For something that is all around us, credit has a surprising capacity to also go over our heads. Originally a simple measure of one’s ability to borrow money, credit has become a behemoth influence over our lives. It now impacts everything from our financial futures to our access to things like jobs and housing.
Thriving in this environment requires a good understanding of how credit works, yet many Americans still struggle to grasp its basic mechanics and terminology. Fortunately for us, the financial comparison site Forbes Advisor is here to clear up some of the fog.
What We All Want To Know About Credit
Forbes Advisor conducted a study of online search data to uncover what people most want to know about credit. The study analyzed thousands of credit-related search terms to see which questions Americans Google the most.
From this, they gathered info on the top 10 credit questions nationwide. Just a few things they discovered:
- Together, the top ten questions garner about 329,000 searches each month
- Of the these ten, seven questions pertain directly to credit scores
- The most popular question, “What is a good credit score?” appears in over 100,000 monthly searches.
Thanks to the financial experts at Forbes Advisor, we no longer have to wonder. They selected the six most-asked questions on the list and offered their detailed answers below.
Expert Answers to America’s Top Credit Questions
What Is a Good Credit Score?
FICO, the most widely known credit scoring model, helps lenders predict the risk of a borrower defaulting on a loan. On a scale from 300 to 850, a credit score between 670 and 739 is generally considered “good.” The higher your score, the lower the risk you represent to anyone who lends you money. A higher score also makes you more likely to qualify for the best offers and lowest interest rates.
What Is Apr?
APR stands for annual percentage rate. It calculates a loan’s interest rate and finance charges over time — the total cost of credit. APR accounts for interest, fees, and time. If your APR is similar to the interest rate, that typically indicates that the lender isn’t charging a lot of additional fees (or points on a mortgage).
How Can I Build Credit?
To build credit, you must first establish responsible credit habits. That means you should always make payments on time, every time. Be intentional with your spending and pay your credit balances in full whenever possible. Use credit responsibly, keeping your utilization ratio — how much credit you use vs. how much you have available — below 30%. Keep old credit card accounts open even if you don’t use them anymore—this can help increase the diversity and average age of your credit history.
What Is the Highest Credit Score?
The FICO score uses a scale that ranges from 300 on the low end to 850 on the high end. FICO says less than 2% of U.S. consumers have an 850 credit score. Fortunately, you don’t need the highest credit score to get the best available loan rates. Credit scores of 740 to 799 are considered “very good,” while 800 is the bar for “exceptional” scores.
How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
The answer to this question is different for everyone based on their credit history and credit needs. All you need is one credit card to build a solid credit history. However, you may be interested in using multiple cards to take advantage of different rewards programs or card features. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple credit cards if you can handle credit responsibly. On the other hand, if you can’t afford to pay your credit card bills in full every month, you probably shouldn’t add another card to your wallet.
How Can I Check My Credit Score?
There are three primary ways to check your credit score: free credit scoring websites, credit card providers, and non-profit credit counselors. The easiest way to get your score is probably through your card issuer. All major issuers offer free access to credit scores on a weekly or monthly basis.
Mastering Credit, One Step at a Time
Strong credit history and a strong credit score require a combination of credit knowledge and good financial habits over time. By learning the answers to these crucial questions above, you can develop the former, driving a pattern of progress on the latter.
Credit isn’t everything when it comes to robust personal finances, but you will rarely see a financially secure household that doesn’t have good credit.
The good news is that you’re already on the right track by being here. When you stick with this process, you pave the path to new financial opportunities and an all-around healthier economic life. All you need is to keep learning, answering one question at a time, and turning that newfound knowledge into lasting healthy habits with money.
Image Credit: Pixabay.
Sam is the founder of the personal finance and self-improvement blog Smarter and Harder. His mission is to start exciting new conversations that empower people to improve their work, lives, and money, and hopefully have a fantastic time doing it. In all things, he strives to lead with positivity, understanding, and more than a bit of enthusiasm.