Credit history

5 Myths About Credit Cards That Won’t Go Away

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The idea of evaluating a person’s creditworthiness goes back as early as 1899, when Equifax (originally called Retail Credit Company) would keep a list of consumers and a series of factors to determine their likelihood to pay back debts. However, credit cards didn’t make an appearance until the 1950s, and the FICO score as we know it today wasn’t introduced until 1989.

Due to these timing differences, many U.S. consumers hold on to damaging myths about credit cards. Let’s dispel five of these widely held but false beliefs and find out what to do to continue improving your credit score.

Myth #1: Closing unused cards is good for credit

Remember when United Colors of Benetton used to be all the rage and you shopped there all the time? Fast forward a decade; you don’t shop there anymore, and you’re thinking about shutting down that store credit card. Not so fast! Closing that old credit card may do more harm than good to your credit score.

Your length of credit history contributes 15 percent of your FICO score. If that credit card is your oldest card, then closing it would bring down the average age of your accounts and hurt your score. This is particularly true when there is a gap of several years between your oldest and second-to-oldest card. Another point to consider is that when you close a credit card, you’re reducing your amount of available credit. This drops your credit utilization ratio, which makes up 30 percent of your FICO score.

What to do: Keep those old credit cards open, especially when they are the oldest ones that you have. Just make sure that you’re keeping on top of any applicable annual fees and they’re not tempting you to spend beyond your means.

Myth #2: Holding a credit card balance is good for credit

Your payment history is a more influential factor to your FICO score than your total amount owed to lenders (35 percent versus 30 percent, respectively). This means that if you have a choice between paying off and holding on to debt, it’s generally better to pay it off. However, responsible…

6 Infuriating Ways You’re Ruining Someone Else’s Credit

Your credit score is one of the biggest deciding factors in your financial health. It influences whether you qualify for the best interest rates on mortgages or auto loans, it can impact your insurance rates, and it can even determine whether you land that dream job or not.

Establishing good credit requires managing your credit accounts responsibly. But your own credit score isn’t the only one that can suffer the consequences of poor credit management. In the same way money can ruin a friendship, your financial carelessness could ruin someone else’s credit. Here’s how.

1. Charging up someone else’s credit card

Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card helps build your own credit history. You’ll receive a credit card in your name, and you’re allowed to make charges on the account. But even though your name is on the card and the account shows up on your credit report, only the primary account holder receives the statements. This person is ultimately responsible for any purchases you make with the card.

If you’re an authorized user, the mature thing to do is pay whatever you charge each month. If you don’t or can’t pay, this sets in motion a chain of events that could ruin the other person’s credit.

Any purchases you charge to the account can raise the primary account holder’s balance and increase their credit utilization ratio beyond a healthy range (utilization ratio is the credit card balance compared to the credit limit). Ideally, credit utilization should never exceed 30 percent of a credit limit — the lower, the better. A high utilization ratio can lower credit scores.

In addition, ringing up charges on someone’s credit card and not paying what you owe could trigger payment problems. This can happen if the primary user doesn’t have enough money for higher minimum payments. If they can’t pay the credit card bill within 30 days, the credit card company could report the late payment to the credit bureaus. While a 30-day delinquency won’t tank a credit…

4 Reasons to Add Your Teen as an Authorized User on Your Credit Card

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Giving your kid access to your credit card account might make you squirm, but there are some good reasons to do it. Teens need to be educated about credit before they leave the nest and get their own credit cards. While you could just hand them your credit card whenever they want to make a purchase, there are extra benefits to making them an authorized user on your account.

An authorized user gets a card in their own name and can make purchases just like the primary user on the account. However, only the primary user is responsible for paying the charges. That sounds scary but there are ways to handle the situation so that your child gets the most from it without landing you in debt. (See also: What You Need to Know About Adding Another User to Your Credit Card)

Let’s look at the notable benefits that come with making your child an authorized user on your account.

1. Lessons on Credit and Debt

Teenagers may not really understand what credit is until they experience it firsthand. By introducing teenagers to credit early on, they can gain an understanding of what it means to owe someone money — and that every dollar spent must be paid back. They’ll also learn about credit card interest this way, and how not paying your balance in full means owing more money over time.

To make this lesson effective, you’ll need to establish with your teen that they are responsible for paying the charges they make and any interest they incur. If you simply pay for all their purchases, they’ll learn very little about responsible credit card use.

For example, your teen might use their authorized user card for new clothes at the mall without a care in the world. When the bill arrives, however, if you have made it clear that they will have to pay for the charges, they’ll be forced to face the consequences of their spending.

If they’ve kept the cash on hand to pay their bill, they can be proud of that accomplishment. If not, they’ll learn what it means to carry a balance and pay interest. And when those $49 jeans end up costing $61, they might feel the pain of their decisions in a way no other method of learning can convey. (See also: 13 Things to Teach Your Kids About Credit Cards)

2. Lessons in Budgeting

The example above presents a great way to introduce kids to another adult concept — budgeting….

6 Credit Card Mistakes That Could Be Ruining Your Credit

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It’s difficult to overstate how important your credit record and credit score are. Not only will good credit enable you be approved for the most attractive credit cards, it’s vital for receiving the lowest rates on a car loan, a mortgage, and on home and auto insurance premiums. It can even make the difference in whether you get the apartment or job you want, since both landlords and employers often run credit checks on applicants. (See also: 15 Surprising Ways Bad Credit Can Hurt You)

Unfortunately, many credit card users are making big mistakes that are ruining their credit. Since it can take years for some of the most negative items to drop off your credit report, it’s crucial to avoid making these mistakes in the first place. Here are six credit card mistakes that could be ruining your credit.

1. Paying Late

The most important factor in your FICO score — the most popular credit score lenders use to evaluate you — is your payment history. It makes up 35% of your score. (See also: 5 Things with the Biggest Impact on Your Credit Score)

If you are using a credit card, your first priority should be to always pay your credit card bill on time. While one bill paid a few days late won’t cause lasting damage to your credit score, paying late frequently will hurt more. On top of that you’ll usually be subject to late fees.

Thankfully, there are many tools to help you pay on time. Most credit card issuers offer automatic payments to ensure that you never pay late. You can also request a specific payment due date so you can arrange all your bills to be due at the same time each month. That way you can sit down and pay bills just once a month rather than keeping track of various bills as they come in. Additionally, you can sign up for payment reminders by email or text.

2. Paying Less Than the Minimum

Paying just the minimum payment on your credit cards will hurt you financially, but paying below that is even worse — much worse.

To avoid being considered delinquent on a credit card account, you not only have to make your payments on time, but the payments must be at least the minimum amount required, which is stated on your bill. If…

8 Ways to Build Credit Even as a Student

Between classes, extracurriculars, and social activities, most college students have no trouble staying busy. Building credit may be low on their list of priorities, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about it. Being mindful of credit as a young adult can make it easier to land a car and a place to live, and secure lower interest rates on loans. Here are some steps that will set you on the path to stellar credit for the times when you need it most.

1. KNOW YOUR CREDIT SCORE.

The first step to building excellent credit is learning your credit score. Even without car payments or credit cards to pay off, anyone with student loans will have a credit history. A federal law makes it easy to check credit reports from the three main reporting agencies online. Annual reports are free, but according to a recent survey only half of college students take advantage of them. Having an idea of your credit score isn’t the only reason to check it: The report may contain mistakes or traces of fraud you weren’t aware of. Staying on top of your credit status means you can take care of any complications before they become an issue.

If you haven’t been checking your report because you’re afraid doing so will lower your score, fear not: When you check your score yourself, you’re initiating what’s called a “soft” credit inquiry. These kinds of inquiries do not have an adverse effect on your credit score—only the hard inquiries conducted by financial institutions do. (Generally speaking, a hard inquiry can only happen with your consent.)

2. FIND THE RIGHT CARD.

Contrary to popular belief, using a debit card exclusively isn’t a savvy financial move. Responsible credit card use shows credit agencies that you can be trusted to make payments on time. But deciding that you want an extra card in your wallet is half the battle—next you’ll need to narrow down your choices. First and foremost, compare the interest rates on different cards—the lower, the better. Next, consider the extras. Some companies offer cards designed for students with perks like rewards for good grades. Not every student will qualify, however—especially those without any income or bad to nonexistent credit history. If this sounds like your situation, a secured credit…