Getting your credit scores to shine like a pot of gold takes a lot more than luck. If you want to get “in like Flynn” with creditors, you have to stay on the right path with good credit behaviors. However, if you engage in shenanigans with your debts, you may have to kiss those good, great or even excellent scores goodbye for months or years.
You don’t need the luck of the Irish to attain and maintain credit scores that’ll help you live “the life of Riley.” In the spirit of St. Paddy’s Day, just heed these words of wisdom:
- Find out where your rainbow begins. You need to know where to start before you can chart a path to reach your pot of gold. Pull your credit reports and scores from TransUnion®, Equifax® and Experian®. You might be surprised by what you find, or don’t find, on your credit reports. Your scores change as information is provided to the credit reporting bureaus by your creditors … and reporting errors happen more often than you may realize.
- Identify which factors are turning your scores into gold, or vice versa. If you don’t understand what’s driving your scores, you can’t effectively determine how to protect or improve them.
- Pay close attention to your Payment History and Outstanding Debt, as they play the biggest roles in your scores. If they are out of whack, you are out of luck – and your scores will show it.
- Be honest about how your past credit behaviors have affected your scores – the good and the bad. If you’ve been good and your scores reflect that, stay on the right path to maintain them! If you’ve made some wrong turns along the way, make a plan to stay in the good graces of your creditors and get back on track.
- Don’t just wear green, spend it! Whenever possible, raise the green instead of the plastic. This will help you avoid a credit score hit for carrying high balances on your credit cards. The amount of available credit you use does impact your scores, so pay off credit cards quickly to avoid the consequences of pushing your luck.
- Plan for major purchases so you don’t get pinched. Take the time to get your scores in optimal shape to get the best interest rates and save a lot of green. Also, plan for your scores to take a slight dip when opening a new line of credit. It’s perfectly normal – and if you play your cards right, your scores will recover quickly.
- Don’t believe all the blarney that says you can’t overcome bad scores. Having lower credit scores is not a life sentence – and doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get a loan or even be able to improve them. However, there will be challenges, and improving your credit profile will take time. In the meantime, you may have to pay much steeper interest rates until you get your scores back on track.
- Monitor your credit reports to catch and correct inaccuracies that tarnish your scores. Leave no stone unturned! Every month, verify that the information across all three of your credit reports is accurate and up to date. And when you find errors, file a dispute.
- Protect your pot of gold! Today’s hackers are trickier than the cleverest of leprechauns. Your information is worth a fortune on the black market – and if sold, could wreak havoc on your credit and your good name. Actively monitoring your credit and personal information can help you detect signs of identity theft early.
Good credit doesn’t have to be like a four-leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have. It has been said that “the amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act.” So being realistic about your spending, debt and repayment behaviors, as well as your immediate and long-term credit needs, can help you map out a path to get your scores to shine like gold – and keep them that way.