Over the years, I have come across all sorts of people who have had no idea what their credit score is. Some of them have declared to me that they have great credit only to find that they had poor credit scores or a number of late payments. I have also had people tell me that they had lousy credit only to find that they had a very respectable credit score. People do not know anything about credit and need an expert to help them to build their credit.
When you ask the two major credit reporting agencies, Equifax and Trans Union how they score credit, they give you a vague idea but no idea on how to quickly up your score.
Perhaps you have seen this pie chart that shows how they score different activities I have found out recently that people have higher scores that they had previously and this is due to more emphasis on what you owe now as opposed to your payment history.
Here are some things I have observed over my 12 years of being a mortgage broker.
1- Credit card balance. If you have a credit limit of $1,500 and your balance is at $1,450 you are losing 25-30 points. Having a balance of $0 or using less than 50% of the limit adds points. If you pay the minimum balance you may go over your limit. If you are over your credit limit by $1 you will lose 35 points !
How do you quickly get your score up in this situation? Call your credit card company and tell them that you have a large purchase coming up. Ask them to increase your limit to $2,500. They won’t give you a decision over the phone but often within a week you will receive notification that your balance has been increased. You now have an extra 25 points with one phone call. You can also ask them to lower your interest rate so that you can pay your balance down quicker. Most people don’t realize that credit card companies will do this. You can also move your credit card balance over from a high interest department store card at 26% to a lower interest bank card at 9.95%.
2- Types of credit used – credit agencies want to see proper usage of revolving credit ( i.e.: credit cards) and installment credit (i.e. car loans) . They also want to see that you have over $2,500 in available credit. You probably have a credit card but you may not have an installment loan showing on your credit report. You don’t have to buy a car to get this showing on your report. Consider getting a $1,000 RRSP loan from your bank. Why? Well, $1,000 is a substantial loan. Your bank or credit union will be more willing to lend you money for an RRSP that you may buy from them than they would lending you the money for a gambling junket to Vegas.
The RRSP loan is a win/win for you. Besides increasing your credit score and thickening your credit file you will get a tax refund at the end of the year which can be used towards your down payment. 90 days after you open your RRSP you can use the money towards your down payment under the Home Buyers Program up to a maximum of $25,000.
Credit history – don’t close the old credit card you got in university just because you aren’t using it.
Chances are that this card is still reporting month after month that you have credit with them and that the balance for that month is $0. Finally this brings me to my best tip for building credit.
Payment History – Recently I had a young client who wanted to renew his mortgage. When I obtained his credit report I was surprised to see that he had a 900 credit score. This is the highest score possible and usually it is reserved for older people with 20+ years of credit history. When I asked him how he managed this he told me that the only thing he does differently is that he checks his credit card balance every week and pays it off to $0. I knew that people who paid bi-weekly often had higher scores from having more payments showing in their history but this was the first time I had ever heard of someone paying weekly. I am not certain if it’s the number of payments, the fact that the balance is $0 so many more times or a combination of the two factors.
Recently, using these techniques I was able to raise a client’s credit score by 60 points in one month.
If you want to buy a home and you suspect your credit is weak, your first call should be to a Dominion Lending Centres mortgage broker. They can check and make suggestions to get your credit score up and to get you into a home a lot sooner than you could do this on your own.