Were you in the process of purchasing a house before the pandemic struck? Were you hoping to be in the Spring Market of house hunting by about now? If so, you’re certainly not alone. As most of the nation continues to stay in place many folks are feeling as though they’ve been set back. However, while people are stuck at home with not much else to do-one a proactive measure is to check in on your credit scores.
1)Figure Out Your Situation
One of the first things that you should be doing is- to not do anything new at all. Don’t apply for new cards, car loans or the like. If you hadn’t had it pulled prior, don’t have your credit go through a hard pull right now. Julie from RMS mortgage says,
“Soft pulls are great, it can show you how your balances look to your credit limit. It can show you anything derogatory showing up.”
You can get one free credit report a year from AnnualCreditReport.com
A report is not the same as a score.
You can pay for your credit score and it’s worth it if you’re concerned. That score is going to be closer to the scoring engine that is used for a real mortgage credit pull. The three reporting agencies for this are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.
Sites like Credit Karma or Capital One’s credit monitoring. These sites have value in that they will give you a rough estimate of your credit health, but they won’t be perfect.
2) Prioritize Your Debt
Let’s say you found some debt. First things first don’t panic. In establishing an order to tackle old bills Julie recommends
“If you’re trying to clean things up the order of preference would be anything new. If you had a medical bill from 2019, you’re better paying off that one first over the paying a utility bill from 2015”
The older an account is on your credit history, the less of an impact it’ll have. After seven years any debts are supposed to go away but be warned that old debts can be sold to new collection agencies, starting the clock all over again. It’s best to pay down your debts rather than try to run the clock out.
3) What Should Your Debt Amount Be?
You’ve monitored your credit, found some old debt-now what?
“The magical number is 30% or lower. Try to keep your balances there. The lower the better” advises Julie.
It’s also best to spread your debt out. If you have two cards, each with a credit limit of $1,000, and one card has $100 charged on it and the other has $400 on it you’ll have a lower score than if both cards had $250.
Don’t have the ability to move debt from one card to another?
“If your credit is good and you’ve paid your credit card well, a very good thing to ask for is a higher limit. It’s hard to get if you haven’t had your card for at least a year. The longer you’ve owned the card, the more likely you will get approved.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for a high amount as well, Julie says. If you have a thousand dollar limit, see if you can get twenty-five hundred. Just be disciplined to keep the balance still down in the two to three hundred dollar range. This will give an amazing boost to your credit utilization score, which again, needs to be 30% or lower.
Bonus Tip-What if you have NO credit?
“Easy,” says Julie “ get a secured credit card. A lot of people will apply for a new credit card and say ‘well I keep getting denied because my credit score isn’t high enough’. With a secured card you give them a little bit of collateral and they’ll give you a credit card. Once you’ve proven yourself responsible they’ll give you your collateral back.”
How much does it take to get started with a secured card? One hundred to two hundred dollars usually to start. Start with your local bank to see what terms they have offered, but Julie says it also can be as simple as searching the keywords ‘secured credit cards’ and pick whichever bank has the best terms for you.
“People with horrible credit histories can still get secured credit cards and it really helps them turn their credit around. It really does” says Julie.
There you have it folks
Check on your credit without a hard pull
Spread out any debt that you have and get your credit use to under 30%
And if in a pinch, secure yourself a secured credit card.
Stay safe and healthy!