With so much negative news about the financial sector as a whole, a surprising new trend is emerging. That trend tells us that fewer Americans have poor credit scores. And the reasons run the gamut. Fewer of us are adding to our debt, which means fewer of us are using our credit cards. There are even some who have closed all of their credit accounts with the goal of becoming debt free. All of this equates to improving credit scores among consumers around the nation – whether they plan on using their credit or not.
It also means less money for banks and credit card companies as those with stronger credit expect and deserve lower interest rates.
FICO is reporting that 14% of Americans have credit scores between 300 and 549, which is considered poor credit. That equates to 1.4 million people.
Not only that, but in recent years, that number has fluctuated, though with slowly improving average score. Still, we’re not spending money and we’re not running up credit card debt either.
Fear seems to be a contributing factor behind the stronger numbers. With so many uncertainties regarding the economy, people have quietly been paying down credit card debt in anticipation of future difficulties.
Many filed for bankruptcy as the recession got underway in 2008 and now that a few years have passed, they’re beginning to rebuild their credit, which is also playing a role in the improving scores.
But overwhelmingly, the numbers show we’re simply being more cautious and diligent in paying down our debt. We have made concerted efforts to pay down our debt while also resisting spending sprees that take over in strong economic times.
Another cycle seems to be emerging, too. Many already had low scores when the recession hit. Creditors began tightening their approval requirements, which meant those consumers no longer even tried to secure credit.
With no activity on their credit reports, they fell off the “credit grid”. Once that happened, they opted for non traditional financial products, such as payday loans and prepaid debit cards. They were also more likely to file bankruptcy.
Those bankruptcies have enough history now that many of those same consumers are finding approvals for the first time in years and as a result, they’re rebuilding their credit.
But not everyone has bad credit ratings. In fact, those with sterling credit scores are on the rise, too. Nearly 20% or 1.5 million consumers in the U.S. have ratings between 800 and 860. This growing number of people are boasting nearly-perfect or perfect scores.
Because these consumers are already disciplined, they recognized the crisis for what it was and began paying down their debt, which meant they maintained those high scores.
With both of those dynamics in place, Americans are holding steady, unsure of what happens next in the economy. Some say this hold will continue well into the new year as we maintain that cautious stance.
So what happens if you’re one of the millions who have low scores? It’s not only possible, but easier than every before to improve your credit scores. Despite the thousands of ads and companies that claim to repair credit scores, the only sure fire way is to start slow and move slower.
Financial coaches all agree a secured credit card can help with improving your scores. The trick is to ensure you’re in a better place financially so that you don’t find yourself back at square one.
Wondering how credit scores are calculated? Many aren’t sure of what plays a role in figuring those scores. Your job history, for instance, plays no role despite the misconceptions of some.
In fact, it is against the law to determine one’s credit scores on factors such as age, national origin, race, level of education or even one’s marital status. There are resources consumers can go for help if they feel they’ve been discriminated against.
What they are based on however, is one’s payment history (35% of the weight given), the amount owed (30%), the length of credit accounts (15%), how many new accounts are showing on a report (10%) and the type of credit, such as revolving or fixed loans.
Another step you can take for improving credit score is to request annual credit report. Even if you’re sure your credit scores aren’t high enough to qualify for any kind of loan, you still want to be sure the information already on your history is accurate.
A massive number of credit reports contain errors and if yours is one of them, by not repairing it, you stand to lose a lot of money in interest should you qualify for any kind of loan or credit card.
Are you reining in your spending? Have you been able to pay down credit card debt? Share your story with us. We want to know how your family is handling not only your credit, but the overall economy. Leave us a comment or visit our Facebook page to join the conversation.