- Plans & Services
- Tools & Tips
- About Us
Having a good credit rating means having access to additional credit when you need it. Do you know how to build, maintain, and improve your credit rating?
Having a good credit rating is important to everyone. It can help you to:
Finance a car
Rent an apartment
Get a home mortgage
Set up utility accounts
If you haven't established credit yet, or if you have a poor credit rating, that doesn't mean you can't do any of these things, but you may find it more difficult.
When you're just starting out, it may be difficult to establish your credit history. To build good credit, there are several steps you can take, including:
Open a checking or a savings account. This is a convenient way to pay your bills and is particularly important to prospective landlords who expect to receive rent checks each month. For more information on checking and savings accounts, see our Knowledge Center articles on these topics.
Open a retail store account. Stores often have special offers enticing you to apply for their credit cards. The interest rate on this type of card tends to be high, so you may want to charge very small purchases that you can afford to pay in full each month.
Ask a family member or friend to co-sign a loan for you. Making regular payments shows creditors you are a responsible credit consumer. After six months to a year, you may be able to apply for credit on your own.
Once you've established a good credit history, it's vital that you keep it that way. Keys to maintaining good credit include:
Pay your bills on time. This is the single most important factor to maintaining good credit. Creditors want to be certain you can pay at least the minimum due on time each month.
Don't overextend yourself. Be careful about charging up to your credit limit on credit cards. The minimum payment each month will be large, and you may not be able to pay down the debt. Also, when there's no available credit on an account, you can't use it for emergencies.
Watch your debt-to-income ratio. Your debt-to-income ratio is generally defined as your regular monthly bills (excluding rent or mortgage and utilities) divided by your gross monthly income. If your debt-to-income ratio is 20% to 30%, it's time to take a hard look at your finances. For more information on calculating your debt-to-income ratio, read the related articles in our Knowledge Center Library.
Keep your open credit accounts to a minimum. If you have a number of credit accounts open, your future creditors may be alarmed at the large combined open credit line. On the other hand, keeping a certain number of accounts open with a zero balance shows a good credit history and will give you a higher credit score. You should try to find a balance between too many credit accounts and too few. Remember that the key is having a paid-off account. If it is too difficult for you to resist charging up a credit account, it is probably better to close it. Remember that cutting up your card is not the same as closing the account: to close a credit account you must notify the creditor in writing.
Review your credit report regularly for inaccuracies. Creditors evaluate your financial health by reviewing your credit report, so be sure it's correct. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year: visit the AnnualCreditReport.com website to order one. For more information on credit reports, read the related articles in our Knowledge Center Library.
Avoid bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is often considered the most negative aspect of a credit profile, so don't make the decision to file without carefully considering your alternatives. With the enactment of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, rules about filing bankruptcy are much stricter. See our related Knowledge Center articles about bankruptcy. Remember, a bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for as long as 10 years.
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is now accepting consumer complaints about credit reports. Learn how to lodge a complaint with the bureau if you think you've found an error.
Has your credit application been denied because your credit score is too low? Learn about scores and how to improve yours.
Did you know there's a file on you that lists your personal financial and credit information? Find out how you can view it and get a copy of your credit file.
All those facts and figures on your credit card statements may be intimidating, but reading and using this information each month helps you stay in control of your finances.
Charge cards, credit cards and debit cards may look alike, but they offer different services and benefits. Learn the basics of each card and determine which is best for you.
What's your debt IQ? Take one of our quizzes and find out how much you know about financial fitness.Take the Quiz Now!
Subscribe to our newsletter, packed with great articles, tips, and advice to help you make the most of your money.Subscribe Now!
Our calculators can help you figure out your budget, credit card payments, mortgage, and more!Learn More