Last week I did something I’ve never done before. I used Credit Karma to get a free credit score and report. That was the first time in my life that I’ve ever checked my credit report or even had an interest in checking it. Why? I’m becoming more and more convinced that your credit score matters.
To know how applying for multiple credit cards impacts a credit score
For several years I’ve enjoyed the game (yes, I know it’s a game) of getting credit card rewards bonuses for signing up for new credit cards. Despite what many think, I personally think there is actually a financial value in doing so. At the very least, it’s a fun hobby. Over the last four years, our family has enjoyed around 25 free hotel nights from signing up for seven rewards credit cards.
Most recently, I signed up for a credit card that will give me 75,000 bonus American Airlines AAdvantage points. That’s more than enough for a free trip from North America to Europe.
I never considered my credit score because I’ve always heard Dave Ramsey say it doesn’t matter.
I was recently reading an article about how applying for credit cards impacts your credit score. In the article, the author suggested you not try and get new credit cards within two years of buying a home (assuming you plan to borrow money). I wondered what I was really doing to my credit by signing up for 1-3 credit cards each year. I decided the only way to know was to check and monitor my credit score.
To make sure credit stays intact before a credit purchase
There is a possibility that within 2-3 years we may get a home mortgage, and I thought that no credit card bonus would be worth jeopardizing my ability to get the best available rate on a home mortgage.
By ignoring my credit score I thought that I may be financially penalizing myself.
I tend to think of credit scores like I do college professors. Every teacher graded according to certain preferences. When I wrote a term paper, I’d write according to that grading standard (even if I didn’t like it). I feel the same way about my credit score. Since so many companies use a credit score as a type of grade or standard, I figure I may as well do what they ask to maintain a good credit score.
Reasons to pay attention to your credit score
Your credit score is a popular way to measure your level of responsibility. As such, people will decide how to professionally interact with you based on your credit score. They could be a landlord, a cell phone company, or an auto insurance company. By monitoring your credit report you can repair any credit report errors.
The statement, “your credit score doesn’t matter” is only true assuming you fully (without exception) operate without debt. In addition, you will need to be willing to pay more for certain items and deal with some additional hassle.
How can a poor credit score be more expensive? You will find that some auto insurance companies determine your rates based on your credit report. Sure, one could boycott any such companies, but if they have the lowest rate, you do need to realize that you are paying more because you’re ignoring your credit score.
How can a poor credit score be more hassle? You will need to find companies or individuals within the company who are willing to manually review your application. That does add an extra level of hassle.
It’s free. At creditkarma.com you can get a good idea of your credit score for free.
Reasons to ignore your credit score
A funny thing (actually, it’s quite sad) happens to some people when they check their credit score. They start doing financially dumb things so they can try to increase their credit score.
Others obsess over their credit score assuming that a credit score is like a personal finance grade. They think, “If I’ve got a good credit score, then I must be doing well financially.” But, that is not true.
The Final Verdict
In many cases, I think there is little danger in paying attention to your credit score and making wise decisions when it first helps improve your financial situation and your credit score.
What do you think? Have you checked your credit report and score recently? Are there other reasons to either pay attention to or ignore your credit score?