What happened

Of U.S. consumers, 85% say they feel more secure in the rest of their lives when their credit score is healthy, according to a national survey released by FICO last week. It also found that about one-third of Americans feel financially insecure, and 43% say the unstable economy is a barrier towards achieving financial goals. The survey results suggest that even during periods of economic uncertainty, good credit helps people feel more in control.

“Knowing that access to credit is a key building block for achieving financial goals, it’s easy to understand why credit scores would be a significant factor in overall well-being,” said Sally Taylor, vice president and general manager of FICO® Scores, in the news release. She added that “healthy credit habits can help people gain access to the credit they need to reach their financial goals, like get an education, cover medical expenses, or buy a first home.”

So what

Your credit score is a crucial part of your overall financial health. Lenders check it when you apply for credit, so a good credit score can get you access to lower interest rates and higher quality lending products, including with:

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Access to credit is far from the only way your credit score affects your life. Landlords run credit checks during rental applications, so your credit score could be the difference in getting approved for a place to live. Utilities companies may require a security deposit to provide service if you don’t have good credit. And in many states, your credit can even impact your insurance rates.

Now what

If you don’t know it yet, learn how to get your credit score. While there are multiple types of credit scores, it’s best to look up your FICO® Score, because that’s the most widely used by lenders. There are multiple free services that provide your FICO® Score, with Discover® Credit Scorecard being one popular option.

Improving your credit score is simpler than you might think. There are really only a few things you need to do to build and maintain a top-tier credit score:

  • Pay credit accounts on time. Always pay by the due date for any credit cards and loans you have. Even a single late payment that’s 30 days or more past due can do serious damage to your credit score.
  • Use your credit card every month. When you use your credit card monthly and pay the bill on time, it helps you build a positive payment history. If you don’t have a credit card yet, look at starter credit cards you can get with no credit history.
  • Keep your card’s balance below 30% of your credit limit. For example, if the credit limit is $1,000, keep the balance below $300 at all times. This is good for your credit utilization ratio, which affects your credit score.

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