Credit card companies and lenders rely on credit scores, which determine someone's ability to pay debt completely and in the required time. Scores range from 200 to above 800. Scores below 620 are considered risky; 720 and over are excellent.
There are five categories of scoring: payment history (35%); amount owed (30%); length of credit history (15%); new credit (10%); and types of credit (10%). Lenders receive your score and "reason codes" which are the keys to improving your score.
Check your own score yearly by ordering reports from the three major credit scoring companies: Equifax (www.equifax.com), Experian (www.experian.com), and TransUnion (www.tuc.com).
Notify the credit bureau of inaccuracies, along with copies of documents that dispute incorrect entries. Close accounts not in use. Request that late payments older than seven years be removed. Verify and update accounts and account numbers. Verify your address and Social Security number.
To improve your score:
• Pay your bills on time.
• Reduce outstanding debt.
• Build up your savings.
• Don't fall for illegal schemes that help create a new credit identity.
Good credit is important to help secure a loan to buy a home and to obtain the best interest rate possible.