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Understanding your credit report can be a challenge. What does it mean? How is it used? What areas does a credit score impact in our lives, both personal and career? Community Relations Coordinator and financial coach Suzanne Klenk discusses all these things and more in this segment of New Day Northwest.

What is a credit report?
Think of it as an adult financial report card that shows how well you do at repaying money you have borrowed. It also lists your creditors, how much you've borrowed from each, monthly payments and outstanding balances.

How is the information on a credit report used?
Credit reports tell prospective lenders how much of a risk you pose if they lend you money. It can also be a determining factor in the interest rate you receive on a loan you're applying for. Another way a credit report is used that may be surprising is prospective employers use the information to gain a sense of your dependability and whether or not you would be a good employee.

The importance of reviewing your credit report and credit score
Knowing what appears on your credit report is imperative. You can request a free report once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - through AnnualCreditReport.com. This website was created by these three agencies to provide a centralized, secure way for consumers to request their credit reports.  

You can also request your credit score from any of the three agencies after receiving your free credit report from them for an additional charge. You can receive a combined average of your credit scores from the three agencies at no charge through CreditKarma.com. 

Understanding your credit score

Credit scores can range from 300-850. A good credit score starts around 725 or so. Here are the factors that go into determining your credit score:

  • Payment history - 35%
  • Debt - 30%
  • Length of credit history - 15%
  • New credit you've acquired - 10%
  • Types of credit you have- 10%

Five steps to "get your score up off the floor"

  • Make your payments on time - if you're past due by 30 days or more, it will be reported to the credit bureaus.
  • Pay off and close department store credit card accounts. They're viewed as "luxury" credit and can impact your credit score negatively. Many department stores have switched over to major credit cards such as Visa® or MasterCard® - you may want to consider doing the same.
  • Avoid applying for new credit for at least a year. Each time you obtain new credit, your score drops due to the unknown of how you will manage that new credit. Your credit report changes every 30 days, so this respite from applying for new credit will help your score improve.
  • Pay down your credit card balances until they are 50% or lower than your credit limit. Higher balances equate to being a higher lending risk because your capacity to take on more debt is lower.
  • Check your credit reports once a year and correct any mistakes. If you need help interpreting your credit report, ask us! We'll be happy to give you a hand.

Have a financial question for Suzanne?
If you have a financial question you would like to ask Suzanne, please feel free to send her an e-mail.

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