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Good Clean Credit

By Marcie Geffner
 
Half of the adults in the United States don't understand that chronic failure to pay their bills on time is a major problem in qualifying for a home mortgage, according to a survey conducted by Fannie Mae earlier this year. That's a shocking state of affairs, and it demonstrates the widespread ignorance about the negative effects of having a poor credit history.
Developing good credit habits and building a favorable credit history should be a part of everyone's personal financial plan. One tiny blemish on your credit report won't knock you out of the running for a home mortgage, but a series of black marks can prevent you from obtaining just about any type of credit on favorable terms.
One component of a good credit history is a demonstrated ability to use credit cards in a mature and responsible manner. Maxing out your credit cards, then demanding debt relief is clearly a misuse of credit. Yet, eschewing credit cards altogether isn't a good strategy either. The best approach is to charge, pay, charge, pay, charge, pay and so on without going to either extreme. Here are some suggestions for how you can strengthen the plastic portion of your credit report:
  1. Limit your own supply of credit.
    A credit card represents the freedom to incur debt up to the limit on that card. The number of cards you have (even if the balance is zero), the total amount of credit available to you on those cards and the balances owed on those cards should be in line with your monthly income and your financial ability to pay your debts. For example, a person who earns $30,000 a year and owes $10,000 in credit-card debt is clearly over-extended, while the same amount of debt might seem modest for someone who earns $200,000 a year.
  2. Use a few credit cards steadily and consistently.
    Don't open and close multiple charge accounts or apply for credit cards all over town. Every inquiry and every open charge account will be included in your credit report. Don't ever max out your cards, even if you receive a windfall and intend to pay the total balance right away. If you have too many credit cards, officially close your accounts in writing, then cut up the cards and throw them away!
  3. Watch out for minimum payment traps.
    Don't rack up more debt than you can handle, and don't be fooled by the minimum payment on your credit-card statement. It's probably not enough to even cover the interest on the amount you owe for one month. Unless you pay more than the minimum, the debt will keep growing.
  4. Pay your bills on time.
    This point is a no-brainer, but a surprising number of people don't understand the importance of honoring their financial obligations. Credit-card companies are very aggressive when it comes to reporting late payments to the credit bureaus, and a history of tardiness will hurt your chances of getting a home mortgage.

© Copyright Marcie Geffner. All Rights Reserved. 
This article may not be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in part or in whole, without written permission of the copyright owner.

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