Build your credit wiselyFew Americans can afford to pay cash for everything they want or need — a car to get to work, a house to live in, or a college education to increase earning potential. For most people in our modern society, some form of credit has become a necessity. And the way in which a person's credit history is established often affects the interest rates that lenders are willing to offer and the likelihood that loan applications will be approved. So it's important to build credit wisely.
Following are three tips to help establish your credit worthiness in the eyes of potential lenders.
- Cash is still king. Just because a financial institution offers to extend credit, don't forget that it's often wiser to defer purchases until later. Pushy sales people may claim that you can "afford" the minimum monthly payments on a luxury automobile that costs more than a lakeside bungalow. But when your bills stretch the limits of every paycheck, you may be headed for financial disaster. Ironically, avoiding certain debts is often a prudent way to establish good credit.
- Take it slowly. Apply for one credit card, use it sparingly, and pay off the balance every month. That's the golden rule for bolstering your credit score. Opening multiple accounts over a short time may signal to lenders that you're overextended. When you take out a loan for a car, make sure you can meet the monthly payments even if your other expenses spike in a given month. In other words, establish some wiggle room in your budget. Don't assume that expenses will always remain at current levels. Emergencies happen. Plan for them so you don't end up missing a minimum payment on a loan or credit card bill.
- Beware of increased credit limits. As your credit score climbs, banks and other financial institutions will likely allow you to borrow more. Use caution. Remember that lenders have a vested interest in lending money to folks who pay on time. When you take out loans, they make money. Maybe you can borrow; that doesn't necessarily mean that you should borrow. Again, the choice to acquire debt in the form of loans or credit card purchases should be driven by a plan — not an impulse.