Do you know what's on your credit report? If not, you're not alone. A 2017 report noted that over 50% of Canadians have never checked their credit score or fully understand what a good score is. What's more worrisome is that nearly 40% of respondents are scared to find out.
Your credit health is far more critical than you may imagine and can significantly impact your life. A poor credit score can stop you from getting the apartment of your dreams, increase your interest rates and generally make it difficult to access loans and credit cards, purchase a new car or even get insurance.
It's always the right time to start taking your credit seriously.
Maintaining and improving your score doesn't have to be daunting; Here are 5 easy steps to get you started.
Pay more than the minimum balance each month
Making more than the minimum payment on your credit card is a great way to pay off your debt faster, save on interest charges and improve your credit score. Exclusively paying the minimum balance means you're disproportionately paying interest and making little to no progress on the principal
balance, dragging out your repayment period and costing you more money.
Plus, responsible payment behaviour can improve your credit score over time.
Avoid making late payments
Keeping up with your bills is key to maintaining a healthy credit score, as making multiple late payments—even just days at a time—can cause significant damage. Staying on top of monthly payments should be a priority, but with busy lifestyles, it’s easy for other things to get in the way. A great way to avoid missing due dates is by setting up preauthorized payments or monthly reminders to help keep you on track.
Don't apply for too many credit cards
Having too many credit cards, in combination with other credit products, can impact your credit score in several ways. First, most credit card applications result in hard inquiries on your credit report, lowering your score by a few points. Additionally, having numerous credit accounts open can make it challenging to keep up with payments, increasing your risk of missing or making late payments.
A few well-managed credit accounts are generally recommended rather than numerous accounts with high balances.
Try to refrain from maxing out cards
When using credit cards, it's important to remember that maxing them out can adversely affect your credit score and financial health. Using too much of your available credit increases your credit utilization ratio--a primary factor determining your credit score. A high utilization ratio can lower your credit score and make it harder to get approved for credit in the future.
Keeping your credit card balances below 30% of your credit limit is recommended to maintain a healthy credit utilization ratio. For example, for a credit limit of $10,000, you should keep your balance below $3,000.
Regularly check and monitor your credit report
Regularly checking your credit report for errors and actionable issues is crucial for maintaining a healthy credit score. Overlooked mistakes or errors can impact your score negatively and may even be a sign of identity theft. Staying on top of your report is essential, ensuring everything is accurate and up to date.