If you’re like us, you’ve been in that situation when someone asks if you have any questions, that you bite your tongue, despite the burning desire to ask, because you feel as if it’ll sound like a “stupid question.” A topic that also seems to create questions that sound like we should already have all the answers to is in regards to our credit. Especially when starting out on the journey from money novice to credit connoisseur, there are lots of terms and concepts introduced that you feel you should already have the answer to. Fear not, friends! We are here to tell you 2 things:
1. There is no such thing as a stupid credit question.
2. Here are 6 common credit card inquiries that might help you get some answers you really want but aren’t comfortable asking for.
Allow us to be your credit question information center and provide the information you need, no questions asked!
1. Should I Have a Credit Card?
While you don’t have to be an expert at personal finance, a credit card is definitely something you should consider, if you can be a savvy spender. Credit cards are a great way to:
•Establish a line of credit: With so much of life depending on our credit reports, credit worthiness and credit score, it’s important to begin a positive line of credit and get “on the grid” early. Credit cards are an easy way to do this properly if you can be a credit connoisseur.
•Build your credit score: By being a savvy spender with credit cards, you can utilize them to build and maintain a great credit score. This makes you a great candidate for the loans you’ll need for major life purchases, and help to qualify you for even better credit cards and rewards.
•Get rewards: Spending with credit cards versus a debit card allows for you to accumulate rewards on certain purchases. Rewards can vary from cash back to airfare to hotel rewards, and depends on each individual credit card company.
•Be protected from fraud: Credit cards provide you amazing protection from fraud or identity theft, as The Fair Credit Billing Act states you can only be fiscally responsible for up to $50 when your credit card is lost or stolen. In some cases, if you report the incident before any fraudulent charges are made, you are not held responsible for any expense incurred.
With a debit card, who knows how long it can take before you can get your money out of the ATM again (assuming the bank rules in your favor that the incident was fraud). With credit cards, simply make a phone call and be back on your way to safe shopping quickly!
•Assist in purchasing large financed items: Credit cards are a smart way to lighten the burden of major purchases, such as appliances. Taking advantage of things like 0% APR introductory rates allow you to pay off large purchases without the extra expense of interest, helping you stay on track for paying in full and boosting your credit score.
2. How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
There is a common misconception with credit cards that more is not merrier and multiple credit cards hurt your credit score. Quite the contrary. If you can be disciplined with spending and ensure that you can pay you bill in full and on time each billing cycle, the more credit cards you have can mean the greater the boost to your credit score.
Here’s how it works: there is something associated with your, shall we say “credit identity”, in addition to your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio is actually an element considered when you run your credit report. It refers to the ratio of available credit at your disposal to your current credit balance.
If you have two credit cards and each carry a $5,000 limit for a total credit line of $10,000. Let’s say that you owe a total of $1,000 on one card and $2,000 for the other card for a total of $3,000. Your credit utilization ratio would be $3,000 divided by $10,000 for a total of 30%. Now, if for the same two cards your balance owed was $1,500, your new credit utilization ration would be 15%.
The only difference between the two credit utilization ratio described previously is the balance owed. By keeping your balance low and paying your bill in full and on time, you can boost your credit with more cards instead of damage it. The lower your credit utilization ratio consistently stays, the more you prove your creditworthiness. It is recommended that you want to keep your credit utilization ratio at 30% or below.
Don’t go too crazy with too many credit cards! Only get as many as you can handle and know that you can keep the balance low for ALL cards.
3. Do I Need to Pay my Bill in Full?
Need? No. Should? Absolutely. Unless dire circumstances prevent you from otherwise paying in full, always pay off your balance each billing cycle. Paying in full prevents you from costly interest rates charged to you based on the remaining balance due. You can also lose the option for payment grace periods by only making minimum payments.
Don’t nickel and dime when it comes to making your credit card payments. If you can pay in full, always choose that option versus minimum payments. Saving a little now might cost you more later on.
Not paying your bill in full and carry a balance is also detrimental to your credit score. By paying in full consistently over time, your credit report will reflect your reliable payment history which improves your creditworthiness in the eyes of lenders; this is a critical factor when being considered for a major loan, such as a mortgage.
Missing payments is just as bad as not paying in full. Poor payment history can show up on your credit report for up to 7 years. Reckless spending is not worth having something affecting your credit for such a long time into the future, especially when trying to make steps to be a money master.
4. What is a Credit Score, Anyway?
We hear the term constantly, but lots of us don’t quite know what a credit score is (besides it being something important to our financial future). A credit score is a way to numerically quantify your creditworthiness and therefore your ability to repay your loans and debts to creditors.
You are probably most familiar with hearing the term “FICO score“. FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, the corporation responsible for creating the measuring standard for this credit score. FICO is used by approximately 90% of lenders when determining creditworthiness of a potential loan candidate.
The score itself is a number that will range between 300-850 to provide a measure for how risky it would be to provide you with a loan. The higher the number, the better. There is no set standard for the cutoff for a good versus bad credit score, as all lenders are different and will consider different ranges based on the applicant. However, if your score is over 700, you’re definitely heading the in the right direction.
The best way to stay up to date and control the future of your credit score is to be familiar with your credit report. Frequently checking not only lets you know what your financial face to the lending world is but can also help you stay on track with smart spending by making you aware and accountable.
5. Do Credit Cards Help or Hurt my Credit Score?
The major factor in whether credit cards help or hurt your credit score is YOU. Your spending habits with your credit cards will be the determining factor whether or not you will improve your credit score or tarnish your credit report.
Lock down your spending habits by whatever method works best for you. Some people like a literal and direct approach…
Credit cards will help you credit score if you can consistently pay your bill on time and in full. You can also master your credit utilization ratio to boost your credit score.
Credit cards will hurt your credit score if you use them too liberally and make purchases beyond your means. If you have multiple credit cards you can only make minimum payments on, if at all, you are doing nothing but damage to your credit and need to take some steps to regaining your status as a credit connoisseur.
6. How Often Should I Check My Credit Report?
It is important to be familiar with your credit report to monitor your credit identity for multiple reasons. Besides holding your spending habits accountable and seeing how your credit score is holding up, checking your credit report allows you to keep an eye out for any discrepancies that could be damaging to you. This could be anything from improper personal information to fraudulent charges. By not being current and aware of what is contained in your credit report, you leave yourself open to long-term damage to your credit score that could just be a mistake (these mistakes do happen, so keep an eye out!)
Keeping your mind on your money and your money on your mind is the best way to maintain successful spending habits and be on top of your credit game.
Lots of people think that they can’t check their credit score as often as they would like because it will damage their credit score. That is not truly the case. There are two types of ways to pull a credit report: a hard inquiry and a soft inquiry. A hard inquiry comes from a financial institution preparing to qualify you for a loan and test your creditworthiness. A soft inquiry is when you yourself, or a potential employer running a background check, check your credit report. Soft inquiries will not affect your credit score, meaning you can check your credit report as much as you would like. Some banks will even include credit score in your monthly statement. Just remember to stay involved with your credit report as much as possible to set yourself on the path to credit success!
Equipped with your new credit knowledge, you are ready to get started on utilizing this great advice to your advantage! Start off by knowing your credit identity and get your credit score now!