Whether you’re applying for a loan or an apartment, at some point, the state of your credit will likely matter. Before entering into a monetary arrangement with a customer, a lot of businesses and business owners will check your credit.
As important as your credit is, a lot of people know very little about credit and how it works. That’s why we’re going to break down a few of the most common questions regarding credit, credit scores, and why they’re checked.
What is a Credit Score?
Your credit score is an average score based on your credit history. This credit score is affected by several factors, the biggest of which is your payment history. Your payment history is basically a record of your payments that takes into account whether or not they were made on time.
What is a Credit Check?
Simply put, a credit check is a report to understand your financial behavior. It can show if you paid back your credit on time, how much credit you currently have and how well you are managing it.
A company doesn’t need your consent to do this, but they must have a legitimate reason for looking it up.
Who Can Check My Credit?
Anyone from banks, credit providers to landlords, and even employers can run a credit check. However, to do so they’ll need the right information. To check someone’s credit you’ll need their social security number, address, and employment information.
This is why landlords will often ask for this type of information on the rental application.
Why Do Landlords Run Credit Checks?
When it comes to renting to a potential tenant, landlords want to make sure the applicant is dependable. Late payments and broken leases can be a real inconvenience for landlords, so they typically avoid situations like as much as they can by choosing less “risky” tenants.
To avoid entering into a contract with someone that regularly submits late payments, Landlords will often run a credit check. While your credit is mostly determined by your payment habits, several other factors can affect your credit score.
What’s Included in a Credit Check?
A lot more than your credit history goes into a credit check. In addition to credit-related payments, a credit check will provide your potential landlord with a history of your finances, criminal convictions, and lawsuits.
A credit check will provide your potential landlord with information regarding your financial stability. They can check your employment status as well as your income during the screening process.
A credit check will also provide landlords with information regarding their applicant’s debt. However, debt doesn’t usually play as big a part in the landlord’s final decision. Typically, they’re more interested in your income and your credit.
What Do Landlords Look For in a Credit Check?
Different landlords have different standards when it comes to who they’ll sign a lease with. In some cases, landlords won’t even run credit checks, although most choose to do so.
Landlords have the right to refuse an application due to criminal convictions. However, according to the law, they aren’t supposed to let an arrest affect their decision unless that arrest was followed by a conviction.
When it comes to a credit check, the two biggest factors for a landlord are your income and your credit history. Landlords typically want to make sure you make enough money to pay them.
Furthermore, they want to make sure you have a habit of paying your bills on time.
What Are Some Dealbreakers for Landlords?
Again, different landlords have different standards when it comes to what they would consider a dealbreaker.
Most landlords want to rent to tenants that have a credit score of 620 or higher. A credit score lower than 620 might be a dealbreaker for some landlords. Similarly, past evictions are another red flag that landlords will often take into consideration.
A credit check doesn’t provide your landlord with information regarding past evictions. However, they can find out about evictions through other means. While a single eviction might not be a dealbreaker for a landlord, it’s still a red flag that will likely affect their decision.
Another potential dealbreaker for landlords is the applicant’s income. Your potential landlord wants to make sure that your income is substantial enough to cover the cost of your rent.
How Do I Check My Credit Score?
Checking your credit is particularly easy. All you’ll need is your social security number, address, and employment information. However, you should be very careful when it comes to giving your social security number.
Be sure to only check your credit score with trusted platforms.
One of the most commonly used and trusted credit check sites is Experian. To check your credit, just click the link! It’ll redirect you to Experian’s online credit check.
A Good Credit Score is the Key to Financial Freedom
At the end of the day, having good credit mostly comes down to paying your bills and rent on time. There are a few other ways to increase your credit score. However, as long as you live within your means and spend responsibly, your credit score will usually be okay.
If you’re worried about what a potential landlord might find on your credit report, look first. You’re entitled to a free annual credit report. Plus, there are several ways to check your credit for free online.
You can’t control how a landlord or property manager might interpret your credit report, but if you know what’s on it, you’ll be more prepared to answer any questions they might have.
Having your credit limit reduced is common and can even happen if you’ve been good with credit and made all your payments on time. When a creditor lowers your credit limit, it can negatively impact your credit score. However, you need to know that there are things you can do – by yourself and with the help of a credit repair company – when this happens to minimize the damage to your credit and to fix the problem
Why Would a Credit Limit be Reduced?
So, you received a message from your credit card company notifying you that your credit limit has been lowered. It happens all the time, and while it’s frustrating because it limits your purchasing power and harms your credit score, you don’t have to sit around and accept it.
Why Would a Bank Lower Your Credit Limit Anyway?
During times of financial crisis or recession, banks may evaluate outstanding risk, which is often unused credit. To minimize the risk to banks in uncertain economic times, the bank may choose to slash your credit limit in the event you decide to use your card more and wind up not being able to pay because of financial circumstances.
It’s important to remember that credit limits aren’t a right, nor are they guaranteed; a bank can reduce your credit limit at any time, and they don’t need to give you a reason. You did read the fine print when you signed up for your card, didn’t you?
Also keep in mind that the reduction of credit limits is usually made by an algorithm rather than a human being sitting down and assessing your financial health, payment history, and credit.
Another reason a bank or credit card company might lower your limit is because of ‘low usage.’ If you have a limit of $20,000 and you’re not using a fraction of that, the bank may alter your limit to reflect your usage pattern.
Does it Matter if Your Limit Is Lowered?
In a word: Yes.
When a bank lowers your credit limit, it immediately affects your buying power and the amount you’re allowed to borrow. Also, a reduced credit limit can affect your credit score by increasing your overall credit utilization. For example, let’s say you had a limit of $20,000 and only had a balance of $5,000.
You’re only using a quarter of your credit, which looks good on your credit report. However, if the bank suddenly slashes your credit limit to $10,000, now you’re at the half, which looks terrible and reflects poorly on your credit score.
Credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your credit score, so it’s easy to see how a lowered credit limit can reduce your score.
Now, it’s important to remember that while a bank can reduce your credit limit for any reason, what they can’t do is cut it and then hit you with an over-the-limit fee if you’re currently above your new limit. The bank is required by law to give you at least 45 days from the time they notify you about your lowered threshold before assessing any fees.
What to do if Your Limit is Lowered
Most people assume there’s nothing they can do when they get notified that their credit limit has been lowered, but that’s not the case. The first thing you can do is to contact your creditor and ask to speak to a representative.
Most times the limit was lowered by a computer algorithm rather than a person, so talking to a live rep is an excellent way to get answers as to why this happened, whether it was an error, and if your old limit can be restored.
To be polite when you call, and it never hurts to mention how long you’ve been a customer and never missed a payment if that’s the case.
If you’re new lowered limit has put your credit utilization in a bind, consider transferring the balance to a card with a higher limit. If you’ve been in the market for a new card, now is the time to go on the hunt to find one with zero percent interest for balance transfers.
Just keep in mind that opening new lines of credit can cause your credit score to take a hit too.
What you don’t want to do is to close out your old card to spite the bank because if you have a long credit history there, that’s going to reflect negatively on your credit score if you wipe out years of on-time payments. Also, closing out that account lowers the available credit you have to work with, so transfer the balance, and suck it up.
If you maintain good relations with that bank and continue to make on-time payments, there’s a good chance you can get your limit raised in the future if needed.
It’s also essential you monitor your credit reports when a limit gets lowered to see what kind of a hit you take. If your score does drop, you can take the necessary steps to build your credit score back up such as using your card for small purchases like Netflix or coffee and paying it off every month to keep the account active and in good standing.
Finally, paying off your balance quickly on the card that got hit with the lower limit goes a long way to bringing down your credit utilization and pointing your credit score in the right direction.
Having your credit limit lowered isn’t a reflection on you or your credit, so don’t it personally. These things happen to everyone; you have to be smart about how to handle it and roll with it until you can get yourself straightened around.
Make your payments on time and pay down your balances to ensure your credit score moves up. And keep in good standing with your bank that lowered your rating in the hopes it can be restored in the future.
Stated by The Phenix Group, one of the main reasons that people are reluctant to file for bankruptcy even when they are drowning in debt is that bankruptcy negatively impacts one’s credit score. Depending on the type of bankruptcy on file, the filer can expect a total score drop of 160 to 220 points.
Even if you had good credit to start with, this is a significant drop and one that will probably discourage all creditors from issuing loans or giving out credit cards.
Still, the reason that many people ultimately do file is that they simply have no way out of their situations and they come to realize that letting debts age and pile up is ultimately harsher on your credit score than waving the white flag and admitting that they have no solvency.
Why Bankruptcy May Be Better Than Waiting It Out
Hopefully, you are not on the brink of bankruptcy, but you may be wondering what benefit there would be to filing bankruptcy as opposed to just letting your debts go unchecked. First of all, it is essential to know precisely what filing for bankruptcy does. Depending on the kind of bankruptcy you are filing, doing so effectively lets you off the hook legally for any outstanding debt that you have.
This means that creditors no longer have the option of taking you to court to collect on delinquent debts. That may sound enticing but keep in mind that bankruptcy can murder your credit score.
So is bankruptcy better than just waiting it out? That depends. Most states impose a statute of limitations on debt, which means that a creditor only has a certain amount of time to sue a person for failing to pay a debt.
In some states, the statute of limitations expires after 4 years so whether or not it would be better to roll the dice and pray that you can be delinquent long enough without your creditor suing will depend on the state you live in.
It will also depend on your age, marital status, and income. A creditor will be less inclined to act before the statute of limitations expires and actually sue you if you are a senior citizen living on a fixed income. But let’s say you are in your 30’s, have a job and don’t have a spouse and have not started a family. Then you are a juicy target for litigation because not only will you have the time to pay off your debt as mandated by a judge, but you have a job and source of reliable income.
In this case, it would probably be preferable to file for bankruptcy than taking a huge risk that a creditor won’t sue you while they have the opportunity.
Differing Kinds of Bankruptcy
By far, the two most common types of bankruptcies filed in the US are chapter 7 and chapter 13. To put it in simple terms the main difference between these two is that chapter 7 is a relinquishing of all debts legally and chapter 13 is more like a legal payment plan that is decided in the courts.
7 will automatically relieve you of debt and 13 will adjust the way that you must pay your debt. But, as always, there are caveats.
A Breakdown of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
To be eligible to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that you do not have the income to pay off your debts feasibly. Chapter 7 gets you off the hook legally for having to pay back your debts, but it can be excruciating and not just because it lowers your credit scores. The court will decide which of your assets are nonexempt, and any nonexempt assets or properties will be appropriated and sold to help pay off your debts.
You can keep any property or asset that the court deems exempt.
So it is conceivable that a court will deem a debtors home as nonexempt property if for example there is high equity on the home. In this case, the debtor’s home will be taken and sold. Any remaining debt that cannot be paid off by liquidating nonexempt assets will be transferred from the filer of chapter 7 and committed to a court-appointed trustee.
A Breakdown of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows the debtor to settle on a payment plan with their creditors. Unlike chapter 7, chapter 13 does not get the debtor off the hook for paying back debts. Instead, it allows the debtor to work out a payment plan over 3 or 5 years, depending on the situation. The payments then go to a trustee who doles it out to creditors, and the debtor has no more direct contact with entities they owe money to.
Chapter 13 will also halt foreclosure proceedings, which allows the debtor to keep their home and nonexempt assets.
How Long Do Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Stay on Your Credit Report?
Another critical distinction between chapter 7 and chapter 13 is how long they affect your credit score. The law stipulates that any bankruptcy will not stay on the debtor’s record for more than ten years. In the case of chapter 13, however, the motion will only be on your credit report for 7 years.
Chapter 7’s usually stay on your record for 10 years since the situation is often direr and the individual is basically saying they have no way of paying back the debts.
You don’t have to do anything to get these marks off your record as they are required by law to be dropped off after 7 or ten years. There are also ways that you can start to rebuild your credit in the 7 or 10-year span that the filing stays on your record. While bankruptcy is a very serious situation and can ravage your credit, all hope is not lost. With time and responsibility, you can come out of it better and more successful.
Have you ever heard of the expression, “No credit is worse than bad credit?” Like most people, you’ve probably thought the complete opposite. After all, isn’t it better to have no credit at all than to walk around flaunting a lousy credit score? However, this rationale is just not true.
Yes, it’s true that possessing poor credit can severely damage your financial standing, but if you are ever seeking a loan to purchase a car or new home, lenders will want you to demonstrate that you have a solid credit history.
If you’re wondering how you begin to build your credit and what measures you need to take to get there, you’ve come to the right place. Many people avoid building a credit history altogether, worried about falling into the pitfalls of being brandished with a bad credit score.
The good news is, there’s plenty of positive actions you can take to move your credit standing in the right direction.
Examine How You Got Here
For starters, it’s best to gain a strong understanding of why you don’t possess a credit score to begin. For instance, maybe you just graduated high school or college and haven’t had the opportunity to engage in credit-related activities. This can be attributed to the fact that you have yet to accumulate any student loan debt. Or perhaps, you never needed to apply for your own credit card.
Similarly, you may have just relocated to the States and therefore, have to build everything up from scratch. Whatever the case may be, not having any credit can work against you as you navigate through your life and career. It’s time to start working on eradicating this.
So, what should you do to build up your credit?
Get a Credit Card
The most comfortable place to start is to obtain a secured credit card. A credit card may seem like a frightening item to possess because of all the stories floating around about people submerged in credit card debt, which can quickly cause your credit score to plummet. However, owning a credit card means exercising financial responsibility.
The critical thing to remember is if you’re going to make non-essential purchases, like grabbing yourself a shiny new flat-screen TV, and you don’t actually have the means to pay for it, then you are putting yourself at risk for falling into credit card debt. Instead, you want to leverage your credit card for things you usually budget for, like groceries or gas, to ensure you never miss a payment.
Unsure of what type of credit card to get? First, you’ll want to look for a credit card that doesn’t carry any annual fees, as this additional expense could be more than you can afford. Another thing to consider is applying for a credit card at a store you typically frequent, like TJ Maxx. A majority of major retailers offer credit cards, and it’s a great place to start if you know you purchase goods from one particular place consistently.
Using credit cards for gas is also a smart investment. Say every time you go to the gas station, you usually hand the cashier a twenty-dollar bill. If you use a credit card instead and immediately pay off the money you used for fuel, it’ll help you begin building your credit and help boost your score in a positive direction.
It’s imperative to keep in mind that if you’ve given yourself a $500 spending limit, that you adhere to that maximum. Otherwise, you will find yourself overspending and unable to pay owed funds, which will quickly get you into trouble.
If you are just now starting, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of your parents. If they possess good credit, they will be able to co-sign for you. Having this work alongside your own application will help as well.
Another highly recommend tip to boost your credit is to lease a car. Now, you may have heard that owning a car is the way to go. Alternatively, you may have certain preconceived notions about leasing, but if you lease a car, it opens up a line of credit and allows you to demonstrate your ability to make monthly payments on time.
By doing so, it’ll have a direct impact on the strength of your credit score.
Make Payments on Time
If you are a student who had to take out a loan to get through college, you are not alone. Due to the cost of American education, many young adults are forced to apply for government assistance to afford to obtain their degree.
Although loan services do not require any payment while you are still pursuing your education, you’ll typically begin receiving monthly bills between six months and a year of graduating. Making steady payments to your student loan is essential for not only building a credit score but improving a poor credit score.
Try to pay more than the minimum balance on your bill each month. This will help you avoid racking up an astronomical amount of interest and paying back double what you originally borrowed from the loan institution.
Another tip for those looking to build their credit is to make utility bill payments on time. You probably see a trend here, but it’s important with all bills to ensure you pay them on time. Whether it’s your car, student loan, rent, or medical bills, anything that you neglect to pay or underpay will hurt your credit score.
Also, considering you are trying to build up your credit from scratch, you want to condition yourself to form good habits.
Don’t Stress, Learn as You Go
If all of this makes you a tad nervous, don’t be. You may feel like you are setting yourself up for failure, but that’s not the case. You do not need to worry about getting credit cards and putting yourself in debt. By making a plan and budgeting accordingly, you’ll ensure that your financial picture remains in a healthy state. If you get a credit card, recognize that you are going to use it only with money that you already have to pay for things.
What you don’t want to do is use your credit card responsibly on outrageously expensive items that you know you will not be able to pay off quickly. This will set you up on a bad path where you find yourself opening more credit cards just to be able to compensate for your everyday necessities. Then you will get to the point where your credit is so bad, that you won’t be able to apply for loans or mortgages.
What kind of effect can a student loan have on your credit score? Does this question pique your curiosity? You’re not alone. Many people often wonder how taking out a student loan will influence their credit standing. Will it boost their score? Hurt it? As with any loan or credit card, the healthiness of your financial picture will be contingent upon whether or not you make payments on time.
Also, student loans are subject to specific federal rules and regulations that can have an impact on your overall creditworthiness. Here’s a look at how student loans can affect your credit.
Loan Deferment and Forbearance
Contrary to popular belief, student loan deferment and forbearance will not hurt or negatively impact your credit. While it will be noted in your credit report, it will have no bearing on your score unless you miss or make late payments before receiving approval for your deferment request.
There are certain circumstances where deferment and forbearance can actually improve the likelihood of getting a loan, such as a mortgage, approved. For instance, if you can adequately demonstrate to your bank that you are (or will be) in forbearance, they will likely factor that into their decision-making process when examining if your discretionary income is enough to pay back borrowed funds.
When your student loan is reported to credit bureaus, they are treated as installment loans rather than revolving credit, which means you’re making a fixed number of payments. When it comes to your credit score, installment loans carry less weight than an item that’s classified as revolving credit, like a credit card.
By properly managing your student loan payments and credit card balances, reporting agencies like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax will use that as a strong indication that you are fiscally responsible. Debt management is an essential part of ensuring your credit score remains in good standing.
Building Credit History
The bulk of individuals who apply for a student loan are just entering college or grad school and have yet to build a strong credit history. Qualifying for a loan or new credit line can sometimes prove to be difficult when you are unable to demonstrate a strong credit history – especially if you’ve just graduated and have yet to gain employment. This is where a student loan can prove beneficial.
Federal student loans do not require you to have a long-standing credit history to qualify, and they’re a high starting point to begin building your credit.
Adding Credit Diversity
One of the criteria used to calculate your credit score is the types of credit you have and how diverse those credit sources are. By adding an installment loan, such as a student loan, to your repertoire, it can help improve your credit standing. As long as your making payments on time, the more types of credit you possess, the more significant impact it’ll have on boosting your credit score.
A Good Investment
When you are borrowing funds for a student loan, it’s seen as a good education investment in your future. In other words, you aren’t applying for a loan for a luxury vehicle or something extravagant that isn’t an essential need and could likely be purchased using a credit card. Because student loans are considered smart investments, it could be used in your favor if a bank is determining whether or not to approve a loan you’re requesting.
Let’s say your credit score is negatively impacted because your account is considered delinquent. If this happens during a time when you are awaiting deferment approval, federal student loan lenders usually correct the delinquency reporting automatically by properly backdating your deferment once it’s approved. You can encounter this issue for several reasons.
For example, maybe you are back in school, pursuing your degree, but accidentally dropped the ball on mailing in your deferment form. Because of this, your account transitioned into “past due” territory. This can quickly be eradicated by sending in your deferment form and backdating the paperwork date to when you originally qualified for the deferment.
Once this is processed, the lender should remove the negative report from your credit history and fix any similar issues that ensued as a result of the delinquency.
Past Due Reporting
It’s easy to start panicking when you realize you missed a student loan payment. There’s some good news. Most federal loan lenders have a 60-day policy in place where they will not report past due balances to credit bureaus before the 60-day mark. If it’s only been a few days or weeks, there’s no need to feel alarmed. There is a strong likelihood that it will not impact your credit score.
While it’s never good to miss a payment, if you have a clean track record of making payments on time, one slip up won’t blemish your credit standing.
Just make sure to remit payment to your lender as soon as you realize the payment was missed.
If your account has rightfully moved into delinquency, it will negatively affect your credit standing. However, if you focus your efforts on making your student loan account current, bringing it out of “past due” territory, it’ll help raise your credit score and help paint your credit history in a more positive light. There are options available for federal student loan borrowers with delinquent accounts, repayment assistance, to help bring your account current. And, once your account is current, you can see an increase in your credit score in as little as a few weeks.
Having a good understanding of your credit and how your student loan can impact your standing for the better or worse is extremely important. Maintaining a healthy credit score will play a critical role in things like your ability to procure loans and gain employment. Because of this, you need to take every step possible to take good care of your student loan.
Whether it’s on friendly terms or not, divorce is stressful, and it can even take a considerable toll on your finances. This means you’ll likely hear phrases such as “100% liable for bills” and “child support payments” as well. In this post, we’ll go over how divorce can impact credit scores and how you can repair your credit.
How Divorce Impacts My Credit Score
Your divorce doesn’t directly impact your credit score or credit results, but the financial issues that come afterward can certainly impact it.
Here are some factors that can cause your credit score to decline:
Your Debt Racked After The Split Up Because Your Ex Was An Authorized User On Your Credit Card
This is quite a common thing with non-friendly divorces. If for instance, your ex is being spiteful, they could try to punish you by using your credit card in order to make large purchases in your name or by accessing your bank accounts.
However, since your former spouse is an authorized user, they can do this legally. What’s more, is that they’re not liable for the payment. To be frank, they can spend as much money as they want to without bearing the consequences for it.
Your Joint Accounts Are Unpaid
Married couples usually have joint accounts. Both and your spouse may share a credit card, mortgage, car loan or other forms of debt. The debt doesn’t go away even after separation because you both are still responsible for paying it off.
Paying For Bills Will Be Tough
It’s no secret that life after divorce is a tough one. During that time, you may experience trouble trying to keep up with all the bills you have stocked up as well as paying for living expenses, especially if your ex was the main breadwinner.
As a result, this damages your credit score if there are any late or missed payments. Because your credit history is the most important factor of your credit score, it would be wise of you to make the payments on time, every time.
Using Your Credit Card To Pay For Costs
If you’re using your credit cards to substitute as means of income – or lack thereof – you could likely end up with a lower credit score. You must ensure that your credit utilization ratio is less than 30%.
With that in mind, paying for legal expenses with your credit card could also affect your credit score. Although every divorce comes with fixed costs, like filing fees, other costs may wildly vary. The fees of the lawyer depend on the condition of your case and the degree to which the issues between you and ex can be contested. For example, if you’re dealing with property or custody disputes, the divorce might cost thousands of dollars and sadly, most people don’t have that kind of cash at hand.
Your Credit Limit Has Decreased
Most of the time, creditors can decide to lower your credit card limits. This may happen once the accounts of you and your former spouse have been separated, especially if the creditor discovers that you’re making much less money now.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways for you to protect your credit score after a divorce.
How to Fix Your Credit Upon Separation
You need to be proactive about your credit score, as it’s not necessarily going to be there during your divorce. This way you can protect your money and make it easier to start your new, independent life.
Separate all joint accounts: As soon as you’ve confirmed that you’re getting a divorce, either close your joint accounts or switch them to individual accounts immediately.
Determine which accounts were shared, according to your credit report: Read each and every line of your credit report for any mishaps and find out which accounts you’re either partially or fully responsible for. It’s actually quite common for spouses to open accounts in their partner’s names.
If your spouse has access to your account, remove their authorization: If your spouse does indeed have access to a bank account or credit card that is solely in your name, then remove them immediately to protect your finances.
Change your security information: Improve the security of your credit and debit cards by changing their PIN code, as well as the password on sites and apps that link to your bank account. You can also change the security questions so that your spouse doesn’t easily guess them. And if you have moved, change the address so that your credit reports and bank statements are delivered straight to your new location.
Change your lifestyle to match your income: Most divorcees – especially those who relied on the income of their spouses – struggle financially to maintain their lifestyles. If this is so, then you may want to cut back on the spending. For instance, you should consider moving into an apartment, get rid of your cable, and also sell your car for a less expensive one. The best way to know what you can and can’t afford is to make a budget. Give greater priority to your most important expenses and try to stay ahead of payments that could directly affect your credit score, like credit cards and loans.
Work out an agreement about joint debt payments: Try to work out the specifics of joint debt payments, with or without the help of a divorce decree, and then get it in writing.
Keep a check on your ex’s payment due dates on joint accounts: If your former spouse doesn’t pay on time, you can make the minimum payment on your joint account and save your credit score. Later, you can report the non-payments to the courts and get your money back.
Boost your income: During your divorce, you should prioritize earning more and spending less. Besides lowering your expenses, you can earn more money by either working overtime or do some freelancing on the side.