Consumers often find the credit-scoring process difficult to understand, but learning about how they are tabulated can help increase an individual's score.
Millennials can increase their credit scores by avoiding the fallacies surrounding the convoluted manner in which they are tabulated. Consumers misunderstand many facts about paying bills and credit cards.
A high credit score allows consumers to pay a lower interest rate for credit cards, mortgages and auto loans, which also gives them lower rates for auto and home insurance. Here's a quick rundown of what the numbers mean -- a score of anything below 620 ranks as poor, 620-699 is fair, 700-749 is good and anything over 750 is excellent.
Missing a payment on a credit card can be one of the most-common factors that lowers your credit score.
If you skip even one payment, it can cause your credit score to drop by 100 to 300 points, said Bruce McClary, spokesman for National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization. The larger the balance is on your card, the more weight it has on your credit score.
This misstep means it can take consumers as long as two years to restore your credit score to its previous level. The first rule of thumb is to pay your bills on time since this factor makes up 35% of your score.
"Pay all your obligations on time, including and especially student loans!" said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate, a NewYork-based financial data and content company. "Paying bills on time is the single-biggest component of your credit score."
Obtaining more credit cards or accounts at one time, especially during the holidays or because of a promotion, can also lower your credit score. Any new credit makes up 10% of your score.
It is not worth it even to obtain a store discount for your purchases. Lenders view this as a consumer having the potential of a "borrowing binge" since there is a possibility a person could max all of them out in no time at all, said McClary. Too many inquiries also lower your score, so getting a personal loan while trying to finance a car should be avoided.
"Keep your borrowing modest, particularly if you have existing student loan debt or a car loan," said McBride.
Open a credit card for small day-to-day purchases that can be paid in full each month and work toward paying it in full.
"Don't think you have to actually carry a balance to build credit -- that is not the case," he said. "You can and should, build credit very effectively by paying the balance in full each month. For best results, keep the total balance under 10% of your available credit line."
The length of your credit history affects 15% of your score and this is why consumers should not close credit card accounts they opened several years ago. Closing them also shrinks a person's total available credit.
Decrease the amount of your credit card debt because the amount you owe makes up 30% of your score. Your credit utilization rate should be under 30% also.
"Paying bills on time, keeping debts modest relative to available credit and paying down debt over time account for nearly two-thirds of your credit score," said McBride. "These are the low-hanging fruit of building and maintaining good credit."
Millennials should refrain from carrying high interest credit card debt without having a personal savings safety net sufficient to cover three months of living expenses, said McClary.
"This way payments are less likely to fall behind between jobs," he said. "Frequent changes in employment, student loan debt and lack of savings are a few of the many financial challenges faced by Millennials."
Consumers need to have a mix of the types of credit because it affects 10% of their score. Lenders want to see that borrowers can pay their credit cards, auto loans and mortgages on time each month.