Your credit score is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness. In other words, it’s a number that estimates how likely you are to pay back your debts. Credit scores range from 0-850, with 850 being a perfect score. Those often invisible numbers control so many facets of our lives—from the car we buy to the apartment we rent to the mortgage we qualify for.
If you want to buy a house or refinance your current mortgage, you need a good credit score, which is anywhere from the 600-850 range. And if you’ve worked hard to get your credit score up, you want to protect your score and keep it as healthy as possible. Here’s how.
1. Keep an eye on your score. Sign up for credit score alerts through your bank or apps like Credit Karma. You can check every couple of weeks and see how your credit is doing, and you’ll see it increase over time, which is always a good feeling.
2. Set up autopay on your monthly bills. Even the best of us forget a credit card payment or a utility bill sometimes. Set your accounts up with autopay so you don’t have to worry about a late payment tanking your score.
3. Stay away from the top of your credit limit. You should only use up to 10% of your credit limit on credit cards—any more than that will decrease your credit score. Pay your cards off monthly to avoid a hit to your score.
4. Keep your old cards open. The average amount of time you’ve had a credit card or loan open for affects your credit score. So, the longer you’ve had a line of credit, the better. Keep those old cards open by using them every so often.
5. Be strategic with the cards or loans you open. Don’t open any new cards or get a new car loan when you’re trying to buy a house because it will temporarily lower your credit score due to inquiries and account history.
Your credit score is so important when it comes to qualifying for a great interest rate, so make sure you keep on top of it and protect it so you can get the best deals possible.