Rising interest rates and record-high debt have caused credit scores to level off, according to the most recent FICO report. To help consumers protect and build their credit, OnPoint Community Credit Union has released a free eBook, the Guide to Credit Reports and Scores. The guide includes tips on understanding credit history and how it can impact financial health.
“Your credit score isn’t just a number, it’s the key to a financially sustainable future,” said Chris Folkerts, consumer lending manager, OnPoint Community Credit Union. “Building good credit takes time, but there are steps you can take to understand the nuances and achieve your financial goals. People can build and improve their credit today by reviewing their credit history, getting proactive with lenders and managing debts responsibly.”
OnPoint recommends these eight steps to improve or maintain your credit:
- Review your report with an expert. The S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends consumers check their credit reports at least once per year. A financial expert can help consumers understand their credit history and score, and identify and report inaccuracies, such as fraud or agency errors.
- Consider refinancing. Ask lenders if refinancing high-interest-rate accounts is an option. The lower the rate, the more money you save every month.
- Track payment due dates. Payment history has the biggest impact on credit scores because it shows responsible debt management. Set up automatic payments or calendar reminders to track payments and never miss a due date.
- Monitor monthly statements. Many bills require a minimum monthly payment if the statement can’t be paid in full. Remember, if a monthly payment is less than the minimum amount required, a creditor may consider it a missed or late payment.
- Manage credit utilization. Credit utilization is the amount of credit used versus the available amount. Using too much available credit may reflect negatively on the report. Manage utilization first by paying down debts that are close to their limit, paying more than once in a billing cycle and requesting credit increases if you are in good standing.
- Be proactive. Lenders are more willing to work with someone who is proactive. There are many resources available to those looking to manage unsecured debt. Credit counseling organizations such as OnPoint partner GreenPath Financial Wellness works with people to create customized structured repayment plans. These plans help consolidate debt, lower interest rates and reduce monthly payments, saving money and expediting the repayment process.
- Plan for emergencies. In tough economic times, an emergency savings fund can be a game-changer for most people. OnPoint recommends having three to six months of living expenses in a “just in case” fund to offset unexpected costs. Starting small (even $25 per month can make a difference) and making contributions automatic can build a substantial backup fund that may help down the road.
- Understand it takes time. Building credit doesn’t happen overnight. Updates to credit scores can take 30 days to 10 years, depending on your financial situation. Work with a financial institution to help outline a plan that works for you.
Taking these steps will help ensure that when it’s time to make big purchases, like buying a home or new car, you are in the best financial position. If you have questions or concerns about your credit, visit any of OnPoint’s 56 branch locations for help reviewing your credit report and understanding your score.
About OnPoint Community Credit Union:
OnPoint Community Credit Union is the largest credit union in Oregon, serving over 516,000 members and with assets of $8.9 billion. Founded in 1932, OnPoint Community Credit Union’s membership is available to anyone who lives or works in one of 28 Oregon counties (Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington, Wheeler and Yamhill) and two Washington counties (Skamania and Clark) and their immediate family members.
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