I had already unfolded the climax in my previous blog, on how I was being denied higher education due to my own credit mistakes. This blog is essentially the return of the hero who fights with bad credit and lives happily after with a great credit score.
850. That was the number printed on my latest CRIF Credit Report. Read ahead to know – How I Raised My Credit Score By 250 Points.
Credit Score = Trust?
One of the premises of a civilization or society is its need for safety. It is because of this need for safety from the wild did the early human start forming communities. Humanity has evolved and advanced a lot from them, but the basic need for safety is perennial. It is very important to have those few trustable companions or entities who make us feel safe.
Since the age of the Kings and the Landlords, the practice of lending also pivoted around the similar element of trust. Lending has transformed from being a local, personal referral based activity now into a very large industry backed by digital systems and a sense of trust emanating from the use of data sciences. The industry allows instant lending and peers to digital peer-to-peer lending on basis of data-backed trust that the person taking the credit will pay back after the pre-defined time. This data-backed trust comes from the “credit scores” provided by the Credit Bureaus by understanding behavioral patterns from the millions of records of individuals such as you and me.
I realized that I had to improve my credit score from 500 so that a bank can begin trusting upon me to repay its money. In my quest to improve, I began analyzing my credit report against the five major factors that form the basis for a credit score. And voila, I had devised a clear plan of action to seize control of my credit situation-
- Payment History : my credit report clearly reflected my negligence around making payments towards my credit card dues. I would generally pay up money only after many follow-ups from the credit card companies, perhaps this was one of the most important factors barring me to pursue my dreams. I immediately cleared pending dues on all of my credit cards and vowed to now pay full dues at least 3 days prior to the due date.
- Age of Credit : I had 4 credit cards. Since now I have to pay on all cards in time, I decided to close 3 of these cards. I decided to maintain the oldest credit card I had, as the higher age of credit means a better credit score.
- Credit Utilization : The average spend on each of these 4 cards was nearly 80% of the assigned credit limit. This meant that the credit utilization ratio was 80%, which ideally should be 30-40%. The credit card I chose to retain was linked to my salary account. My banker helped me get the credit limit of this card increased. This enabled me to enjoy higher credit just with one card, but have a low utilization. I crossed my heart to not use above 25% of the allowed credit limit at any point.
- Type of Credit : I pledged to explore a car loan (secured loan) and diversify from just having credit cards (unsecured loans). And the next year when I had a slightly better credit score, I took two additional loans, one for buying a car and the other for buying a laptop and paid them off in the same year. This allowed me to add different types of credit as well as provide better evidence of my credit behavior.
- Number of Credit Inquiries : This did not seem to be a problem for me, however, I have since then avoided unnecessarily applying for credit cards or loans.
12 months of discipline had helped me improve my score from mid 500s to 670, it helped me get a car loan — but it wasn’t enough to help me fulfill my dream. After another six months of care, my credit score was above 750 and I was packing my bags to leave for an MBA. All I needed was a basic understanding of credit score and discipline to follow my plan. Last month I repaid my education loan but still continue to follow the rules I set for myself 5 years ago. As you read my story, let me tell my credit score as of today stands above 850.
Today, in parts of the world, your credit score can stand in your way of getting accepted as a tenant, employee or even spouse. Hence it is becoming paramount to manage your credit score to maintain your credibility not just for getting loans but for fulfilling your dreams. Don’t let your ignorance hamper your dreams.
Get Educated and Educate Others. Journey to happy credit starts here – CRIFHIGHMARK CREDIT REPORT
About the Author: Subhankar Mishra works as Service Delivery Manager at CRIF High Mark, India’s largest Credit Bureau database.