Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good Credit vs. Bad Credit: Why Is This Important?

There are a lot of misconceptions, even outright lies, regarding credit, especially in terms of what determines good and bad credit. Currently, television is full of commercials for debt consolidation companies and credit counselors. Daytime talk shows abound whose premise surrounds people who have gone bankrupt by using credit cards. Many of these stories are extreme examples of what can happen to people with bad credit, but they still do not answer the million-dollar question: What is the difference between good vs. bad credit and how does this relate to getting a decent credit card deal?

Good Credit

Credit, especially good credit, is very important. It affects almost every major buying decision in our lives. Good credit can help us get a good rate on a credit card, car loan or home mortgage. It can also help us when it comes time to sign an apartment lease agreement or maybe even get a new job. But how do you get good credit?

Getting Good Credit - This may sound odd, but to get good credit, you have to have credit. This is not as confusing as it seems. Good credit ratings are gained when you borrow money from a financial group, such as a bank or credit card company, and pay it back on time and for the full amount. For example, let’s say you have a credit card from a gas station that you use only for gas because you don’t carry a lot of cash around. Each time you go to the station, you use your card to fill up your car. In so doing, you are promising to pay the credit card company back when you get their statement. When the statement arrives each month, you pay off the amount owed on time. The gas company that issued your card then reports to a credit bureau that you have paid on time and for the right amount. The more good reports that go to the credit bureau, the better your credit.

Benefits of Good Credit - Having a good credit report enables you to borrow more money at better interest rates. Why? Because the banks know that based on your credit history you are a responsible person. Many potential employers also look at credit reports as a way to judge a person’s responsibility. Hence, your good credit may even help you land a new job.

Bad Credit

There is nothing good about bad credit. It is the exact opposite of good credit. While good credit helps you qualify for car and home mortgage loans, bad credit could keep you from being able to buy these large-dollar items. It will also keep you from qualifying for credit cards and may possibly hinder your ability to rent a house or apartment.

Getting Bad Credit - It is very easy to get bad credit. Bad credit ratings happen when a person does not pay back money borrowed on time or when that person simply doesn’t pay it back at all. There are varying degrees of bad credit. A person is not automatically given a bad credit rating if he misses a payment or is late a time or two. However, if a person is continually late or he does not make a payment for several months, his credit rating will be affected and could possible hurt him in the future.

Fixing Bad Credit - Credit ratings, even bad ones, can be improved and fixed. Depending on the situation, with responsible credit usage and prompt payments, bad credit can turn into good credit over time. The first step is to understand what your credit rating is by pulling your credit report. Credit reports are available through one of the three major US credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Understanding your credit report will help you determine if there are errors. It will also make you aware of what steps you need to take to improve your credit. Credit is a necessary part of our society. While good credit will help a person improve his quality of life, bad credit can hinder his ability to do so. If you have concerns about understanding your specific credit situation, talk to a financial or tax advisor to help you take the next step and work towards getting and keeping good credit.

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