When it comes to your credit score, there’s almost always room for improvement. If you’ve pulled your score and you’re not satisfied with the number you received, there are several strategies to boost it. But first, you need a little insight into how that score is calculated.

Five major categories are used to determine your credit score which are reported to the credit bureaus by your lenders to generate scores ranging from 350 to 850 (higher is better, of course).

Each category is weighed differently. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • 40% is based on your payment history, and whether you pay on time.
  • 23% is your credit utilization. Also known as credit usage, it’s the ratio between the total balance you owe and your total credit limit on your accounts. It’s best to keep your credit utilization below 30 percent — this is because if you are consistently maxing out your credit cards, it’ll look like you need money in the eyes of a lender.
  • 21% is the age and type of credit you have. This percentage factors in how long you’ve had different kinds of credit accounts open. The older and more diverse (auto, mortgage, credit card) your credit is, the better.
  • 11% is based on your total amount of recently reported balances on your credit accounts. You’ll want to keep your balances generally low because that’ll suggest to lenders that you are capable of making your payments on time.
  • 5% is based on recent credit applications. Opening multiple credit accounts in a short period of time could represent a greater risk for lenders — multiple recent inquiries may worry lenders that you are applying to so many places because you are unable to qualify for credit — or because you need money in a pinch — so avoid opening too many accounts too quickly. (You don’t have to worry about this if you’re shopping for a mortgage or car loan. All inquiries within 14 days count as a single one.)

 

RAISE YOUR SCORE BY DOING THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Pull your credit reports. The three major credit scoring bureaus, TransUnionEquifax, and Experian will each allow you one free copy of your report each week. You also have access to your report and score daily through the United Fidelity Bank app. If you choose to get a copy directly from the credit scoring bureaus and you find an error on your report, you should dispute it as soon as possible. Simple mistakes – the wrong address or a misspelling of your name – can be fixed by calling the creditor and asking for an update. If they won’t oblige, or the error is more complicated, you should dispute directly with the credit bureaus. You can do this online.
  2. Pay your bills on time. One day late is still considered late, and just one late payment can lower your score. Consider using an online bill payment service, like Bill Pay, to stay on track with your payments.
  3. Pay down credit card debt. You don’t want to be using more than 30% of the total credit available to you. Keeping your utilization well below that (closer to 10%) can give your score a boost.
  4. Hang onto old cards. Your credit score benefits from long relationships with lenders, so cut them up, but don’t cancel them if you can help it.
  5. Be thoughtful about shopping for new credit. Every time you apply for a new card or loan, the lender takes a peek at your credit history, which dings your score.
  6. Spread your debts around. The mix of credit you have in your file—mortgages, student loans, auto loans, credit cards—shows that you can manage debt from multiple sources.

 

Remember that time – and patience – are key. You shouldn’t expect a change overnight, but you will see improvement over the course of 12 to 18 months – shorter, if your score is already fairly high and you’re just looking for a bit of a jump.

 

Article by SavvyMoney contributor Jean Chatzky.

Have you ever asked yourself, “When should I start teaching my kids about finances?”

 

While there’s no right answer to this question, a good place to start is whenever they have developed fundamental math skills. This is typically between the second and fourth grade.

 

The goal when beginning to teach your child about money is to help them understand the value of money and the importance of saving. You’ll want to use simple terms and relatable examples that you know your child will be able to grasp. One of the best ways to do this is to use your personal experience. Explain how you work a job to make money, and the money you make from said job allows you to buy things like groceries, clothes, vacations, etc.

 

If you want to take it a step further, you could set them up with a regular allowance or pay them for doing certain chores around the house. This will give them an applicable experience in understanding the most basic way money is earned. There are multiple ways to introduce money fundamentals to your child(ren), so do some research to find one that works best for you.

 

Once they understand how money is earned, you can segue into the basics of saving money. A great way to do this is by using a visual example such as a piggy bank or clear jar. This allows children to literally see the money they save and how it accumulates over time. When they are comfortable with the concept of saving, share how their savings can be used for something else in the future. Explain the different ways they could use their savings – to buy something they want for themselves or purchase something for someone else for a special occasion such as a birthday. If you haven’t already, this would also be a good place to open a savings account for your child.

 

When applying this to real-life, give them the opportunity to use their savings to purchase something they want. This will allow them to determine if they have enough money saved or not helping them comprehend if they need to save some more money or if they already have the amount they need. Once they have the amount needed, let them hand the money to the cashier so they get excited and experience the value of “this for that.”

 

Helping your child save money can bring up feelings of frustration due to having to wait to purchase something they want. This is a great opportunity to validate those feelings and explain that you, their parent, or guardian, also sometimes have to wait to purchase things you want. Set a regular time together where you sit down and count their money with them, so they know just how much they have saved. And don’t forget to encourage them on their saving journey.

 

Setting a good foundation for understanding money can help your children be more responsible with it as they get older. Even the smallest money tips can impact the way your children will think about and use money in the future. Visit our Personal Money IQ and scroll down to the “Kids and Money” section for more tips.

Just like visiting a doctor, it’s important to review and evaluate your finances so you can ensure the healthiest relationship with your money. A financial check-up will give you more confidence in your finances and allow you to have more control over where your money is going.

If you’ve found yourself feeling overwhelmed or unsure of how to tackle your financial check-up, use these tips to help you get started.

  1. Identify any recent major changes in your lifestyle that could affect your finances. Have you switched jobs, received a pay raise, gotten married or divorced, had kids, bought a house or new car, etc.? It’s all relative when reviewing your finances.
  2. Gather your bank statements and credit card statements from the last 6-12 months and find where you are spending most of your money. See if you can identify spending patterns that could be adjusted or eliminated.
  3. Check your credit score. You can obtain a free copy from one of the three main credit bureaus (EquifaxExperian, and TransUnion) to check for and report any errors. This can also help you discover if you need to take necessary steps to improve your credit score.
  4. Evaluate all your current financial accounts (personal, business, checking, savings, retirement, CDs, loans, etc.). Ensure that all the information on your accounts is correct and up to date. Having a clear understanding of your accounts in relation to your financial goals can help you plan accordingly for the year.
  5. Review your debt(s) and interest rates (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.). Write these down and plug them into your budget. Create a plan that will help you pay off your debt(s) as soon as possible.
  6. Identify tools and resources you can utilize to help streamline your banking. Check out some of the services our customers benefit from such as Online and Mobile BankingBill PayNotifi AlertsCredit Score, and more.

Our ICB staff is here if you need assistance with your financial check-up. Schedule an appointment with one of our local bankers to perform an account review and identify more ways for you to save.

After you’ve completed your financial check-up, you’ll have the information needed to reassess and set new financial goals and create a solid budget to help keep your financial goals on track.