April is Financial Literacy Month, so I thought I’d get in a personal finance post to celebrate. When we recently bought our new car the dealership ran a credit check for both of us. I was really pleased to see my credit score, especially since I’ve never had a credit card and it was a pretty good score.
I’ve always really thought credit scores were a bit of a trap. People seem to think getting a credit card is necessary to have good credit but then so many people are in debt over it. It seemed strange to me that you would put yourself into debt to try to convince people in the future you were good with money.
So here’s the big secret. Paying your bills on time is the biggest factor of your FICO credit score. If you have zero bills you’re super lucky but also probably not even old enough to worry about a credit score. For the rest of the population paying a regular bill like your cell phone or internet will suffice.
If you do have debt, paying it down regularly is also really helpful. While I don’t have a credit card, I do have student loan debt, but I have automatic payments set up to pay more than the minimum amount each month. (Also, if you only pay the minimum on those suckers you literally never get anywhere. But that’s another story)
The other myth people often hear/repeat is that checking your credit score hurts your credit. That’s not accurate either – you have hard checks and soft checks. A soft check does not affect your number. I recommend Quizzle if you’re looking for a place to check your credit report for free. It also includes a pretty nifty breakdown.
So that’s my story. You can get a good credit score just from being financially responsible and paying your bills. You don’t need to be in the dark about it and open a bunch of credit cards in the hopes that one day you can get a good rate for a house. It sounds simple but I think a lot of financial myths just get passed around really easily.