Credit has a big impact on our lives. Credit score numbers give you buying power or leverage or it can also take away that power.

Your score is such an important number and it becomes available to us as soon as we turn 18. I can tell you that at 18, I was not ready to hold that much power over my future.

Your credit score is a number that determines your financial eligibility and responsibility to pay back loans. Sounds easy enough, but at 18 you want more than you can afford and once you get into credit card debt, it’s much, much harder to get yourself out.

Unfortunately, credit cards are many times a necessary evil to help grow your credit. Because at 18, you have no credit, but need it for everything. You need a new car? Then you need credit. Need additional and maybe nontraditional student loans? Credit helps determine that too.

With this number affecting your purchasing power in the future, it’s important to know the factors and how to manage them responsibly.

1. Payments

Payments are an important part of your credit score because it lets potential lenders know if you are making your payments and being timely with your payments.

Pay your bills on time. All of them. Don’t spend frivolous money if you haven’t made your bill payments. These payments will have a long term effect on you. And you want that to be beneficial.

Late payments or skipped or missed payments all have negative or adverse action to your score.

2. Usage

Reporting bureaus are looking into how you use your cards. Are they emergency only like only here and there? Or are they used monthly to get the extras?

If you can show responsibility by having open credit with low balances and timely payments, you seem more responsible than one who keeps a card close to max and pays minimum balance.

3. Longevity

How long have you had credit? The longer your credit life, the more of an overall picture your report paints.

Unfortunately, if you have a short history and high debt in relation to your income, it looks worse than one who has lots of cards, some debt, and decent income.

The longer you’ve had credit, the better potential lenders can gauge how responsible you are with credit and loans.

4. Types of Accounts

Do you have a few different types of accounts? Student loans and credit cards? Or all credit cards?

It’s a review of revolving and non-revolving credit. Revolving credit is, for example, a credit card. You can pay down or off part and have more credit to spend. Non—revolving is like a car loan that decreases over time, but you don’t have access to what you’ve paid off.

Having some debt that isn’t revolving is good; student loans are a great example of this.

Not that revolving credit is bad, but it is potential for lots of debt. Another way it’s looked at is the accounts that are open and could be maxed out overnight. How much spending power do you have?

5. Inquiries

How many loans or credit cards have you shopped for?

This is basically the number of times a lender or potential lender has pulled your credit for review. High numbers of inquiries at a time don’t look good and can hurt your score.

Pay attention to credit you are considering opening. Do shop around for your card if you are considering getting one, but don’t give your information until you’ve picked one.

Conclusion

It’s easy to get caught up in the credit game, but it’s important to understand why you shouldn’t and the impact it will have on your future.

Keep track of your credit score with your reports from the 3 major credit bureaus, which you can get 1 copy free each year at Annual Credit Report.

Be aware of how you use credit and the number of accounts you look into. And always pay on time.


Camille is one of the content writers and Mental Health & Lifestyle Editor for Tribe Twenty One. She is a freelance writer and has her Bachelor’s in Marketing and Master’s in Organizational Communications from Southeastern Louisiana University.

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