Americans Taking Steps to Higher Credit Score, Happier Life
Credit scores are funny things. A three-digit number that can change at any given point in time can be the one thing that holds you back from getting a better car, a better home and perhaps a better life. Unfortunately, a new survey by Chase Slate found that many Americans are not only more unhappy with their credit scores than they were last year, but they also are worried that because of a low credit score, they may not be able to accomplish their goals.
Chase Slate's 2016 Credit Outlook Survey shows the results of a poll of 1,000 adults that took place this past December. The results showed that Americans feel worse about their credit scores than they did last year, with 32 percent of Americans feeling less pleased about their current credit score, an eight percent increase from last year. Almost that many--28 percent--weren't confident that they'd be able to accomplish some of their life goals, given their credit score situation. This is an increase of nine percent over last year.
Furthermore, nearly half of respondents said they'd describe their personal financial situation as "fair" or "poor." Being worried about personal credit health may contribute to being too afraid to check their credit score and know what their situation actually is. About 40 percent of Americans don't know what their credit score is, and 30 percent last checked their score over a year ago. Of this group, 20 percent said they were too afraid to check it, up seven percentage points from last year.
"The tension Americans are feeling with their credit scores is actually very healthy because this singular metric can impact their ability to achieve and afford big financial goals. Your credit score impacts whether you can purchase a home or car, obtain a loan to go to school or start a business and qualify for better interest rates," said Farnoosh Torabi, a personal finance expert and Chase Slate financial education partner, in a statement.
However, the survey also showed that Americans plan to work toward getting a higher credit score, whether or not they're happy with their current score. Two-thirds of all respondents said a better credit score is a goal for 2016. Those who were dissatisfied with their current scores were more motivated to improve it.
"I am encouraged to see that so many Americans are motivated to improve their credit score this year, chiefly because healthy credit can open doors in the short-term, long-term and throughout one's lifetime, really," said Pam Codispoti, president, Consumer Branded Cards, Chase Card Services, in a statement.
Consumers have many ways they can increase their credit scores. The first step is to check your credit report and make sure it doesn't contain any errors. You can do this for free once a year with each major credit bureau. Examine it to make sure payment amounts and dates are correct, and if you have late payments, they're correctly listed. Also make sure the amount of outstanding credit listed on the report is correct.
Two other relatively easy ways to improve your score is to pay your credit cards on time and reduce your overall debt levels. Making consistently timely payments will let lenders know you're reliable and can make payments on time. Not maxing out your cards also shows more creditworthiness, so work on decreasing the amount of debt you have.
Several credit cards, including Chase Slate and Discover, offer free credit scores as part of their card member benefits. Using these tools makes it easy to keep an eye on a credit score while working toward improving it.