April 18, 2019

It's like your relationship history with all of your bills.
A solid credit history can be one of your most useful and powerful financial assets. The following tips can help you ensure credit will be there when you need it.  

Know the power of credit

Banks look at your credit history as an indication of your future financial behavior. By using credit wisely, you can build a good credit history, making it easier to get loans with low interest rates, rent an apartment, purchase a car or home — and it may even help you get a job.  

Spend only what you can afford

Credit is a loan and has to be repaid. It is your responsibility to manage your debts and keep your commitment with lenders. Avoid reaching your credit limit or "maxing out" your cards.  

Don’t let anyone pressure you in to getting a credit card

If you don't want one, you have the right to say "no." Under the CARD Act 2009, consumers aged 18 to 21 cannot be solicited for credit. If you no longer wish to receive pre-screened offers, opt out by visiting the National Credit Bureau’s opt-out website or call them at 888-567-8688.  

Read the fine print on the credit application

The application is a contract, so read it carefully before signing. Credit card companies are very competitive, so interest rates, credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms and conditions may vary.  

Never skip a payment

Late payments can affect your credit rating and increase your balance. To pay off your balance quicker, pay more than the minimum due. If you are having trouble making the minimum monthly payments, let your creditor know so they can work with you to create a more manageable payment plan.  

Prevent credit trouble

If you pay only the minimum balance, pay late, use cash advances to fund daily living expenses or transfer a lot of balances, you might be in the credit "danger zone." Talk to a financial counseling organization to regain control of your finances.  

Get a free credit report annually

You have the right to know what is in your credit report, and it is important to make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three major credit bureaus to provide you with a free copy of your credit report at your request each year. Your credit evaluates you as a borrower and needs to be accurate. To get a free copy of your credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com. If you see an error on the report, be sure contact the credit agency in writing and ask that it be corrected.  

Watch out for anyone who claims they can "fix" your credit report

No one can legally remove negative accurate information from your credit history. The only thing that can fix a credit report is time and a positive payment history. Negative information generally remains in your credit report for seven years and bankruptcies may remain for 10 years. However, most lenders pay particular attention to your most recent couple of years of activity.  

Be aware of identity thieves

Never give out credit card or personal information if you have not initiated the transaction. Be aware of identity theft and phishing scams that ask for credit card numbers. If you suspect your identity has been compromised and are a Bank Iowa customer, let us know so we can put you in touch with an on-demand fraud specialist at Identity Theft 911®, the nation’s leader in identity management and fraud education. This is a free service to Bank Iowa customers and their resident family members.