I’ve always assumed I had good credit based on my behaviors, but I never knew my credit score. Then, we bought a house 3 years ago and had to apply for a mortgage.
The mortgage broker was downright giddy when he pulled our credit reports and got our scores. He excitedly told me that he could count on one hand the people that he had worked with with an 800+ score. Yay, I’m a celebrity in his world!
How I Built My Credit
You can read a lot of articles online about how to build your credit. I’ve honestly never paid any attention to them. I have never done anything with the intention of building my credit.
It just happened. How? My parents taught me to work hard, be responsible, and not buy things unless I have the money to pay for them. No fancy financial tricks, just good old fashioned ethics and personal responsibility.
So, what have I done financially that got me over 800 with good old FICO? Not much:
- Minimal Credit Cards. I have only ever had 1 or 2 credit cards since I was 18. Like every newly minted legal adult, I got inundated with credit card offers as soon as I was of age. I used a highly sophisticated method of choosing the right one: the one with the cutest picture on it. I went with CapitalOne and a panda. (This is why 18-year-olds shouldn’t be making big financial decisions.)
- Mortgage. I got a joint mortgage at age 26 with my husband and have had one for 8 years now.
- Always Pay Bills On Time. I have always paid my utilities, insurance, rent, credit cards and mortgage payments on time. I now have automatic payments set up for just about all of them, to safeguard against mommy-brain.
- Pay Credit Card Off Each Month. I have automatic payments set up for the minimum payment on my credit cards, and then when the statement comes out I adjust the payment to pay off the balance in full. Being human, several times I have forgotten about it. With the automatic payment, I have never paid late fees, but I have ended up paying interest for a couple of days until I remembered to pay. What can I say, nobody is perfect, right? At least I have safeguards in place to minimize the damage if I do slip up.
What I Didn’t Do
That’s what I did do, but what I didn’t do is just as important:
- Car Loan. I’ve known people that take out a car loan even though they have the necessary cash, just to build their credit. By doing that, you’re essentially trying to buy credit (through interest payments). However, you don’t know how the FICO algorithms work or how your loan will actually affect your credit. You’re just going off of what other people say without any guarantees. How many other things do you buy that way with no knowledge or guarantees?
- Student Loan. Nope, none. I worked hard, barely had a social life, earned a scholarship, and passed on opportunities I couldn’t afford. And boy, am I glad I did!
- Furniture Loan. Yes, I had a friend who bought a bunch of furniture with store credit as a newlywed in order to build credit. Then they proceeded to buy a house that the furniture didn’t even fit in. I’ve always wondered if that came with a lot of regret but was always too polite to ask.
- Multiple Credit Cards. Like I said, I never had more than 2, and have only had 3 different cards in my whole life. No APR chasing, no 0 balance transfers, no store cards to get 10% off my purchase. Just 2 cards always paid in full.
- Carry A Balance. Credit card debt will eat you alive, steal your joy, and poke holes in your marriage. Not to mention prevent you from preparing for the future, leaving you to live your final days in poverty. It’s better to have no cards and no credit score than to deal with credit card debt.
That’s about it. I’m no FICO expert, that’s just my own personal experience. What about you? What have you done that has helped or hurt your credit score? Have you done anything you really regret? Share in the comments and save someone else the pain!