Recent changes in the information appearing on your credit report may give your score an added boost. It’s estimated that 12 million consumers can expect a 10- to 20-point gain once information on tax liens and civil judgements is removed by the three credit reporting bureaus. While modest, those gains could help mortgage borrowers with scores hovering near 610 or so earn a loan approval. For those with higher scores, it could mean access to a slightly better interest rate on their loan.
Why the Change Occurred
Credit scores are like a big cauldron filled with the factors of your financial life. They reflect your past use of credit as much as your lack of history and your timeliness in making payments. They are also an accounting of your current and previous debt levels. Until recently, any tax liens that you might have had, court judgements and unpaid medical expenses were also included in this financial stew.
Going forward, reports of those tax liens and court judgements will disappear from your record, and medical expenses will also be removed at a later date. Although you still owe the amounts, they will no longer be reported due to widespread inaccuracy in the outstanding balances and personal information. Often, information related to judgements and liens not only appeared with incomplete information, it was posted to the wrong records.
5 Tips for Improving and Maintaining Your Credit Score
Whether or not you are impacted by the changes, there are still many other ways to improve your credit score. Here are five of the best moves you can make.
Tip #1: Have credit outstanding. Even if you pay your credit card bills off each month, using your cards is a positive for scoring purposes.
Tip #2: Keep your utilization rate low. It’s actually better to have multiple credit cards with balances well below the maximum for each account than it is to use one card in a way that brings you close to its limit monthly. For instance, your utilization rate is better if you charge $300 to two cards, each having $1,000 ceilings than if you charge $600 to one card with a $1,000 limit.
Tip #3: Refrain from closing accounts. This is especially advisable when you intend to apply for a loan. Closing accounts increases your utilization rate over all your credit accounts. One of our clients recently closed all his accounts, deciding to go to an all-cash payment method. His score dropped from 812 to 708!
#4: Make timely payments. It isn’t about how much credit you have but how well you handle it. Lenders look at your score for reassurance that you will repay them and view late payments as a red flag that may signal financial issues.
#5: Check for accuracy. While the recent changes were made to improve the accuracy of credit records by removing the items most likely to contain errors, accuracy is not a given. This is especially important in light of recent cyberattacks that may have compromised personal credit information. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com at least once a year to review your records.*
There Isn’t Just One Score
While you can review and exert control over your credit record, different lenders use different scoring systems to interpret it. For instance, a residential mortgage report will look at and score your credit history differently than a retailer will. Similarly, different mortgage programs have different minimum scoring requirements.
To discuss your credit history and score, as well as how it might affect your chances for a loan approval, give us a call at 815.361.6469. One of our residential lenders would be happy to walk you through the different mortgage programs available to you and any additional steps you might want to take to help get you through the door of home ownership sooner.
*With the recent announcement of a cyberattack on consumer data housed at Equifax, you should visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if your information was compromised. If it was, you will have the option of enrolling in a year of credit-report monitoring.