Have you put off checking your credit score and credit reports? Maybe you figure that no news is good news. Or perhaps you think that you might as well not worry about credit until you actually need it.
In a recent survey about credit scores, Credit.com asked consumers if they had seen their credit scores, and if so, how they came to see them. More than one-third (36%) reported that they saw a credit score when they applied for a loan. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that response, it’s also not the ideal time to find out what’s going on with your credit. After all, under federal law you only get a disclosure of your score if you are turned down or charged more for credit.
Do you really want to find out after the fact that your credit kept you from getting the best rate, or that it resulted in your application being rejected? The alternative is, of course, to be proactive and find out what’s going on with your credit well before you try to get that loan you really want or need. In fact, there are quite a few times in your life when you’ll need credit, so it really makes sense to to monitor your credit on an ongoing basis (which you can do for free using this tool at Credit.com). We’ve rounded up 13 of the most important reasons to check your credit scores.
1. You’re Moving.
If you plan to rent your next home or apartment, the prospective landlord will want to look at your credit. Check yours in advance so you don’t lose out on a place you love because of a problem you didn’t know about. (Read this for more information on how to rent a place with bad credit.)
2. You Plan to Buy or Refinance a Home.
With a loan for a few hundred grand on the line, a small difference in the interest rate you get can add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. And the interest rate you pay will depend in large part on your credit score. Ideally you want to check yours at least two months before you plan to apply to give yourself time to fix mistakes on your credit reports or address areas that are weak.
3. You Need a Loan.
There’s no sense in applying for loans or cards you can’t possibly qualify for, which will just create unnecessary inquiries on your credit reports. Knowing your credit score before you apply can help you avoid this.
4. You’re Getting Cable, a Cellphone or Utility Service.
You may have to agree to a credit check before you can get service. It is usually used to determine whether you will have to pay a deposit.
5. You’re Job Hunting.
Employers don’t get credit scores. Instead they review credit reports. However, since your score can alert you to potential issues, it’s a good idea to review both before you start looking for a job.
6. You’re Getting Married.
Talking money and credit may not feel particularly romantic, but you’re going to have to talk about it at some point. So you might as well take the plunge before you’ve tied the knot and get your credit scores together so you know where your significant other stands.
7. You’re Splitting Up.
Separation or divorce can wreak havoc on your credit scores so this is one time when keeping tabs on your credit isn’t just a good idea – it’s a necessity. Here’s how to monitor your credit scores for free.
8. You’re Expecting a Child.
Few events in your life will have as significant impact on your financial life as having children. Financing braces or school tuition are just two examples of when having good credit will come in handy.
9. You’re Starting College.
You don’t have to have good credit to qualify for federal student loans. Still, building good credit will prove to be a big plus if you need to rent a place to live or get a car loan either before or after graduation. Plus, college students are at high risk for identity theft, and after school, your credit score will probably prove more important than your GPA.
10. You’ve Been to the ER or Hospital.
Medical billing problems are common, and some patients don’t even know a bill has slipped through the cracks until it shows up as a collection account on their credit.
11. You Were the Victim of a Data Breach.
If your personal information has been compromised, you’ll want to pay careful attention to what’s going on with your credit, and you’ll need to do that in the long term. Don’t assume that just because nothing happens right after the breach that everything is fine. Hackers may just be biding their time.
12. You’re Worried About Identity Theft.
If you accidentally clicked on a suspicious link in an email, got a collection call for someone else, lost your wallet or purse, or have any other reason to suspect your personal information has been compromised, take the initiative to keep tabs on your credit.
13. You Care About Your Credit.
Fortunately only 16% of consumers in a recent survey by Credit.com said they have never seen their credit scores. If you are among that group, it may be time to change that. Even if you have reviewed your credit in the past, you may want to take another look. If you do discover a problem, you’ll want to fix it as soon as possible.
Each of us is entitled to three free credit reports a year, from each of the major credit bureaus. Here’s how to get yours. In addition, because credit reports can be dense and hard to read, there are tools available that translate the information in your credit report into plain English. Credit.com’s free tool includes credit scores, and shows you where you are strong, where you are weak, and what you need to do to improve.
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