Better Credit Can Save Cash

By Marcie Geffner -

Want to save an easy $105 this year? If you’re an average consumer, that’s how much you could cut your annual finance charges if you improved your credit score by just 30 points, according to a new survey released by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Washington Mutual Bank.

Boosting your credit score by a mere 30 out of several hundred points might be much easier than you’d think it would be. According to the survey, these five strategies may be among your easiest opportunities for improvement:

● Pay all of your bills on time and in full every month.
● Don’t max out, or get close to maxing out, the limits on your credit cards or revolving credit accounts.
● Pay off your debts, rather than transferring your balances from one account to another.
● Don’t open multiple new credit accounts all at one time or in rapid succession.
● Check your credit report annually and take action to correct any mistakes that might have been made.

The survey also found that in some ways consumers have become better-informed about credit scores in recent years. But in other ways, consumers still harbor misconceptions and misunderstandings.

With that in mind, here are a few important points to remember:

● Your credit score is based on your history of using credit and paying your debts. Your personal characteristics such as your income, age, marital status, home state, education or ethnicity have no effect on your credit history or credit score.
● You can improve your credit score by using credit responsibly. For example, your credit score can increase if you pay off a large credit-card balance, but decrease if you make a late payment on a credit-card or max out your limit on a credit-card.
● You’re legally entitled to a free look at your credit report (but not your credit score) once each year. If you also want to find out your score, you’ll have to pay a small fee. An exception occurs if you’ve been turned down for a mortgage loan or credit-card. In that case, you’re entitled to a free credit score as well.

The bottom line is that the more you know about credit, the better prepared you’ll be to use credit wisely--and that can be easier on your wallet.

© 2008 LendingTree, LLC. This story, "Better credit can save cash," is reprinted by the author with written permission of LendingTree, LLC.