April Fools’ Day can make for a good joke but there are certain myths about money that, if not dispelled quickly, are no laughing matter. And misconceptions about credit and debt are right at the top of the list. Here are 10 common beliefs about credit that can lead to financial trouble. Don’t fall for them!
Myth 1) A credit score is only important if you need to borrow money.
If only it were that simple. Of course, your credit score impacts your ability to borrow, but nowadays it can affect many other areas of your life, including:
- Interest rates—Whether you’re looking to finance a home, a car or a washer and dryer, the better your credit score, the lower the interest rate you may be offered.
- Renting a new home—A prospective landlord can run a credit check to see if you’re a good risk. Things like late payments and collections not only lower your score, they can be a deal breaker when it comes to renting.
- Insurance premiums—In some states, insurance companies use credit-based insurance scores to determine your premiums. A poor credit score can increase your costs for home and auto insurance.
- Job prospects—More and more companies use your credit history when screening for jobs. This can impact your ability to get—and keep—a job, as well as your eligibility for a promotion.
- Security clearance or military deployment—For federal workers in national security positions including members of the military, late payments, collections, bounced checks, large debts, or credit report errors can upend your career, jeopardizing deployment or a promotion.
Myth 2) Carrying a high balance helps build credit faster.
That’s false. The only thing carrying a credit card balance builds is your interest payment—and the total cost of what you financed. To build credit, it’s much better to pay off what you charge each month and never carry a balance.
Myth 3) As long as you don’t go over your credit card limit you’re fine.
Wrong. In fact, to improve your credit score it’s best to use less than 30 percent of your credit line to keep your “debt utilization” rate low. Debt utilization is the amount you borrow relative to the amount you’re able to borrow. A high utilization rate—or even an increase in the amount of credit you’re using—can flag you as a higher risk, lower your credit score and raise your interest rate.
Myth 4) Closing out credit cards will improve your score.
Wrong again—for a couple of reasons. First, closing cards decreases your available credit and increases your debt utilization ratio, making it look like you’re borrowing at a higher percentage. Second, closing cards can reduce the average age of your accounts, making you seem like a newer borrower, which can lower your score.
However, closing a credit card can help you manage spending and protect you from identity theft if you’re not using the account. If you decide to close a card, you may want to adjust your spending or pay down existing balances at the same time to keep your debt utilization ratio steady.
Myth 5) Getting married merges your credit history.
Even when you say “I do,” your credit histories always remain separate, unless there’s a joint account or authorized user. In that case, there’s a shared history, and you’re jointly liable for any charges. If you’re divorced or separated, a joint account still means joint liability, and any new or unpaid debts can affect your credit score. I suggest every couple openly discuss their attitudes toward credit and debt early in their relationship.
Myth 6) You can pay a company to quickly remove bad credit marks from your history.
Accurate negative credit information can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. Bankruptcies can stay on your report for up to ten years. In fact, no one can remove negative information such as late payments from a credit report if it’s accurate, no matter what a credit “repair” company promises you. Use caution before signing up with any company that offers credit repair or counseling services.
Myth 7) Checking your credit report will negatively impact your score.
Absolutely not. You’re typically entitled to receive a free credit report annually from each of the three major credit rating bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Transunion). Free weekly credit reports during COVID are now available until April 2022. Just go to annualcreditreport.com.
Myth 8) There is only one credit score.
Actually, there are quite a few credit scores, and different rating agencies often have more than one. You can even have different credit scores from the same agency because scores are calculated at different times and according to different criteria. For instance, FICO recently made changes to its criteria, which I discussed in a previous column.
The important thing for consumers to understand is what basic factors go into a credit score: payment history, unpaid debts, age of accounts, debt utilization ratio, new credit applications, and types of credit.
Myth 9) Shopping for credit will hurt your credit score.
This is less straightforward. It depends on how you shop, the type of credit you’re shopping for, and your timeline. For instance, applying for multiple credit cards within a short time can have a bigger negative impact on your credit score than shopping for a home or auto loan. In general, comparison-shopping within 14 to 45 days for an auto loan or mortgage is considered a single inquiry. But trying for a mortgage and a car loan at the same time could have a negative impact.
That said, it makes sense to shop around. To minimize any negative impact, pull your credit report in advance to check for errors, and concentrate your rate shopping into a short amount of time.
Myth 10) Having more credit cards improves your credit score.
This also is a potential yes/no situation. Having multiple credit cards can improve your credit history. But it can also tempt you to spend more and be late on payments, which would lower your score.
Ultimately, the best way to improve your credit is to borrow responsibly. Understand these myths and you won’t be fooled into taking on too much debt—a financial prank to avoid any time of year.
Have a personal finance question? Email us at [email protected]. Carrie cannot respond to questions directly, but your topic may be considered for a future article. For Schwab account questions and general inquiries, contact Schwab.
The Charles Schwab Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, private foundation that is not part of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., or its parent company, The Charles Schwab Corporation.
The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.
All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers are obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, their accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CHARLES SCHWAB & CO., INC. MEMBER SIPC. (#0321-1DSH)
Is There a Difference Between No Credit and Bad Credit?
The short answer is yes, and understanding the difference could be instrumental in getting better credit.
No credit and bad credit often get grouped together. It’s understandable why, as they both sound similar enough. And if you have either, the next step forward is to focus on improving your credit.
The two situations aren’t the same, though. It’s important to know the difference, because the right way to build your credit often depends on whether you have no credit history or bad credit.
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The difference between no credit and bad credit
Having no credit means that there’s not enough information on your credit file to calculate a credit score for you. It’s also known as being credit invisible. Sadly, this is an issue that affects millions of Americans.
There aren’t any problems on your credit file; the credit bureaus just don’t have enough data on you. That means when a lender or any other third party checks your credit, there’s nothing to go on.
Meanwhile, “bad credit” is a common term used to describe a low credit score. That low score is because of negative items on your credit file, such as not paying your credit card bill.
When you have no credit, the solution is to build your credit. When you have a low credit score, the solution is to rebuild your credit. Now, let’s look at how you can do each one.
How to build credit for the first time
Here’s the simplest way to build credit:
- Open a credit card.
- Use the credit card for at least one purchase per month.
- Always pay your credit card bill on time and in full.
It’s that easy; that’s all you need to do to get a good credit score. When you use a credit card and pay the bill on time, you establish a positive payment history. That’s the biggest credit scoring criteria.
The tricky part when you have no credit is finding a credit card you can qualify for. Secured credit cards are one of the most common options for consumers in this situation. You pay a security deposit for this type of card, so it’s possible to open a secured card even if you have no credit.
If you’re in college, credit cards for students are available. These are often an option for applicants without any credit history.
How to rebuild a low credit score
It’s a little more complicated to rebuild your credit. First, you need to find out what negative items are affecting your credit score. Here’s how to start:
- Use an online credit score tool to check your score and learn about any items damaging your credit. If you have a credit card, there may be a credit score tool in your online account. If not, there are plenty of free ways to get your credit score.
- Request your credit report from the three consumer credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can pull a free annual credit report from each bureau, and through April 2022, you can get free weekly credit reports. Your credit report will show you exactly what’s affecting your credit.
Once you know what’s affecting your credit, you can work on correcting it. Below are a few of the most common issues and how to fix them.
Problems with your payment history
This includes anything related to not paying a bill on time, from late payments to having accounts go to collections.
The first step is catching up on your payments. If you can’t pay in full, contact your creditors and see if you can set up a payment plan with them. They may be willing to work with you if that means you’ll be making regular payments.
Next is rebuilding your payment history. The easiest option is to use a credit card at least once per month and pay in full by the due date. Why do you need to use a credit card? Credit card companies report on-time payments to the credit bureaus, which helps your credit score. With other types of bills, your on-time payments typically don’t get reported to the credit bureaus. That means you may not be able to improve your payment history with rent, utilities, or other monthly bills.
If you already have credit cards, you can continue using them to rebuild your payment history. If you don’t, look for secured credit cards and apply for one you like.
Using too much of your credit
A big factor in your credit score is your credit utilization ratio — your credit card balances divided by your credit limits. If this number gets too high, it can lower your credit score. The standard recommendation is a credit utilization ratio of under 30%.
Let’s say you have one credit card with a $4,000 balance and a $5,000 credit limit. That would put your credit utilization at 80% ($4,000 divided by $5,000 is 80%), a very high number that would decrease your credit score.
Fortunately, only your current credit utilization matters. Once you pay down your credit card balance, your credit score will bounce back.
Errors on your credit history
A low credit score may be due to an error and not any action on your part. This is why it’s so important to pull your credit reports from each credit bureau. By reviewing those, you can see if there are any mistakes.
If there are errors on your credit report, you can go to the credit bureau’s website to dispute them online and get them removed.
A low credit score and a nonexistent credit score are both things you can change. After you determine exactly what the issue is, you’ll be able to choose the best solution to fix it.
‘There is no new normal’: Worcester small business owner pivoted during COVID-19 and expects only more change after pandemic
It took about eight minutes for the bank to reject Natalie Rodriguez’s application for a loan through the Small Business Administration.
Rodriguez opened Nuestra, a Puerto Rican inspired restaurant in Worcester, in January of 2020. When COVID-19 arrived months later she discovered Nuestra wasn’t eligible for the federal or state funding that thousands of other establishments received.
To qualify, restaurants were required to show payroll and salary for years before 2020. Those figures didn’t exist for a restaurant that weren’t open in 2019.
“[I was] determined and knew that ‘no’ is not an OK answer,” Rodriguez said. “A door may close but you may need to kick down another door.”
Rodriguez then applied for conventional loans only to be led to more closed doors. Less than 10 minutes after applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, she received notice that her poor credit score resulted in her application being denied.
Rodriguez used the dead end with the SBA to create a new path for herself and Nuestra.
She not only learned how to improve her credit but wanted to ensure others didn’t have to follow her journey as an entrepreneur.
Rodriguez extended the “Nuestra” brand to include financial advising. She started Nuestra Financial in April of 2020.
“Now I’m helping others. I’ve been able to restore my credit,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been able to help others restore their credit and be able to help them make a business themselves if they so choose. I’ve been able to survive.”
Without grants and other funding, Rodriguez managed to keep her restaurant open through funds generated from Nuestra Financial.
“I was very quiet about it in the beginning. I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh look at this girl, she just opened a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic,’ and talk smack,” Rodriguez said. “About a month or two later, a light bulb hit and I was like, nobody pays my bills but me. I needed to mind my own business and not worry about what other people thought.”
In creating Nuestra Financial, Rodriguez said she’s helped Worcester residents restore their credit and purchase new vehicles and homes.
Rodriguez said financial literacy is rarely taught to children in school and wasn’t something she learned. When a situation arises like a rejection notice for an economic disaster loan, many don’t know how to respond or where to find answers.
Rodriguez said she’s helped young and old people, along with those who have bad credit or no credit.
“We lack the confidence, including myself, because we weren’t taught,” Rodriguez said. “So if you don’t know something, you weren’t taught, you’re not going to be confident about it.”
Coming out of the pandemic, Rodriguez remains confident about both her businesses. Nuestra, the restaurant, while closed for daily service continues to provide catering services. Rodriguez is still preparing what the future holds for the restaurant but plans to announce an update soon.
As masks start to become less a part of daily routines, Rodriguez, as a small business owner, doesn’t envision many differences from this year to last.
So many aspects of life remain uncertain from rising food costs to a potential third booster for vaccines and whether the country will ever reach herd immunity for COVID-19.
The pandemic arrived with Rodriguez immediately pivoting. As it approaches its potential end, Rodriguez will continue to do what helped her to navigate it.
“I feel like there is no new normal just yet,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’re all just trying to adjust and pivot at the same time and getting creative. I think it’s where we all are.”
Columbus Mattress Wholesale moves to newer, larger Gahanna store
More than four years back, Cathryn Clark’s boyfriend, Christopher Robbins, was on the hunt for a new mattress. He just couldn’t find one at an affordable price.
Clark, 29, and Robbins, 34, who are now engaged, were living in Franklinton, where they still live today.
They had no experience owning or operating a small business; Robbins worked as a retail assistant for SAS Retail Services while Clark worked as the communications director for two Methodist churches.
But in 2017, Robbins, with Clark at his side, took the leap and opened Columbus Mattress Wholesale on the West Side, with the goal of helping low-income consumers secure mattresses and other bedtime products.
“We really wanted to bring a store to people that, you know, they weren’t paying an arm and leg, but they still could get a good night’s sleep,” Clark said.
Customers at Columbus Mattress Wholesale can pay cash or credit, for example, but the business also works with financing companies that serve people without credit scores, with bad credit or who are lower income.
Last month, the business made a big move. It expanded from its original location on Harrisburg Pike to a store double the size at 435 Agler Road in Gahanna.
Clark said she and Robbins saw a need in the broader area, with many of their customers coming from outside the Hilltop, such as Linden.
Nestled between Dollar Tree and the Ohio BMV in Gahanna, the new storefront opened Memorial Day weekend and sells mattresses, bed bases, bed frames and pillows. Mattress prices range from under $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the size and brand, which includes some well-known names such as Serta, Beautyrest and Casper.
Clark said while she and Robbins originally sold solely Ohio-based brands, they’ve branched out to national brands as business has grown.
Columbus Mattress Wholesale also offers free same-day delivery on most orders from customers living in Columbus.
Clark does a little bit of everything for the business, from running communications, to working on the sales floor, to managing the sales team, to ordering what they sell.
She said a big mission for herself and Robbins, beyond doing business, is aiding the community.
“We’ve seen a lot of people struggle,” Clark said.
Clark said she and Robbins work to mentor other people who are hoping to open or currently own a small business. She added that the store starts employees at $17 per hour.
She and Robbins haven’t decided yet what they will do with the original location — which is currently closed — but said they might shift it into an accessory store.
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