AARP is an organization for older people, but I love its pro-consumer bent. A recent AARP Bulletin shared tips to make yourself look better to lenders. The list regurgitates old advice but is a good reminder to maintain financially healthy habits. Here are AARP’s credit tips on what harms your score and how to act:
Paying bills late – Car payments, electricity bills, even a late library fine can get reported to the credit bureau. Mark your calendar to pay bills at the same time every month or arrange automatic payments with your bank. My two cents: if you use Google calender, a reminder pops up for every item so you won’t miss a payment.
Closing credit cards – If you really want to close an account or two, close the most recently opened cards and the ones with the lowest credit limit. My two cents: doh! I just closed a longtime credit card because I no longer needed it.
Not checking your credit reports – Be vigilant about checking your credit reports at least once a year; nationwide consumer credit reporting communities such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion offer free credit reports. My two cents: true, but the free credit report does not include your credit score, which is like getting a paper back from a teacher marked up but without a grade.
Taking it to the limit– Aim to keep your charges to 30% or less of your available credit. If you’ve almost maxed out your cards, use them as little as possible for a while and pay them down.
Using cash over credit– If you don’t want to pay interest on credit cards, just pay the bill in full every month. My two cents: I disagree! My month-long credit card-less experiment revealed I spend significantly less – about 16% – when I use cash over credit. I think building savings is more important than building a high credit score.
Not shopping around for lower rates – Spend some time looking at cards and rates at Creditcards.com and Bankrate.com. My two cents: these are just two of the many great sites for finding a credit card that fits your habits.
Applying for extra cards– Too many inquiries at one time make you look desperate for credit. My two cents: but how many is too many? 2? 5? 13?