What’s in a credit score?
Is your credit score some mysterious number that’s randomly generated by an 80s-era computing machine located in some stale data facility? Or does it actually mean something? Yes, yes it does.
Your credit score is one of the factors lenders take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend you credit. Knowing your score (shameless plug for Credit Keeper™ — our free credit score checker), where it comes from and how it’s calculated can set you up for success. It gives you some insight into how your score can impact your ability to get approved for credit (tip: keep reading to learn about our credit card eligibility tool). Likewise, it can give you a sense of what you can do to improve and maintain it.
Why is your credit score so important?
You’ve got great qualities. You water your plants regularly, discreetly tell your co-workers when they have broccoli in their teeth, and you make it to virtual family bingo every Sunday at 5. But unfortunately, that’s not what matters to lenders. They want to know the facts.
Your credit score is typically a number between 300 and 900, and it provides lenders with a view of how you’ve managed credit in the past. Credit reporting agencies (the two major ones in Canada are TransUnion and Equifax) will generate your score based on what’s in your credit report – from your payment history, the number and age of your accounts, to the number of inquiries you have on your report. Each agency uses different formulas to calculate your score, but generally speaking, here’s what’s taken into consideration:
1. Payment history.
Do you make your payments on time each month? Your track record for paying off debt is an important factor in your credit score.
Tip: If you have a Capital One credit card, you can set up account alerts that remind you when your payments are due each month.
2. What you owe.
This is your current debt on credit cards or loans. Credit reporting agencies will look at your debt and see how it measures against your available credit when determining your score.
Tip: Making more than the minimum payment each month can not only save you on interest charges, it can help lower the total amount of debt that appears on your credit report. This can also help your score.
3. Credit history.
Credit reporting agencies are interested in knowing the length of time you’ve been using credit, as well as the number and age of accounts you have open.
Tip: Think it’s a good idea to close an older account that you may not be using? Think again! Keeping older accounts open can extend your credit history and help your score in the long run.
4. Credit mix.
Credit cards, car loans, mortgages — your credit mix covers the different types of credit accounts that appear on your credit report.
Tip: If you’re in the market for a new car, your credit score may be an important factor in getting you that loan.
5. Hard inquiries/hits.
Generally speaking, when you attempt to gain access to credit, a hard inquiry will appear on your credit report. This inquiry can impact your score.
Tip: Be mindful before you submit that credit card application — when you submit one, it creates a hard inquiry on your report.
So now that you have an idea of how your score is calculated, we want to let in on another tip. Did you know that you can find out which Capital One credit card you’ll be approved for, before you apply – and with no impact to your credit score?
The more you know, the more certain you can be about your credit application.
As mentioned above, when you apply for a card, it shows up as a hard hit on your credit report. A hard hit can have an impact on your score, which can affect your chances of getting approved for credit in your future.
Quick Check™, our free credit card eligibility checker, gives you the confidence to apply for a credit card with 100% certainty† that you’ll be approved (so you’re not wasting a hit on your report for a card you may not be able to get).
Using Quick Check doesn’t impact your score, because we use what’s known as a soft hit to determine your eligibility. You can learn more about soft hits in this article.
Knowing your stuff is part of taking control of your credit.
There’s no secret formula for getting a credit card. You don’t need to be a mathematician (or computer whiz) to grasp the basics, but knowing how credit works can help set you up to make smart financial decisions in the future.
† You’ll be approved for the credit card recommended to you by Quick Check, as long as:
1. There’s been no change in your credit file information, personal information or financial status from the time you receive your Quick Check results to the time you apply for one of our credit cards;
2. You’re at least the age of majority in the province or territory you live in;
3. Your application isn’t flagged for fraud prevention;
4. You don’t have an existing Capital One account; and
5. You haven’t applied for a Capital One account in the last 30 days or had an account with us that was not in good standing in the last year. In good standing means not past due, over limit, fraudulent, restricted, or part of a consumer credit counselling program or bankruptcy.