Let’s say you’ve decided that debt relief is the right choice to help you pay off your debt. As you learn more about the debt relief process, you start wondering how it could affect your credit score. If it could leave a negative impact, should you still use a debt relief service? Here’s what you need to know about debt relief’s effect on your credit score, plus some tips on improving your score in the long run.
WHAT’S A CREDIT SCORE, AND WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
A credit score is a statistical number based on your credit history that evaluates your creditworthiness and allows lenders to determine how likely you are to repay debt. Your credit score includes, but is not limited to, things like your payment history, how long you’ve held your accounts, and how much available credit you’re currently using.
Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850 depending on the scoring system you’re using. To a lender, a higher score can indicate that you’re very likely to repay your debt, and a lower score could indicate you’re less likely to pay back what you owe.
Your credit score can play a large role in everyday life, and can effect the following:
- Getting approved for a credit card or loan
- Securing a home mortgage
- Receiving more favorable terms on a loan (ex. a lower interest rate)
- Renting an apartment and how much of a deposit you’ll pay
- Opening a cell phone line
- Setting up utilities
DOES DEBT RELIEF AFFECT YOUR CREDIT?
Certain types of debt relief options can affect your credit in both the short and long term, but the impact can often be temporary. Depending on the type of debt relief you choose, your program may show up on your credit report for several years. For many, eliminating debt is more important than a temporary dip in their credit score. Living without crippling debt could actually help you make better financial decisions that improve your credit for the future.
HOW DOES DEBT RELIEF AFFECT YOUR CREDIT LONG-TERM?
Many debt relief options can help your credit score in the long run. Once you get out of debt, your aim should be to make smart financial decisions to help you avoid falling back into debt. You’ll also probably see a score increase as you decrease the amount of credit you’re using. By continuing to use credit wisely and making your payments on time, chances are you’ll see your credit score improve over time.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT
Building a good credit score takes time. The two best ways to impr ove your credit are to make your payments on time and to avoid using all of your available credit (ex. not maxing out credit cards).
Use these strategies to increase your credit score:
- Pay Bills on Time: Paying your bills in a timely fashion shows lenders you’re reliable. Those who miss payments, or make late payments often, will see that lack of reliability reflected on their credit score.
- Keep Balances Low: Try to pay down your credit card balances (or lines of credit) to make sure you have plenty of credit available. The amount of credit you’re using versus the amount you have available plays a major factor in your score.
- Don’t Open New Accounts: Try to avoid taking on new credit. Every time you apply for a new account, there’s a hard inquiry on your credit. Too many hard inquiries in a short time span can have a negative effect on your score.
- Don’t Close Unused Accounts: Even if you never use your old credit card, it’s a good idea to keep it open. The length of time you’ve had an open account can help increase your score.
Monitor Your Credit: Keep an eye on your credit report for inaccuracies or fraudulent activity. Report anything out of place right away so you’re not paying for someone else’s mistake.