In the credit card game, it can seem impossible to level up. High-interest rates, minimum payments, principal balance, and complicated mathematical formulas for repayment options can make the score tough to understand. The key to winning any game is to know how to score and gain more points. Use a credit card as a tool to win.
The Impact on Your Credit Score
A lot of factors impact your credit score, but have you considered how the credit score impacts you? Aside from affecting whether or not you can afford a mortgage, rent a place, buy a car, or get a loan, a credit score can be used to assess your character. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on your score and set up a system to manage a healthy one.
Play to Win on a Credit Card
Leveling up that credit score can seem difficult, but a good strategy with a splash of discipline can forge a path to success. Although a credit card can be a slippery slope, hence the note about discipline, it can be a fantastic tool to build a healthy credit score. Explore the best options for you:
Starter credit card
If you have no established credit history or bad credit, a starter credit card might be right for you. Generally, a credit card like this will have perks like waived fees, rewards for timely payments, and better interest rates. Be sure to read the fine details, it can save a big headache later.
Secured credit card
A secured credit card requires a deposit, usually equal to your credit limit, to reduce the risk of overspending. If you don’t pay the bill the lender can take money from the deposit to make the payment. Using the card responsibly and making payments on time can boost your credit score.
Student credit card
A student credit card functions the same way as a regular credit card, but typically offers lower credit limits and no incentives. The perks are pretty bland; however, it’s a great structure to complete an education and build up your credit score at the same time. Using your credit card regularly and making timely payments build a good credit score. A useful tip, especially for students with little to no income, is to buy groceries on the card and pay off the entire balance before the next bill is due.
Maximize Your Credit Score
It feels good to reach a high score in any game, except golf. The good old days of playing in the arcade and entering your initials as a high-scoring guru can be achieved with your credit score too. Stick to the strategies below and you’ll be able to maximize your credit score over time.
Spend like it’s your money
Access to instant money can be tempting. Window shopping can take on a whole new meaning when you know money is waiting for you to spend. The trick to a successful credit score-building strategy with a credit card is to change your mindset. View every credit card purchase as a direct withdrawal from your bank account. If that means checking your bank account before every purchase, do it. If you don’t have the funds in the account, don’t whip out the credit card. Practice a little discipline today to get big returns on your credit score tomorrow.
One way to negatively impact your credit score is to neglect timely minimum payments. Often these are recorded on your credit report, lowering your score. Not to mention the late payment fees and how interest can accumulate for every day the payment is missed. Most banks offer an online payment option to pay bills directly from your bank account. Dial-in the credit card spending, set up a monthly payment that meets (at least) the minimum payment for your credit card, and streamline your payments with autopay.
The 30% rule
Although credit utilization is an important factor in building a healthy credit score, keep the total outstanding balance low. Make a rule to keep it below 30% of your total credit limit to prevent damage to your credit score. Keep your balance at about 10% of the credit limit for the best results. To calculate your credit utilization — add the balance and limits on all your cards (respectively). Then divide the total balance by the total credit limit. Multiply by 100 for the percentage. Set your personal credit use limit to stay under 30% and remain under that number. It’ll pay off in a big way down the line.
Avoid credit checks
Did you know that certain types of credit checks can negatively affect your score? Two types to be aware of are soft inquiries and hard inquiries.
- Soft inquiry — These don’t affect your credit score. They include checking your credit, credit checks by financial institutions, and credit card companies looking at your financial history.
- Hard inquiry — These do affect your credit score. Applying for a new credit card, car loans, and mortgages fall under this category. Avoid multiple hard inquiries in a short period to limit the damage.
Pause on old accounts
A lot like beating that boss level in your favorite childhood video game, it can be super gratifying to get rid of a credit card you worked hard to pay off. Not the best idea to build your credit score. The longer you have an account in healthy standing, the better it builds your score. Hold onto those old credit card accounts, even if they’re not active. Every bit helps.
Building a strong credit score or recovering from an unhealthy one can be overwhelming. With nearly a trillion dollars in national credit debt, understand you’re not alone. Try the strategies mentioned above and regularly monitor your score.
However, if your currently have over 30% of credit utilization and have been carrying unsecured debt, your FIRST priority should be eliminating the unsecured debt. Credit score is only for getting into more debt, learn why unsecured debt is your biggest financial liability, by watching this video.