The Credit Score Puzzle, Part 3

What makes up the rest of your credit score? We’ve already talked about payment history and outstanding credit balances.

Your credit history, which is the length of time your credit has been established, is about 15% of your score.

A borrower who has had credit lines for 20 years (we call this seasoning) scores higher than some who has never borrowed anything. If you are just beginning to establish credit, a secured credit card may be just the thing.

When I was in my 20’s, I got a small personal loan and paid it off on time. By the time I was ready to buy a car, I had a history behind me and had no trouble getting a new loan. Each successfully managed loan leads to an easier time getting new loans.

If you’re really new to credit, your lender may be able to show a good payment history by using phone bills, electric bills, etc.

Inquiries had a 10% impact on your score. In other words, every time you apply for credit (or even talk to a creditor about financing something), the creditor will make an inquiry as to your credit history. Too many of these and you’ll lose points in your credit score. However, if you’re shopping for the best rates, inquiries within a 14 day period will count as only one inquiry. So best to plan ahead when shopping for a mortgage than to spread it out over time.

Anecdotally, when I was in the mortgage business, it was common for approved loans to become unapproved loans because the buyers would go out and buy furniture on credit just before going to settlement. Those inquiries would show up and scuttle the loan. Do not spend money on anything between finding your dream house and going to settlement! Wait until the house is yours.

Last, the type of credit you have makes a difference. A mix of loan types — auto, credit card, student, etc. — is better than credit card debt alone.

(C) Susan Pruden.

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