From the Desk of Jenny Hoff

The managing editor of Bankrate and personal finance reporter at creditcards.com cuts through the confusion of determining your credit score.

By April Cumming, Photo by Kevin Garner

A veteran broadcast-news journalist, Jenny Hoff is a certified personal-finance educator at creditcards.com and the managing editor for videos and web content at Bankrate. Fluency in tackling the complex financial issues that consumers face is part of her daily job. A former news anchor and reporter at KXAN Austin, Hoff is also the producer and host of financial podcast Charged Up! With Jenny Hoff, a platform she’s used to interview authors, experts and thought leaders like Tony Robbins, Robert Kiyosaki and Nicole Lapin.

One question she repeatedly hears from readers and video followers is two-part: How does one determine their credit score and how does one improve their rating? 

Hoff explains it’s not that complicated once you take the time to understand and come up with a game plan. 

Her Notes

  1. Payment history. “This determines 35 percent of your credit score, so it is the most important factor. Paying your bills on time will have a huge impact on your score. The more recent a late payment, the greater effect it will have [on your score]. If you have a questionable payment history, get your score back up by paying on time going forward.” 
  2.  Credit utilization. “Coming in at 30 percent, this is the second-most important factor in determining your score. While there is no golden number, it’s advisable to not use more than 30 percent of your available credit at any one time. So, if you have a $10,000 credit limit on your card, try to pay it down by the time it gets to $3,000 so you keep your credit-utilization rate low.” 
  3. Length of credit history. “Counting for 15 percent of your total score, this is one situation where getting older comes with perks. The older your credit history, the more information creditors have and the better chances you have of upping that score. So, if you’re thinking about closing a credit card, don’t make it the one you opened in college since that may be your oldest line of credit.” 
  4. New credit. “This counts as 10 percent of your score, meaning if you open too many new cards at once, you could get a serious score hit. Too many new credit lines signal financial distress, so be sure to only open cards when you need them or, if you’re looking for points, when you know you won’t be applying for any major loan soon.”
  5. Credit mix. “This also counts for 10 percent of your score and, in this case, a variety of loans can help you. If you have both credit cards (revolving credit) and a mortgage, auto loan or student loan (installment loan), you are building a more robust credit history, showing creditors that you are responsible with any kind of line of credit or loan.” 

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