By Wil Lewis
Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Experian
There are many ways to approach setting yourself up for financial success. We know it’s important to spend within our means and save, making sure to have a “rainy-day” fund for unexpected expenses like a car repair. However, a topic that’s not addressed enough is how to manage credit wisely and the importance of a good credit score.
The challenges of being “credit invisible”
Unfortunately, today more than 28 million Americans do not have access to quality credit because they are credit “invisible,” meaning they have no or a limited credit history. African Americans are approximately 28% of this population, according to a report by global consulting firm Oliver Wyman. Lack of credit or good credit may lead to denials from lenders or high interest rates. Milestones like renting an apartment or buying a car can be hindered by being credit invisible.
According to a national Experian survey, 74% of African Americans agree that credit is necessary to get the things they want in life, yet 49% say credit is confusing and almost 1 in 2 feel unknowledgeable about the credit system. As a result, Experian is committed to getting more information about credit and financial tools into the hands of the African American community.
Understanding the credit landscape
A credit report is a historical record of how and when you pay your bills, how much debt you have and how long you have been managing credit accounts.
Your credit report lists things like unpaid accounts that have gone to collections, bankruptcy filings, and car repossessions. Information is provided from financial institutions and other companies with whom you do business including courts, collection agencies and state and local governments.
Four key factors used to calculate a credit score:
1. Payment history: Counts for approximately one third of your credit score. Too many late payments can lower your score.
2. How much you’re using your card: Credit card balances should be less than 30% of your credit limit, on a single credit card or on all of them. Keep balances low to keep your score high.
3. Credit history duration: Credit accounts that have been open and active for long periods of time reflect your score positively.
4. Create a healthy combination: Diverse accounts such as some credit cards and a car loan will keep your credit in good shape.
Managing your credit – steps you can take to build a good credit score.
1. Pay bills on time. Payment history is the most important factor in calculating your credit score and paying bills on time every month is critical to maintaining good credit.
2. Pay debt. Reducing credit card balances is a great way to keep the utilization rate of credit low.
3. Make pending payments. Paying as soon as possible if you missed a payment can prevent a large negative impact on your credit score. The longer it has elapsed, the greater the impact. Make the payment even if you’re late.
Experian Go can help
Experian’s mission is to bring financial power to all. As a direct reflection of that, Experian recently launched a free program designed to help credit invisibles build credit on their terms. It is the only program to help consumers establish their financial identity by creating an Experian credit report without taking on debt. Personalized recommendations help users add accounts to their Experian credit file to start establishing a credit history. The member may be able to obtain a credit score for the first time once there is enough credit history. Members also receive ongoing education and recommendations to further build their credit history, including access to free Experian credit reports, credit monitoring and more. To use Experian Go, download Experian’s free mobile app and enroll for free. For additional information, visit experian.com/go