May 1, 2016 – By Brian O'Connell
Ignore your credit score at your own financial peril. That’s the message from American Consumer Credit Counseling, a Newton, Ma.-based consumer financial advocacy group.
“A consumer’s credit score is the most important number in their financial lives,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of ACCC. “A credit score measures the consumer’s creditworthiness and can have a huge impact on their ability to make major financial purchases, such as buying a car or a house.”
Knowledge really is power when it comes to credit scores. According to The Fifth Annual National Credit Score Survey, just 20% of respondents were aware that a low credit score can increase the finance charges by more than $5,000 on a $20,000 car note.
To clarify the issue, TheStreet reached out to several financial experts and asked them a simple question – why should you make the extra effort to boost your credit score? Here’s how they responded:
1. Purchasing a Home
“Buying a house usually means taking out a mortgage,” the ACCC states. “The ability to take out a mortgage hinges upon your credit score. If you have a bad credit history, it is unlikely a bank will approve the loan.” In addition to using credit score to decide whether to approve you, lenders also use credit score to evaluate how much of a credit risk you represent. “If you have a low credit score, you’re considered a poor credit risk and will be charged a higher interest rate on a loan than someone with a good credit score,” notes Priyanka Prakash, finance specialist at Fit Small Business in New York City. For example, even having a 700 credit score versus a 660 credit score can save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime.”
2. Renting a House or Apartment
“Your credit score is used to push you to the head of the line for rental apartments in competitive markets,” says April Masini, a New York City-based author and consumer advocate. “You’ll pay the same rent as anyone else, but you’re more likely to get the lease, because you have good credit. Someone with poor credit won’t get it.” Also, most landlords look closely at credit scores when determining if your application will be accepted, the size of your security deposit and how much you pay in fees, says Joshua C. Heckathorn, president of Creditnet.com. “Some landlords may even be willing to accept a lower rental amount from a potential renter with excellent credit scores, so don’t be afraid to negotiate,” he says.
3. Better Interest Rates
Higher credit scores allow for larger amounts of credit to be borrowed at lower interest rates, says Jeff Hensel, a hard money lender at North Coast Financial In Oceanside, Calif. “A lender is more likely to offer a strong borrower with high credit scores a larger amount of credit at a lower interest rate. That’s because stronger borrowers with good credit present less risk to lenders, as the borrower is more likely to pay back the borrowed funds in full and on time.”
4. Better Credit Card Deals
With good credit you get the best rewards credit cards, says Gerri Detweiler, a credit expert and financial book author. “I recently got an offer for an airline card with 60,000 bonus miles,” she says. “That’s enough for a round trip ticket for my family to our biannual summer reunion. I’m not a card surfer; I’ve had most of mine for years. But when a great offer comes along, it’s nice to be able to take advantage of it.”
5. Getting a Good Job
More and more employers are checking credit reports before extending a job offer, says Byron Ellis, a certified Financial Planner with United Capital Financial Advisers in The Woodlands Texas. “When you’re searching for a new job, your credit could affect your financial future,” Ellis says.
Chipping away at your credit score can be a laborious process, but it can also be a highly-rewarding one.
“At the end of the day, depending on your perspective, great credit can save you thousands of dollars a year or bad credit can cost you thousands of dollars per year,” notes Todd Huettner, president of Huettner Capital in Denver.