How Do I Know if My Credit Score Sucks?

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Leaving your overprotective parents and taking on the adventure of college is all fun and games—until you start charging all that fun and all those games to your credit card. Even if you’re a finance major, it’ll take a while for you to adjust to the financial aspects of living solo. But something that can’t wait? Knowing your credit score.

Find out your credit score before it’s too late.

Credit score? What even is that?

Credit scores start to build when you get your first credit card and continue building throughout your life, whether you go on a shopping spree or take out a loan. “Credit score is a grade. It tells someone how reliable you are to loan money to. The better the grade, the more reliable you are to return the money borrowed,” said Spencer, Iowa high school business class teacher Liz Kluver. This one number can affect your eligibility for loans— it basically tells banks how much they can trust you to pay everything back. It can also make or break your bank account, since your credit score determines the interest rates.

“The higher your score is the better terms and interest rate you will receive. And vice versa, if your score is lower you will likely have to pay a higher interest rate,” said banker Jason Warren. Nobody likes paying interest in the first place, so you definitely won’t want to pay a higher one. Having a good credit score really matters to save money. But what does a good credit score look like?

How Do I Know if My Credit Score is Good?

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, but you want to avoid scores nearer to 300 just as much as a call from your ex. The higher the score, the better off you start when applying for loans. On average, credit scores range from 600 to 750. Scores in this range work, but won’t impress everyone. “Anything below 620 would be considered a very poor credit score.  The higher you move up the better your score is,” said Warren. A score around 700 or so is considered good, like passing a class with a B or C, but if you want that A+ you need an excellent score of 780 or above.

How often should I check my credit score?

Since credit scores matter so much, you’ll want to make sure you check them fairly often. Although the typical college student likes to procrastinate just about everything possible, completely putting off checking your credit score for years sets you up to fail. But at a minimum, how frequently should you check it? Kluver said to check it once a year.  Fortunately, you don’t need to check your credit scores as often as you do your group chat.

“Checking your credit score once a month would be probably as often as you would want to check it, no more than that would be necessary,” said financial advisor Levi Morris from Community State Bank. Checking it consistently will keep you up to date on your own financial situation and impress your parents with how well you’re #adulting.

My credit score is messed up. How do I fix that?

If you find yourself on the lower end of the spectrum, all is not lost. You have to work a little harder than you’d wish. Improving credit scores takes some work, especially if it dropped due to too many overdue bills. Think of it like your GPA. If you fail an easy A class freshman year just because you didn’t turn in some assignments here and there, it still affects your cumulative GPA for the rest of your academic career. With credit scores, once it drops too dramatically, raising it back up is harder than you’d like.

“The biggest thing you can do to improve your score is to ALWAYS make your payments on time,” said Morris. You have your credit card bill to pay tomorrow? Take down a note so you remember to pay it tomorrow. You have your loan payment due in two days? Set aside the money today, or even check into possibly setting up scheduled payments if your bank has the luxury. Do not get behind and shove it in the mental filing cabinet that includes all those reminders to call your parents. If you let it slip your mind, your score will slip too.

Emily is a freshman at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communications and Psychology. She has a passion for writing and learning more about how people think. She hopes to one day travel and pursue her passions outside the United States.

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