Remember sitting in the back of calculus class and wondering when you were ever going to use this stuff? Even if your days of derivatives are well in the past, adult life brings a new set of math problems that you need to study up on: credit scores.
Lucky for you, we can skip the timed tests and head straight for the SparkNotes.
What is credit?
Any time you open a credit card, apply for a student loan or even start paying your electric bill, that company is extending some money or service your way out of trust that you’ll pay them back. While credit can take many forms, it all boils down to a symbol of trust on the lender’s part.
What’s a credit report?
Most companies aren’t ready to trust you until you get acquainted a little better. One way they can do this is by pulling your credit report, which provides a detailed history of your financial life, including the various forms of credit you’ve opened and how you’ve used them. Think of it like a report card or college transcript that actually matters. When lenders see that other companies trust you with borrowed money, they may become more willing to do the same.
And credit scores?
Credit reporting companies take all of the information on the credit report and put it into a gigantic formula that spits out a number, your credit score. If the credit report was like your college transcript, your credit score is your GPA. Most credit score models range from 300 to 850. So if your score is, say, 720, you’re basically a solid A student in the eyes of lenders. But with a score more like 550, you might be at risk of flunking credit class.
Ok, why does all of this matter?
Like we said before, credit is one subject you don’t want to slack on. With a good credit score, it’s easier to get approved for credit cards, auto loans and home loans. Not only that, but the higher your score, the less you can expect to pay in interest for these things. Even if none of that sounds cool, credit scores might also help you get a job or find an apartment, since some employers and landlords will also check your credit.
With a not-so-great score, all of this can all become much harder. Once you reach 18, you should start trying to make credit happen. To build credit and keep it looking good, apply for just one credit card, and remember to always pay the full balance back on time. Slowly but surely, your credit score will start to creep up. Then, you can view your credit report for free once per year by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
Alright, that wasn’t so bad after all. But there’s still much more to learn about credit. You can talk to a Trustmark professional and ask any questions you might have.