Building great credit can be a tedious journey, especially for consumers whose finances took a hit. But once the goal of good credit has been attained — whether that’s high credit scores, low debt loads or timely payments — there’s the task of maintaining it.
“I’m terrified of ruining my credit,” a friend said to me recently. We were talking about some stories I had written recently, and after telling me about her stellar credit profile, she shared her worries about losing it all.
It’s an understandable concern: Having good credit scores makes a big difference for personal finances, so while it’s important to maintain strong credit standings, there are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s Not All About Numbers
Each credit scoring model has different guidelines for what scores are considered excellent, bad and everything in between, and where your scores fall in those ranges will give you a good idea of what levels of credit and interest rates you can access.
That said, small changes in credit scores aren’t anything to stress about, and it’s very likely that you will see your differences among score providers. Not all credit issuers report to every credit bureau, so the information on your credit reports may vary.
The most important thing is to make sure your credit reports are accurate, because that’s what credit scores are based on, and the best way to maintain an impressive credit report is to practice good habits: Schedule automatic bill payments so you never miss a due date, set calendar reminders to check your credit reports three times a year (or more often, if you need to), and pay attention to your credit limit so you know how much you can spend while keeping a low debt-to-credit-limit ratio.
Use Available Tools
The Internet has simplified personal finance management by making a slew of tools more accessible for consumers. Pretty much everything people need to know about their finances can be managed online, including credit reports, credit scores, budgets and banking.
Personal awareness is crucial to building and maintaining good credit, so people are better off checking their bank statements and credit profiles as often as possible. Sign up for a free online budgeting service, request your free annual credit reports from the major credit bureaus, and look at your credit scores — the Credit Report Card lets you see your credit scores for free every month. If you don’t take a look at these things, you may have less clarity on what areas of your finances need attention, and you may not know if you have good or bad credit until a lender rejects you.
While consistent credit monitoring and sticking to good behaviors make a difference, consumers shouldn’t obsess over attaining perfect credit. Personal finance is part of daily life, meaning mistakes will crop up from time to time, no matter how careful you are. Yes, a late payment could ding your credit score, but the damage isn’t permanent.
As with all things, your credit scores will see ups and downs, but if you practice good habits and pay attention to your finances, you’re more likely to see higher numbers in the long run.