Tough times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can require making tough decisions about paying bills on time and relying on credit. Unfortunately, these short-term actions can have longer-term impacts on your credit score.
If your credit score dropped due to recent events, it's important to work on rebuilding it as soon as you can. Here are some steps to help you bounce back better than before:
Review your credit reports
Start by making sure your credit reports are up-to-date and accurate. Even a small mistake on your credit reports could impact your credit score. Errors on your credit reports could also be a sign of identity theft. Review your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Are all the accounts, amounts, names and addresses correct? If you find an error, dispute it right away.
Pay bills on time
A single missing or late payment can cause your credit score to drop, and you may be charged fees. Plus, if a payment is more than 30 days late, it could remain on your credit report for up to seven years.
To prevent credit missteps, try to make on-time payments on your bills and lines of credit every month. Even if you can only make the minimum payment right now, make it! It may help you to set text or email alerts to remind you about upcoming payment due dates or set up automatic payments. You can do this easily through Wright-Patt Credit Union's (WPCU) Mobile and Online Banking!
Keep credit utilization low
Your credit utilization ratio is another big factor in determining your credit score. It compares your total credit card balances to your credit limits. It's generally best to keep your credit card balances below 30% of your total available credit limit.
One strategy is to make smaller payments throughout the month instead of one large payment on the due date. This will keep your balance low and help you avoid borrowing more than you can afford to pay back.
Avoid taking on additional debt
Maintaining a good credit score is about consistency and discipline. Keep making on-time payments and try to pay more than the minimum when possible. As you take steps to pay your debt down and off, your credit score will gradually increase. Likewise, it's important to spend wisely and avoid taking on more debt so you don't have to repeat the cycle.
Creating a budget will help you understand where your money is going each month and how much you can afford to put toward debt payments. You can also use a debt payoff calculator to estimate what it will take to pay off your debt. Working on rebuilding your credit score may take time, but it's well worth it!
Help is here when you need it
Dealing with debt is a challenge that you don't have to face alone. If you need assistance, WPCU has tools, resources and support to help you get ahead of debt and achieve greater financial flexibility and freedom.
We're proud to offer members free budgeting and debt counseling through our partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness. When you need personal guidance from knowledge experts, call (888) 893-2713 to schedule an appointment with a GreenPath Counselor or stop by your nearest Member Center.