A one dollar bill

Credit is a word that has many different meanings. In the financial sense of the word, credit is the ability to get something that you need or want, with the expectation that you will pay for it later, typically with interest added. 

Credit can also refer to your reputation. When we say someone has excellent credit, that means they’ve displayed a history of responsible financial choices that make them a trustworthy person in lending situations. Lenders, or creditors, make decisions based mainly on an individual’s credit. Your creditworthiness is a general metric of how lenders view how likely you are to be able to repay a loan, if they make you one. 

Credit bureaus were created as a way to get individual credit information to creditors so they could make more educated lending decisions. Credit bureaus collect and share data with banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, mortgage lenders and other companies. 

The three major credit unions are:

Lenders, like credit card companies, report information to these credit bureaus. 

Credit bureaus maintain individual credit information in detailed reports referred to as credit reports. These reports are made available to lenders but are also available to consumers as well, often for free. 

Credit bureaus use your information to create your credit score. A credit score is created by packaging all of the information from your credit report into a three-digit score. The most popular credit score is the FICO score, but there are more than 25 different versions of credit scores available. Scores are broken down into ranges, and the higher the score, the better your credit is. Your credit score and credit report are used to determine whether you qualify for a particular line of credit and the interest rate you receive. 

Individuals can improve their credit by following smart financial practices like paying bills on-time and in-full, paying down revolving debt, and using credit cards responsibly.

Credit FAQs

What is credit and how does it work?

Credit is receiving something of value now with the agreement that that value will be repaid later. When you apply for credit, creditors look at your credit score and credit report to determine whether to issue you credit or not. This information is sometimes also used to determine repayment terms and to set interest rates. 

If a creditor thinks that you are creditworthy, you will be approved for a line of credit. There are many types of credits available, with credit cards being the most well-known option. Home mortgages, business loans, personal loans and student loans are other types of credit that people apply for regularly. 

Typically, people will make minimum monthly payments by a set date, and interest is charged on the credit balance until it is paid off. 

What is credit and why do we need it?

Credit is being able to receive something of value now with the understanding that you’ll pay it back later.

Having good credit is necessary to borrow money for large purchases, such as a new car or house. You’ll also need it to qualify for various types of loans, like private student loans and home loans. 

Having good credit not only helps you qualify for these types of transactions but also to receive better terms and interest rates, which can save you money over time. 

Most credit card companies reserve their best rewards credit cards for people with excellent credit.

Other businesses that may look at your credit include: 

  • Cell phone companies
  • Utility companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Private lenders
  • Landlords
  • Banks
  • Prospective employers

As creditors and companies look at your credit, they get a snapshot of your financial health. Since they are lending you money or providing a service, they want to be sure that you are worth the investment and are able to pay them back. 

What is credit used for?

Credit is used to make purchases or to receive services (or something else of value) without immediately paying for it in full. 

Creditors and various other companies use information from your credit report, including your credit score, to determine your loan eligibility and to set the terms and interest rates for a loan or a line of credit, like that provided by a credit card. Having a higher credit score can help you get approved for various forms of credit, and to receive better rates and terms. 

How can I raise my credit score in 30 days?

Raising your credit score can allow you to gain access to lines of credit with more strict requirements. It can also help you get better terms and lower interest rates. 

You can’t improve your credit score by much in just 30 days, but you can make some headway. Small changes to your credit can have a significant impact on your credit score. Here are some ways you can raise your credit score in the next 30 days: 

  1. Check your credit report for any errors. If you find any, be diligent in disputing them and getting them fixed with the credit bureau. 
  2. Take care of delinquent accounts. 
  3. Pay off credit card balances. 
  4. Limit new credit inquiries.
  5. Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, such as a spouse or other family member. 
  6. Request higher credit limits on current credit cards.
  7. Ask creditors to remove late payment from your account. 

>>Read CardCruncher’s Complete Guide to Improving Your Credit Score 

Getting rid of any negative marks on your credit report should give your credit score a boost. And anything you can do to lower your credit utilization ratio — the amount of your available credit you are using at any given time — will also help. As a general rule, keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent is ideal. 

Is 600 a good credit score?

While 600 certainly isn’t the worst credit score you can have, it does fall into the category of what is officially considered a ‘fair’ credit score (580-669), but commonly thought of as having bad credit. In fact, 83% of U.S. consumers have a FICO score higher than 600. A good credit score ranges between 670 and 739. The lowest score you can receive is 300, which is considered very poor. 

With a 600 credit score, chances are you’ll be denied on many credit card and loan applications, and that if you do qualify, you’ll likely be charged high interest rates and fees. 

How can I raise my credit score by 100 points?

It’s not out of the question to quickly raise your credit score by 100 points over a short period of time. There are several ways to improve your credit score. First, it’s important to take care of any negative marks on your credit report, such as any credit lines that have gone to collection, late payments, or even errors on your credit report. Working diligently to resolve these issues can start to improve your credit score. 

Your credit score can also be improved quickly by lowering your debt-to-income ratio. Unless you’re planning on seeing an increase in your income, this is done by reducing your debt. Pay off any old credit card balances and continue to pay off those credit cards in full every month. 

Your credit utilization ratio has an impact on your credit score, too. You can improve your credit score by paying down your balances so that you are using less than 30 percent of your available credit across all credit lines.

Using these strategies can help improve your credit score quickly, while also laying the foundation for greater long-term improvement, too.

How can I check my credit score?

There are several ways you can check your credit score online, which is good, since checking your credit score periodically can help you keep track of where you stand financially in the eyes of creditors. There are many ways to gain access to your credit score. Some companies and websites require payment to access your credit score, but below are ways to check your score for free.

  • Annualcreditreport.com: Use this site to gain access to credit reports from the three major credit bureaus once every year. 
  • Credit Cards: American Express, Chase, Discover, Capital One, U.S. Bank, Barclays, and Bank of America all offer select credit card accounts access to various types of credit scores.
  • USAA: Membership with USAA includes access to their credit score through Experian’s CreditCheck service, which is updated monthly. 
  • Mint: Having a Mint account gains you access to your credit score for free. No credit card is required. 

Why is credit used?

Credit allows people to receive goods or services without having to pay for them immediately. Often, people don’t have enough money on hand to pay for purchases. Other times, credit is used because of convenience. 

Credit reports and credit scores are used by lenders to gauge someone’s creditworthiness when they apply for a line of credit. Lenders and creditors want to know that the person applying for credit will be able to pay them back sufficiently. Credit reports and scores give them a quick snapshot of someone’s financial health. 

What are the 3 types of credit reports?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPD) has a long list of recognized credit bureaus in the U.S., but the three major credit bureaus that are utilized by most creditors are:

Credit bureaus gather information supplied by lenders to create a credit report for individuals. This information is also used to generate a three-digit credit score. Credit reports and scores are then used by creditors to help them determine if they will extend that person a new line of credit. 

What are the 4 types of credit?

There are four types of credit you can access. Each one has different requirements and restrictions. 

  1. Revolving Credit: Credit cards are considered a form of revolving credit. A maximum credit limit is set, and you make regular payments against the balance of all purchases you make with your credit card. Any balance left after you make your regularly scheduled payment carries over and is charged interest. 
  2. Installment Credit: Loans that you pay back monthly fall under the category of installment credit. Student loans, personal loans, mortgages and auto loans are all considered installment credit. Typically, you are lent a specific amount of money and are required to pay it back over time in installment payments. Payments are usually made monthly. 
  3. Service Credit: These are contracts you may have with businesses that provide a service or membership, like a gym or mobile phone service. It can also include any utility bills. Service credit may be reported to credit bureaus, depending on the company. 
  4. Charge Cards: Charge cards are similar to credit cards, except the total balance must be paid off every month. 

Why Do You Need Credit?

Credit allows you to gain access to other credit lines when you need it, like when you want to buy a new car or house. Almost any type of loan requires a credit check. Employers sometimes perform credit checks as part of their screening process. Having good credit can open doors to new credit lines, lower interest rates, and other advantageous terms.