Reaching your financial goals: What to do if you are new to credit

(BPT) - Many people have financial goals – maybe it’s to get an education, buy a car, purchase a home, or start a business – that require access to credit. However, if you are new to credit, trying to build a credit history can be daunting. It helps to know the basics about the FICO® Score.

A FICO Score summarizes your credit report into a three-digit number. Credit reports are maintained by the three nationwide credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The FICO Score includes measures on how long you've had credit, how much credit you have, how much of your available credit is being used and if you've paid on time. A FICO Score helps lenders determine how likely you are to repay a loan. This, in turn, affects how much you can borrow and how much it will cost (e.g., the interest rate).

“Knowing that access to credit is a key building block for economic inclusion and financial independence, FICO has been spearheading efforts to help more consumers gain access to credit, safely and responsibly,” said Sally Taylor, vice president and general manager of FICO Scores. “Before FICO, human bias could play a factor in the decision.”

But what if you are a young adult or immigrant with no FICO Score at all?

The good news is lenders want to include new borrowers. To help support this, FICO and lenders are using alternative data and innovative credit scoring techniques, while ramping up consumer credit education efforts.

FICO introduced FICO® Score XD and UltraFICO™ Score, which enhance credit bureau data with alternative data not typically found in traditional credit bureau files, such as how you have paid your telecom and utilities, or balance information from your consumer permissioned checking account. FICO also recently introduced FICO® Score 10T, which taps into trended data – a deeper look at traditional credit bureau data, the use of trended data considers a historical view such as account balances for the previous 24+ months, giving lenders more insight into how individuals are managing their credit.

People can also take steps to actively build their credit history. To help, here are five things to know if you are new to credit:

#1 Understand the basics about your FICO Score

Ninety percent of the top U.S. lenders use FICO Scores to help them make lending decisions. To get a FICO Score, you need at least one credit account opened for six months or more and at least one account that is reporting to the credit bureaus in the last 6 months (those criteria can be met with the same account).

If you have zero credit history, you can consider applying for a credit-builder loan or a secured credit card.

#2 Take advantage of new ways to establish credit

More lenders are using newer scores that tap into alternative data sources, such as telecom, utilities and checking account data. To help establish credit history, consider opportunities with reputable lenders and the credit bureaus to proactively share your personal, responsible financial information (such as on-time rent and cell phone payments).

#3 Actively monitor your FICO Score

Research has shown that consumers who frequently check their credit score are more likely to have a higher overall score. There are several ways you can monitor your FICO Score. FICO works with over 200 institutions to provide FICO Scores free to consumers. You can check your monthly credit card statement, your online banking environment or go to myFICO.com to monitor your score.

#4 Demonstrate responsible borrowing and stay the course

The good news is your FICO Score is dynamic; it changes with your credit behavior. Your score today doesn’t have to be your score tomorrow. Plan and stay the course with positive borrower behaviors that will be reflected in your credit file. Stay up to date on your bills, keep balances low and only apply for the credit you need.

#5 Empower yourself with knowledge

Understanding your credit score and how to manage it doesn’t have to be a mystery. There are many educational resources available, including free workshops supported by FICO where you can learn about your credit score directly from the experts. Visit www.scoreabetterfuture.com to learn more.

Whether your goal is purchasing your first home, going to college, or financing a new car, it is helpful to envision a target credit score that allows you to achieve it. With that target in mind, and these tips and educational resources, you can start building a sustainable path toward a FICO Score that achieves your financial goal, regardless of your current credit experience.

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