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What Is a Bad Credit Score?

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It can be depressing when you’re on the bottom rung of the credit ladder, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

You can increase your bad credit score if you use the right techniques and you’re persistent. And I promise it won’t take the rest of your life to build a solid credit score, either. So let’s get started.

Here’s what you’ll learn just ahead:

What Is Bad Credit?

Here’s a broad definition: A consumer who has bad credit, also referred to as poor credit, has a FICO score of 579 or less. With a bad credit score, you might only be approved for credit cards, mortgages or personal loans that come with high interest rates.

In fact, if your score is way less than 579, there’s a chance you can’t get approved for credit at all. But consider this a temporary problem. Once you start working on your score, your ability to get credit will improve.

Understanding how credit scores work can help you make better credit decisions. There are two credit scores that are used most often by lenders: FICO scores and VantageScores. FICO also has score versions for different industries.

About 90% of lenders use a version of the FICO score to help determine an applicant’s creditworthiness. FICO Score 8 seems to be the version used most often, but there’s also a new version called FICO Score 9. It takes lenders a long time to use a new score, so that’s why FICO Score 8 is still so popular.

What You Need to Know About FICO Scores

FICO scores range from 300 to 850. According to myFICO.com, these are the values for each credit score range:

  • Exceptional: 800 and higher.
  • Very good: 740 to 799.
  • Good: 670 to 739.
  • Fair: 580 to 669.
  • Poor: 579 and lower.

The average FICO score as of October 2020 is 711, which qualifies as good credit. It might seem impossible right now, but possessing good credit will be within reach after you spend time rebuilding your credit.

Let’s take a look at the factors that make up the FICO score:

  • Payment history: 35%.
  • Amounts owed: 30%.
  • Length of credit history: 15%.
  • New credit: 10%.
  • Credit mix: 10%.

If you have a poor credit score, it means that lenders think you have a high risk of delinquency. In fact, about 61% of consumers with credit scores below 580 are likely to become delinquent on a credit-related account, FICO says. So this is why it’s difficult to get approved for credit without having to pay high interest rates.

What You Need to Know About VantageScores

VantageScore ranges from 300 to 850, just like the FICO score does. But since VantageScore weighs the options a little differently, a 700 FICO score can’t be directly compared with a 700 VantageScore. Plus, FICO scores have different ranges for each credit rating.

Here are the VantageScore ranges:

  • Excellent: 750 to 850.
  • Good: 700 to 749.
  • Fair: 650 to 699.
  • Poor: 550 to 649.
  • Very poor: 300 to 549.

As you can see, there are two categories that could be considered a bad score. With VantageScore, poor credit is from 550 to 649. And very poor credit is less than 550. You’ll need a score of 650 to climb into the fair credit range.

Rather than using percentages like FICO does, VantageScore focuses on how influential each factor is in the algorithm. Factors that make up the VantageScore include:

  • Available credit, balances and credit utilization: extremely influential.
  • Credit mix and experience: highly influential.
  • Payment history: moderately influential.
  • Age of credit history and new accounts: less influential.

How to Improve Bad Credit

Now that you know more about how credit scores work, you’re ready to start improving your credit score. Your short-term goal is to move up into fair credit, which for FICO is 580.

Your long-term goal? To get the lowest interest rates, you’ll need a FICO score of at least 760, which puts you in the very good FICO score range. This won’t happen right away, of course, but it’s a possibility if you use the right strategies.

Here are four strategies for improving a bad credit score:

If you don’t have a budget, you need to set one up today. Once you remedy that situation, you also need to track your spending, which is easy to do with an app or online money management tools.

It’s difficult to stay on budget if you don’t know how much you spent and where you spent it. Getting into debt or increasing the debt you already have could make your credit score even worse. So think of this as your financial foundation. A strong foundation helps you build good credit.

With a bad credit score, you’ll have a hard time getting approved for a decent credit card. Before you decide to get an unsecured credit card with a high annual percentage rate and monthly maintenance fees, take a look at secured credit cards.

You will have to put down a deposit to secure the credit card. But you’ll get a regular-looking credit card to use for purchases. These cards are listed on your credit report as a revolving credit account, and as long as your issuer reports your payment history to the credit bureaus, you’ll build a better credit score. That is, as long as you use the card responsibly.

Many people aren’t aware that this option exists. You can check with your local bank or a credit union to see if credit-builder loans are offered. Every institution has its own set of rules and rates for credit-builder loans, but in general, you’ll deposit a small amount, such as $1,000, in the bank or credit union.

You then pay the “loan” back in monthly payments. This type of loan is identified as an installment loan by the FICO score algorithm, so that also gives you a small boost in the “mix of credit” category.

You have a credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit used compared with the amount of credit available. If you are carrying balances on your credit cards from month to month, your ratio could be high.

A ratio that exceeds 30% can drag down your credit score. As you pay down debt, your credit score will start to rise. As already noted, available credit is 30% of your credit score. To get the biggest positive impact on your score, keep your balances less than 10%.

Make it a priority in your life to improve your credit, and over time, you’ll see the results of your hard work.

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Bad Credit

Can I be denied a job due to bad credit?

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Can I be denied a job due to bad credit?
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People often worry about their credit history when it comes to applying for a new credit card, a mortgage or a car loan. If you have poor credit, should you also be concerned about finding work? Can you be denied a job due to bad credit?

Let’s examine the facts.

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What is bad credit anyway?

Bad credit is basically a negative assessment of your finances based on your history of borrowing. Bad credit implies that you have a bad track record with lenders. This is most likely because you have a pattern of not paying your bills on time or defaulting on your loans.

Is it legal for employers to check my credit report?

Law and finance firms are legally required to perform credit checks on potential employees. However, other kinds of employers can also conduct credit checks on you before they hire you. But they must ask for your permission before they do so.

In many cases, a credit check will be performed by a company if the role you are applying for involves dealing with large amounts of cash.

Why might employers want to check my report?

There are many reasons an employer might want to check your report. For example, they might want to ensure that:

  • You are who you say you are.
  • You have a good track record of managing money.
  • It’s not too much of a risk to let your manage money.
  • Your financial behaviour will not affect your work performance.

Could you be rewarded for your everyday spending?

Rewards credit cards include schemes that reward you simply for using your credit card. When you spend money on a rewards card you could earn loyalty points, in-store vouchers airmiles, and more. MyWalletHero makes it easy for you to find a card that matches your spending habits so you can get the most value from your rewards.

Can an employer deny me a job due to bad credit?

Yes. According to credit reference agency Experian, if your prospective employer feels that your current financial situation could impact your ability to perform well in the role, or if your credit history shows poor financial planning, they may decide not to hire you.

Generally speaking, however, employers are more likely to be concerned about serious ‘red flags’ in your credit history, like bankruptcy rather than the odd missed payment.

In any case, employers only get access to your ‘public’ credit report. This contains your electoral roll information and any major red flags such as bankruptcies, individual voluntary arrangements and county court judgments.

They will not have access to your detailed credit repayments or your credit score.

How can I keep my credit history from affecting my ability to get a job?

If a prospective employer runs a credit check on you, ultimately you have no control over what they do with the information, including denying you a job due to bad credit.

The best thing you can do to minimise the impact of your credit on your chances of getting a job is to review your credit report beforehand.

You have the right to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Before you apply for a job or attend an interview, request your report and review it for any errors so that you can have them corrected ahead of time.

Even if there are no errors, knowing what is on your credit report puts you in a good position to answer any questions that may arise during the hiring process.

Indeed, if there’s something in your report that employers might consider a ‘red flag’, don’t panic. Instead, begin preparing an explanation to give to them. If it was, for example, caused by financial hardship beyond your control, the employer may take this into account.

Alternatively, you can contact a credit reference agency and request that a notice of correction be added to your report. This is a brief note of up to 200 words in length that explains circumstances that a lender might otherwise question.

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Refinancing Your Subprime Auto Loan

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Refinancing is a wonderful way to save money on your monthly car loan payment – but it can cost you more in the long run if you’re not careful. Refinancing when you have a subprime auto loan isn’t always as easy as refinancing a vehicle when you have good credit. Working with the right lender can help, though.

What Is Refinancing?

Refinancing is when you replace your existing car loan with a different one for the same vehicle, which may have either a lower interest rate, a longer loan term, or both.

Qualifying for a lower interest rate is optimal for getting a lower monthly payment and saving money overall. If you only extend your loan term without getting a lower rate, you actually end up paying more in interest charges over the term of your loan.

Auto loans typically use a simple interest formula, meaning your interest charges add up daily. The longer your loan term, the more you pay the lender – it’s wise to choose the shortest loan term you can afford. If you only extend your loan term you may end up paying more than the vehicle’s value!

Refinancing can typically be done with your current lender or with another one. It’s a good idea to shop around for the best possible rate before going with the first offer you receive. When you shop for the same type of financing with multiple lenders in a two-week timeframe, it’s called rate shopping. When you do this only one credit inquiry impacts your credit score instead of multiple, minimizing the negative impact that hard pulls can have on your credit score.

Options for Bad Credit Borrowers

Taking out a subprime auto loan is a great way to improve your credit, so, if you’ve kept up with your loan to this point and just need a little wiggle room in your budget, refinancing could be for you. Your credit is an important factor in refinancing your auto loan because refinancing is typically reserved for people with good credit.

However, when a borrower already took out a subprime car loan, many refinancing lenders are willing to work with them as long as they’ve made improvements to their credit over the course of the loan. Better credit alone doesn’t qualify you for refinancing, though.

In order to qualify for refinancing, you, your vehicle, and your loan all need to meet the requirements of a lender. These vary, but in order to refinance your car you typically need to meet these qualifications:Refinancing Your Subprime Auto Loan

  • Have a better credit score than when you began the loan
  • Have had your auto loan for at least one year
  • Have an acceptable loan amount
  • Have no more than 100,000 miles on your vehicle
  • Car can’t be more than 10 years old
  • You must be current on your payments
  • There can’t be negative equity in the vehicle

Lenders that refinance typically prefer cars that are in good condition, that aren’t too old, and have lower mileage. Some lenders may not want to refinance a vehicle that’s at risk for breaking down or is depreciating quickly.

They’re generally looking for a loan that isn’t too new, or too close to being paid off as well. And, refinancers may also require that you haven’t missed a payment on your original car loan. A borrower whose current on their loan gives a lender confidence you’ll manage the new loan well.

Alternatives to Refinancing Your Subprime Auto Loan

If you’re not able to refinance your vehicle, you typically still have the option to trade it in for something more affordable. Even if you’re still paying on a loan, all you have to do is pay off the loan to release the lien on the car.

Even if it’s years from the end of your loan term, you may have a good chance at trading in your vehicle, especially now. Due to fluctuations in the auto market, used cars are in high demand currently, which means that dealerships may be willing to pay a higher price to get your used vehicle on their lot – even if you’re a bad credit borrower looking to trade-in.

If you still owe on an auto loan this gives you a better chance at selling your car for the amount you owe to the lender. It may even give you enough cash left over to put toward your next, more affordable vehicle!

Ready to Get Started?

If you think refinancing your subprime auto loan is the way to go, you can check out our resources, here. But, if you think that finding an affordable, used car with a lower monthly payment is the right choice for you, we want to get you started toward your goal today!

At Auto Credit Express, we’ve got a coast-to-coast network of special finance dealerships ready to work with borrowers who are struggling with credit challenges. To get connected to a dealer in your local area that’s signed up with subprime lenders, simply fill out our auto loan request form. It’s fast, free, and never carries any obligation.

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It’s Time to Break Up With Your First Credit Card

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©Shutterstock.com / Shutterstock.com

©Shutterstock.com / Shutterstock.com

Many of us got our first credit cards when we were either in college or in our early 20s. We likely did not have a full-time job with a steady salary, and if we did, it’s also likely we weren’t rolling in dough.

See: 13 Credit Cards That Every 30-Something Should Consider
Find: Surprising Uses for Your Credit Card Rewards

Given these circumstances, the first credit cards offered to us were probably of a particular kind: low credit limits, no prior credit history required, high annual percentage rate and overall easy to get. While these cards served us well as a way to build up our credit — and probably learn some lessons about money the hard way — it’s time to let go for a couple of reasons.

The Benefits of Upgrading Your Card

When you upgrade your card, it’s likely you will also upgrade the benefits. Some companies, like Discover, Credit One and Capital One, are popular choices as a first credit card. However, these companies have better options as you, and your finances, mature.

The Wall Street Journal suggests asking for an upgrade. “Customers need to phrase it as a ‘product change’ when they call the card company. A product change involves getting a new card with the same card provider and it typically allows a cardholder to keep everything else the same, including the account number and available credit.”

See: 10 Credit Cards That Have Gotten Better During the Pandemic
Find: Old-School Money Advice You Shouldn’t Follow Anymore

This could be a good idea for those who are not ready to jump ship from their first credit company just yet. It also removes the hassle of having to find a different provider, and probably the largest benefit of all — no hard credit check needed.

A “hard” credit check is when your credit is thoroughly examined, and it results in an inquiry showing up on your credit report. These are always necessary for opening a new line of credit, like a credit card or a mortgage, but too many inquiries can count against you and negatively affect your credit. A “soft” credit check, on the other hand, will not affect your credit score and is usually done for verification purposes, such as when you apply for new employment. Soft checks also happen with preapprovals.

See: Soft vs. Hard Credit Check — What’s the Difference?
Find: 30 Things You Do That Can Mess Up Your Credit Score

If you ask for a product change on a credit card, you won’t need to have that hard inquiry because the company already has a solid picture of your credit and has done an inquiry before. But it’s important to confirm that your credit history will be rolled over to the new card.

Switching credit institutions all together can be beneficial, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. While the rules of credit apply whether you have, for example, a Credit One or Chase credit card, it’s not a secret that certain credit cards have certain reputations — or that credit bureaus take notice.

For example, the Credit One Bank Visa card is “one of the most popular credit cards for people with bad credit, largely because it’s one of the few unsecured cards that applicants with poor credit scores can get approved for,” according to WalletHub.

See: Biden Wants to Shut Down Credit Bureaus – What Would That Mean for You?
Find: 10 Credit Score Myths You Need to Stop Believing

In contrast, American Express credit cards are best for people with credit scores over 700 and require at least “good” credit for approval, WalletHub adds. A good credit score is one that’s between 670 and 739, according to Fair Isaac.

So while both cards function the same way, the profile of those who own these cards might be different — or at least be perceived as such.

Theoretically, the same person could own both cards, but your money works for you more with an American Express vs. a Credit One. If you have a Credit One card but qualify for American Express, it might make sense to leave your old credit card behind. In addition to the immediate financial benefits, upgrading for a credit card company that has a reputation for being exclusive to those with good credit could help when you apply for a mortgage or apply for credit cards at specific stores.

See: This Is How Many Credit Cards You Should Have
Find: Credit Cards With the Best Incentives to Open in 2021

The first question you should ask yourself is, “What is my card doing best for me?” If the answer is helping you build your credit, getting you out of bad credit or allowing you to have credit when you otherwise would not be able to, then sticking with the same card, or at least the same credit card company, makes sense.

This allows you avoid a new credit inquiry on your credit report while still building and increasing your credit. Asking for a credit limit increase on your credit card if you’ve been with the same company for a while, you’ve been routinely paying off your card and you’re in good standing, is a good idea.

See: Expert Tips to Fix Your Credit on a Limited Income
Find: What Is a Credit Limit?

If you are shopping around for a new card that gives you rewards or benefits based on your purchases, starting small is paramount. It wouldn’t be prudent to go straight for a card that has a yearly fee, for example.

Start small, and start smart with credit limits, too. Going from a limit of $2,000 straight to a limit of $15,000 while your salary remains relatively unchanged is not always a good thing. Having a higher credit limit doesn’t necessarily mean that you are now richer or more responsible — it only means that you now have a greater risk of putting yourself into serious debt. Slowly increasing your credit limit makes your debt more manageable — and makes you look more responsible to credit bureaus.

Breaking up is hard to do, but if your finances have matured, it might be time to get a card that helps you reach your goals with cash-back rewards and points you can use for travel, groceries and other other items. Shopping around for a lower interest rate and a slightly increased credit limit can also help you move forward.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: It’s Time to Break Up With Your First Credit Card

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