“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” If you’re saying this to your credit cards rather than to yourself, then we need to talk!
Nothing wrong with loving on your credit cards or even having one or two of them, especially when you’re using them the right way. The question is: Are you using them and loving on them the right way?
You want to use your credit cards for three important reasons:
- To repair your credit
- To earn rewards; think airline miles or gas points
- To cover yourself in an emergency
If you’re out shopping like there’s no tomorrow, flying willy nilly through Victoria’s Secret or Whole Foods free as a bird, then at the end of the month when the bill comes, you already know you’re not treating your cards right, now don’t you?
Before you whip out your card again for something you don’t need or something you haven’t planned for, I want you to stop and think about two words: FICO® SCORE!
A FICO® Score is that lovely number that tells lenders if they can trust you with their money! Like when you need to borrow money to buy a home or a car. You wanna talk about somebody being unloving and judgy? Try going to buy a car, and those dealership folks look at your crappy score, make a face you don’t want to see, and say, “Uh, sorry.” #NotFun. Or worse, they say, “Sure, we can help you. We’ll just need to charge you 99% interest.” (You’d be better off dealing with the mob.)
FICO® scores range from 300–850. You want your credit score to be around 700 (average), and if you use your card in one of the three ways mentioned above (which ultimately means buying stuff and paying off the balance each month), you’ll be doing yourself a loving favor. Your credit score will rise, and you’ll remove yourself from judgy purgatory. By the way, you may hear about a VantageScore, another agency that is gaining some competitive heat that lenders will use to judge you. They use a different set of criteria, but you still want to act right by paying your bills and credit cards on time so that they can show you some love, too.
Not sure how to get your credit score to see if your credit card love affair is actually healthy or not? Use Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion credit bureaus to start. They have your digits. They do the reporting. Need to check into getting a free credit report? Try CreditKarma or NerdWallet, or reach out directly to the credit bureaus. You get one free credit report each year from each of the bureaus. And you can download them within a few minutes. So you’ll know where you stand before you get your feelings hurt walking into a lender’s office.
Anytime you’re giving your personal information online, be cautious and read the fine print. And you need to know that once you’ve done damage to your actual score, it stays on your credit report for at least seven years! Longer if you declare bankruptcy. So think about loving your credit score more than you love that pair of Jimmy Choo’s you’re thinking about charging. JS!