Are you one of the 16 percent of Americans whose credit score is so low that it is negatively impacting your life? A very low credit score can make it nearly impossible to qualify for a home mortgage or a business loan. You may be able to get a loan to purchase a car, but you will be assessed a high rate of interest. Those with very low credit scores pay more for auto insurance than those with average or good scores. If you are one of these people, it is important to take immediate steps to improve your credit score. It will take some effort and time, but it is a very achievable goal.
I recently helped a man write a business plan and develop a cash flow forecast to open a restaurant. He had many years of restaurant experience, along with some of his own money to invest, and other income to help support his family. Everything looked good. In our first meeting, I asked him his credit score, and he assured me it was in the mid-600’s. A score in the mid-600’s considered to be Fair—not great but certainly high enough for him to qualify for the loan. Unfortunately, he was quite wrong in his assessment. He applied for a loan and the banker pulled his credit report, which revealed a credit score of about 450.
By any measure, a credit score of 450 is Bad. In fact, a score of less than 579 is viewed as very poor credit. The man was shocked and embarrassed by his low credit score. He had qualified for a mortgage less than a year earlier, so it is likely that his credit rating was at least Fair at that time. So, what happened? I don’t know the answer, as he didn’t share his credit report with me. I did provide him with guidance in regard to reviewing his credit report to see if it contains errors, correcting any errors, and being diligent in managing his credit. If you are in a similar situation, these steps can help you.
The first thing you need to do is review the report for errors. Any errors should be reported to credit report agency. Most credit reports and scores are generated by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You should check your report with each agency at least once a year and report any errors that your find immediately. Errors might include information for someone who is not you but has a similar name, incorrect information about loans that have been paid off, and credit that you applied for but did not accept. You should also check for evidence of identity theft.
Here are links for filing disputes with each of the major credit report agencies:
- Experian: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/faqs/how-to-dispute-credit-report-information/
Getting any errors corrected can have a significant impact on your credit score. Unfortunately, it will take a little time for the agency to investigate your dispute and correct any misinformation.
If your score is low due to poor management of your finances, such as late payments, missed payments, and charge offs, you should follow these guidelines to better manage credit and improve your score:
- Be sure to make at least the minimum payment on all accounts every month.
- Make payments by the due date. Late payments and skipped payments hurt your score. The later the payment, the larger the negative impact on your score.
- Don’t open any new credit accounts–don’t buy a car, don’t refinance your home, don’t apply for any new credit cards. Every new account increases your available credit and lowers your score, at least temporarily.
- Don’t close any older accounts. If you recently opened accounts you don’t need, you might want to close them. But, keep open your oldest accounts. Length of credit history improves your score.
- Keep your credit card balances at 50% or less of the amount of credit extended.
Within a few months, you should see an improvement in your credit score.
The man above will have to put his dreams of opening a restaurant on hold for a while. It is too bad. However, if he can get any errors corrected, and if he commits to taking the steps above to improve his credit, he may be able to qualify the loan he needs in 6 – 12 months. It will take a real effort and determination on his part; however, if he keeps his goal in his sights, I believe he will reach his goal.
God desires that His people pay their bills on time, honor their commitments, and don’t allow money to rule their lives. If you are struggling to manage your finances, seek Christian counsel and pray diligently for God’s guidance. You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances category on the right.
If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write your question in the Comment section. Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.