Over the course of your life you’ll be more likely to qualify for better interest rates, which can mean paying lower fees on mortgages and other loans.
Contrary to popular belief, understanding your credit score doesn’t require you to be a genius. It does however, require that you understand a few things about credit and how it’s calculated.
Here are 6 things you may not know about credit scores:
1. You Actually Have More Than One Credit Score
When you hear people talk about “your credit score,” they usually speak as though you only have one. But that’s wrong. Everyone actually has multiple credit scores. Canada has two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax, each of which use slightly different methods to calculate a credit score based on your credit history. There are also other companies that calculate credit scores which banks or other lenders might use when assessing whether to lend to you.
2. The Golden 20-30 Rule
A large part of your credit score is calculated based on how much of your credit you’re currently using. This is called your credit utilization ratio and if you want a high credit score, you typically should utilize just 20%-30% of your available credit. If you use more on any particular card or in total, then your credit score could be dinged. What if you pay your cards off every month? It doesn’t matter – if you’re charging more than 20%-30% of your limit then your credit utilization ratio isn’t ideal.
3. Pay More Than Your Minimum Payment
While it’s always important to pay at least your minimum payment, if that’s all you do it could take you a long time to repay your credit card debt. That’s why, if you can’t repay your balance entirely, you should at least pay more than your minimum payment. Even just $10 more per month would help you chip away at that debt and ensure that you’ll be able to celebrate paying off your debt that much sooner. An added bonus is that you’ll pay less interest each month as well since your balance will be lower.
4. It’s Easier Than You Think To Get Your Credit Report and Score
Did you know that you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year? It’s easy to get it. All you have to do is send copies of your identification and a form with personal information to one of Canada’s two credit bureaus: Equifax or TransUnion. You’ll then get your credit report in the mail in two to three weeks. Your credit report outlines your credit history and all the components that contribute to your overall credit score. If you want to get your credit score, you’ll have to pay for it, but you’ll receive it online immediately. TransUnion currently charges as little as $16.95 and Equifax currently charges as little as $19.95 for your credit score.
5. Applying for All Those Credit Cards Hurts Your Score
You might want to get the free t-shirt or bonus travel rewards that come with applying for a new credit card, but if you apply for too many new cards it can have a negative impact on your score. That’s because your credit score takes into account how many times you’re applying for credit and penalizes you for it. If you decide to apply for a credit card, make sure that it’s something you will get value from beyond the free t-shirts. Here’s a nifty tool to help you select what type of card features best fit your needs.
6. It’s Not All About Credit Cards
From the tips above, you might think that only credit cards determine your credit score. They do have a big impact, but they aren’t the only factor in building a good credit score. Having multiple types of credit like student loans, a car loan, or a mortgage gives you great credit diversity, which can increase your score. However, with any credit product, take the time to think about if it makes sense for your situation and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from family or financial advisors.
For more student credit tips, check out this Building Good Credit infographic.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.