you work for yourself and want to make sure you qualify for the credit you need, there are plenty of steps you can take to set yourself up for success. Consider making the following moves right away.

1. Know Where Your Credit Stands

You can’t work on your credit if you don’t even know where you stand. To start the process, you should absolutely check your credit score to see whether it needs work. Fortunately, there are a few ways to check your FICO credit score online and for free

2. Apply With a Cosigner

If your credit score or income are insufficient to qualify for credit on your own, you can also apply for a loan with a cosigner. With a cosigner, you get the benefit of relying on their strong credit score and positive credit history to boost your chances of approval. If you choose this option, however, keep in mind that your cosigner is jointly responsible for repaying the loan, if you default. 

3. Go Straight to Your Local Bank or Credit Union

If you have a long-standing relationship with a credit union or a local bank, it already has a general understanding of how you manage money. With this trust established, it might be willing to extend you a line of credit when other lenders won’t. 

This is especially true if you’ve had a deposit account relationship with the institution for several years at minimum. Either way, it’s always a good idea to check with your existing bank or credit union when applying for a mortgage, a car loan, or another line of credit. 

4. Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important factor lenders consider when you apply for a mortgage or another type of loan. This factor represents the amount of debt you have compared to your income, and it’s represented as a percentage.

If you have a gross income of $6,000 per month and you have fixed expenses of $3,000 per month, for example, then your DTI ratio is 50%.

A DTI ratio that’s too high might make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage or another line of credit when you’re self-employed. For mortgage qualifications, most lenders prefer to loan money to consumers with a DTI ratio of 43% or lower. 

5. Check Your Credit Report for Errors

To keep your credit in the best shape possible, check your credit reports, regularly. You can request your credit reports from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months, for free, at AnnualCreditReport.com

If you find errors on your credit report, take steps to dispute them right away. Correcting errors on your report can give your score the noticeable boost it needs. 

6. Wait Until You’ve Built Self-Employed Income

You typically need two years of tax returns as a self-employed person to qualify for a mortgage, and you might not be able to qualify at all until you reach this threshold. For other types of credit, it can definitely help to wait until you’ve earned self-employment income for at least six months before you apply. 

7. Separate Business and Personal Funds

Keeping personal and business funds separate is helpful when filing your taxes, but it can also help you lessen your liability for certain debt. 

For example, let’s say that you have a large amount of personal debt. If your business is structured as a corporation or LLC and you need a business loan, separating your business funds from your personal funds might make your loan application look more favorable to lenders.

As a separate issue, start building your business credit score, which is separate from your personal credit score, early on. Setting up business bank accounts and signing up for a business credit card can help you manage both buckets of your money, separately. 

8. Grow Your Savings Fund

Having more liquid assets is a good sign from a lender’s perspective, so strive to build up your savings account and your investments. For example, open a high-yield savings account and save three to six months of expenses as an emergency fund. 

You can also open a brokerage account and start investing on a regular basis. Either strategy will help you build up your assets, which shows lenders you have a better chance of repaying your loan despite an irregular income. 

9. Provide a Larger Down Payment

Some lenders have tightened up mortgage qualification requirements, and some are even requiring a 20% down payment for home loans. You’ll also have a better chance to secure an auto loan with the best rates and terms with more money down, especially for new cars that depreciate rapidly.

Aim for 20% down on a home or a car that you’re buying. As a bonus, having a 20% down payment for your home purchase helps you avoid paying private mortgage insurance.

10. Get a Secured Loan or Credit Card

Don’t forget the steps you can take to build credit now, if your credit profile is thin or you’ve made mistakes in the past. One way to do this is applying for a secured credit card or a secured loan, both of which require collateral for you to get started.

The point of a secured credit card or loan is getting the chance to build your credit score and prove your creditworthiness as a self-employed worker, when you can’t get approved for unsecured credit. After making sufficient on-time payments toward the secured card or loan, your credit score will increase, you can upgrade to an unsecured alternative and get your deposit or collateral back.

The Bottom Line

If you’re self-employed and worried that your work status will hurt your chances at qualifying for credit, you shouldn’t be. Instead, focus your time and energy on creating a reliable self-employment income stream and building your credit score.

Once your business is established and you’ve been self-employed for several years, your work status won’t matter as heavily. Keep your income high, your DTI low, and a positive credit record, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved for credit. 

The post Why It’s Harder to Get Credit When You’re Self-Employed appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to Use Your Shopping Addiction to Build Credit

If you love to shop, you can use your fashion sense to build or even rebuild your credit.

Store-branded credit cards are some of the easiest cards to qualify for and are often extended to those who have bad credit because they have lower criteria than traditional credit cards. Using them, especially if you’re loyal to a particular store, can bring card rewards, discounts and, if you pay your balance off every month, better credit.

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Immediate Savings

In most cases, when you apply for a card, the retailer will offer a discount on that day’s purchase. Sometimes the discount will be extended to purchases made within a short time frame (24 hours, for example), as an incentive to spend more. The risk is that instead of saving money, you end up spending more than planned, so it’s wise to be wary.

Watch Your Credit Scores

When you open your new credit card, you may see a dip in your credit scores for two reasons: one, the inquiry created when the issuer checks your credit score, which may cause your scores to drop, though usually not more than a few points. Second, a new account with a balance is often seen as a risk factor. As long as you pay on time and keep your balances below 30% of your credit line, or ideally 10%, you could eventually see a slight rise because you’ll have a positive new credit reference, which is beneficial if you are trying to build or rebuild credit.

As you use your new card, you can track how your usage and payments are affecting your credit by signing up for Credit.com’s free credit report summary. In addition to getting two free credit scores, you’ll get your own credit report card that shows how you’re doing in five key areas on your credit report that also determine your credit score — payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix and inquiries.

Know the APR

Interest rates for department store credit cards are almost always high, often between 19% and 22%, or more. If you carry a balance, the interest you pay will likely exceed the amount you saved with the discount. This means carrying a balance could hamper your goals, especially if you fail to make on-time payments.

Given store credit cards’ high APRs, you won’t want to go on a shopping spree with them, nor will you want to put more purchases on the card than your budget can handle. (For tips on cutting back without feeling deprived, you can go here.) That said, making a couple of small purchases a month, say, on home essentials or groceries, and paying them off quickly (and on time) will likely beef up your credit.

Before You Apply 

Before you fill out an application, you’ll want to know where your credit stands so you have a good sense of what type of card you might qualify for. Knowing your score will also inform your decision to apply for a card in general, as inquiries on your credit report can cause your score to take an unnecessary hit.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

  • The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

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The post How to Use Your Shopping Addiction to Build Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com