by Kailey Hagen | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Sept. 30, 2019
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Your credit score affects your finances in ways you don't even realize.
You probably know that a good credit score is important, and you might also know that your credit score affects how likely you are to be approved for a loan or credit card, but that's not all it does. A good or excellent credit score -- typically a score of 670 or above -- can net you a number of other benefits that those with fair or poor credit don't have access to. Here are five of them.
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Your credit score doesn't just determine how likely you are to be approved for a credit card or loan. It also determines the interest rate you get when you are approved. Applicants with excellent credit will receive the lowest interest rates while those with fair or poor credit will have a higher interest rate, to reflect the increased risk in lending money to them.
A lower interest rate could add up to thousands of dollars saved, depending on how much you borrow and how long the loan term is. Consider a $10,000 personal loan with a five-year repayment term. The loan might have a 10% APR if you have excellent credit, in which case, you'll end up paying about $12,750 overall. But if you only have fair credit, the same loan could carry a 20% APR and then it would cost you $15,900 in the end.
Premium credit cards are typically travel rewards credit cards that carry high annual fees, but they also offer lucrative rewards, including annual travel credits, lounge access, and high credit limits. Card issuers have more stringent qualification requirements for these cards because they don't want people signing up for the card, taking advantage of the nice travel rewards, and then not paying their bill.
While credit card issuers almost never list the minimum credit score required to be approved for a card, it's a safe bet that you'll need good or excellent credit to be approved for one of these cards.
While you don't need a loan to secure an apartment, many landlords still run a credit check before accepting potential renters and if you have a poor credit history they may refuse to work with you, or require a higher security deposit, or a cosigner. But if you keep your credit score high, landlords will feel more confident in your ability to pay the rent every month and you'll be more likely to get the apartment of your choice.
Your credit score is essentially a measure of risk, and do you know who loves to assess risk? Insurance companies. Some auto insurers take a peek at your credit score when calculating your premiums, stating that credit score is an indicator of how likely a person is to file an auto insurance claim. While insurers aren't allowed to turn you away because of a bad credit score, they can charge you more money. Keeping your credit score high will help you avoid this penalty.
Yes, even your cell phone provider looks at your credit score to see if you qualify for its promotional deals. Those with poor credit may not make the grade and may have to make a larger down payment when purchasing a new phone. Like lenders, cell phone providers want to make sure you aren't just going to run up a bill and then fail to pay. If they weren't so discriminating, they wouldn't stay in business for very long.
So a high credit score can help you save money and make it easier to secure credit and services you use often, but how do you get a high credit score if you don't already have one? The first step is to pull your credit reports and see where you're at. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report per bureau per year through AnnualCreditReport.com. Check these over and make sure everything appears accurate. Notify the credit bureaus and any associated financial institutions if you see anything that looks like a mistake or could be fraudulent activity.
Next, work on practicing good financial habits. Your payment history is the most important factor in your credit score, so always pay your bills on time and set reminders if you need help remembering. You should also minimize how much you charge to your credit cards, as this impacts your credit utilization ratio. This ratio looks at how much credit you use versus how much you have access to, and a ratio above 30% is said to indicate a heavy reliance on credit and someone living beyond their means.
Don't apply for new credit too often or for services where the provider will run a credit check, like the ones mentioned above. The lender or service provider could do a hard credit check on your report, which will drop your credit score by a few points. Credit scoring models account for normal credit shopping behavior, so if you are applying for a new loan or line of credit, try to submit all of your applications within 30 days of each other. That way they'll only be counted as a single hard credit check.
If you can't get any type of credit at all, try opening up a secured credit card or get someone to allow you to be an authorized user on their credit card. You could also ask your current landlord, if you have one, to report your monthly payments to the credit bureaus to help your score.
In the end, it all comes down to patience and diligence. Your credit score is meant to provide a long-term view of how you've managed your money, and only consistently good habits can get you an excellent score.
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