We hear all the time that it’s important to pay attention to our credit and work to improve our scores.
Knowing exactly where you stand can be difficult, however, when you consider that you could have hundreds of credit scores. Where do you start?
How Does That Happen?
Well, a big reason is that there isn’t a standard way to calculate a credit score. Any credit scoring model uses information from your credit report. So, right there, you have as many credit scores as you do reports. There’s a different score for each credit reporting agency.
But that’s not all, according to the CNN article. Different lenders and financial services companies might tweak popular models, like FICO. In fact, there are 19 different kinds of FICO scores. Different scoring models emphasize different aspects of your credit history. If you are applying for a mortgage, different criteria will be weighted in a way that might be different to the weighting for a car loan.
Then there’s the VantageScore, which is used by more than two thousand lenders. You also have your consumer scores, which you can get for your own education, but that might not be used in figuring your creditworthiness by a lender.
With so many credit scores, you don’t actually know which version is going to be used by any given lender. If you are denied credit, or you end up with a negative outcome, the financial services provider has to tell you where it got its information. It might be too late to fix the situation by then, but you can at least see how things look from that perspective.
How Do You Manage So Many Credit Scores?
The good news is that you don’t actually have to try to manage all those credit scores. The fact of the matter is that, no matter the credit scoring model, there are many similarities.
First of all, your payment history is likely going to be the most important factor considered. If you make your payments on time and in full, you should be able to build a solid foundation.
Next, consider how much debt you have. No matter the scoring model or underwriting process, the amount of debt you already have matters. You are seen as a bigger risk the more debt you have. If you can keep your debt levels low, you are more likely to have a better score — no matter what model is used.
Finally, think about the types of credit you have. How long is your history? Do you have a mix of credit cards and installment accounts? Are most of your accounts lower risk, like car loans and mortgages, rather than high-risk debt like payday loans?
Maintaining a good mix can be a way to give your score a little boost. You may not need an extra credit card with a long history or you may not even need a mortgage, but many scoring models will want to see that you have different types of payments and that you are paying them on time.
Don’t forget to check your reports regularly, because your scores are based on the information in your reports. You want to make sure that they are accurate, and make an effort to fix mistakes whenever you spot them so that you have the best possible score. You just never know when you could use a high score.