Creditworthiness: What It Is and How to Improve It
Learning about personal finance and how to manage your financial health can be difficult. There are so many different terms and so much jargon to keep up with. One of the terms you’ve probably heard of is “creditworthiness.” On its face, that would seem to mean “worthy of credit” — but what more goes into this term?
Let’s discover the meaning of creditworthiness and why it’s one of the most important factors for your financial health.
What Is Creditworthiness?
Creditworthiness is a measure that uses a borrower’s repayment history to try and determine their future reliability when it comes to debt repayment. In other words, it’s a measure of how much credit you’ve shown to be capable of repaying based on your past borrowing history and other factors. It’s how lenders decide who to lend to and what their interest rates and other terms will be. It includes more than just your credit score. Think of it like a financial resume that shows your past borrowing behavior and your current financial situation.
Why Is Creditworthiness Important?
Creditworthiness is important because it can open many financial doors. Whenever you apply for a credit card, a personal loan or line of credit, a high credit score can help you get approved for lower interest rates and better terms. It can help in non-lending situations as well, such as when you apply to rent a home.
How Is Creditworthiness Determined?
Creditworthiness is impacted by several things, including your payment history, your current financial situation and some additional outside factors. These can be categorized into what are commonly known as the “five Cs of credit.”
Capacity. Capacity is a borrower’s ability to repay their debt. Lenders will look at your income, how stable your job is and if you have other income streams. They may ask for pay stubs or bank statements to ensure that you can afford the debt without stressing your budget.
Capital. Capital refers to the money you already have, such as money in a savings or investment account. Lenders may be more comfortable extending credit if they know you have a financial cushion. It indicates that you can manage your money and are prepared.
Character. Character is essentially the story your credit history tells. Lenders may look at your credit report to see how you’ve handled bills and debt repayment in the past. They’ll look at things like how often you’ve applied for new credit, your repayment history and if you’ve had any defaults, delinquencies or late payments. A good credit history can help you get approved for credit and secure better terms.
Collateral. Collateral is a valuable asset, such as a car or house, that can be used to secure credit. Collateral offers security for the lender, because with secured credit, the lender can seize and sell the collateral if the borrower fails to repay the loan. Having collateral can help borrowers get approved for larger amounts and lower interest rates.
Conditions. External conditions can also impact creditworthiness. This can include things like the purpose of the credit and the overall state of the economy. Lenders also consider the terms, such as length and interest rate. These conditions help lenders assess the overall risk associated with the borrower.
How Do You Check Your Creditworthiness?
Creditworthiness encompasses more than just your credit score, but checking out your credit report is a good way to get started. When you know your credit score, you can consider it alongside the other factors that go into determining your creditworthiness to get an idea of where you stand.
You can check your credit report through the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and Transunion. You can request a free credit report every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com. Your credit report gives you a comprehensive look at your credit history. It includes current and past debts, payment history, credit utilization, new credit accounts and other information such as bankruptcies. The information in your credit report is used to calculate your credit score (sometimes called your FICO Score or VantageScore). Checking your credit report doesn’t lower your score.
How Do You Improve Your Creditworthiness?
Improving your creditworthiness is a journey that requires patience and dedication. Here are a few ways you can get started.
Pay your bills on time. Your payment history counts for 35% of your FICO score. Payments that are past due or in collections can have a negative impact. Timely payments show lenders that you’re reliable and can manage your financial and debt obligations. Setting up automatic payments can help ensure you don’t miss a due date.
Keep your debt-to-income ratio low. Your debt-to-income ratio is a measure of how much debt you have versus how much you earn. This can include things like a car loan, student loans and personal loans. Revolving credit accounts also play a role. Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit you’ve used in relation to the amount of credit available to you. It’s an important factor in your credit rating calculation and high line of credit or credit card balances can have a negative impact.
Avoid opening too many new credit accounts. Opening multiple new credit accounts in a short period of time can be a red flag to financial institutions. It can suggest financial distress and increase your credit risk in the eyes of lenders. Each time you open a new account, it can result in a hard credit check so be sure to be strategic about opening new accounts.
Diversify your credit mix. While you don’t want to open too many new credit accounts, it’s important to have a mix of different types of credit. This shows lenders that you’re able to manage different types of credit effectively. A secured credit card can be a good way to build credit when you’re trying to rebuild or just starting out.
Monitor your credit report. Reviewing your credit reports is important for maintaining good credit health. Check your reports for inaccuracies or signs of fraud. Errors can negatively impact your score, so dispute any that you find. Checking your reports can also help you keep track of your progress and understand what factors are affecting your score.
DISCLAIMER: This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as financial, investment, or legal advice.