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Do you have plans to apply for a new credit card in the near future? Maybe you’re considering a new auto loan, mortgage, student loan, or personal loan. Regardless of the type of financing you are seeking, your creditworthiness will play an important role in whether your applications for credit are approved or denied.
Let’s cover your first question right now. What is creditworthiness and how can it be determined?
The general concept of creditworthiness is easy enough to understand. Creditworthiness describes how likely you are to repay a financial obligation according to the terms of your agreement. It’s a measure of how much lenders should trust you.
FICO credit scores, the brand of credit score used in over 90% of U.S. lending decisions, are designed to predict the likelihood you will become 90 days past due on any credit obligation within the next 24 months. Other scoring models are used to predict the same or related situations.
Your credit scores are three-digit numbers which lenders use to gauge your creditworthiness at a glance. High credit scores mean a person’s creditworthiness will be better in the eyes of a lender; low scores indicate the opposite.
Your credit reports themselves matter because they contain the data upon which your credit scores are based.
Lenders also typically consider financial factors when you apply for a new credit card or loan, in addition to your credit reports and scores.
However, metrics like your income and assets measure your capacity or financial ability to pay as agreed, not your creditworthiness.
While having the capacity to pay is important to lenders, it isn’t the same as being credit worthy. There are plenty of people with high incomes who don’t have good track records managing credit. Just because you can afford to pay your bills in a timely fashion doesn’t mean that you will do so.
As mentioned above, lenders determine your creditworthiness primarily by considering your credit reports and scores. So, in order for a piece of information to be considered in your creditworthiness evaluation by a lender, it typically has to be included in your credit file with one of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. (Your credit scores, with a few exceptions, are based upon the information contained in your three credit reports as well.)
Essentially, the factors which affect your creditworthiness are the same factors which influence your credit scores.
Credit score creators, like FICO and VantageScore, don’t reveal the exact formulas they use to calculate credit scores. However, they do reveal some of the factors which are important.
Here are a few examples of the types of information which could impact your credit scores (and, by extension, your creditworthiness in the eyes of a lender):
You’ll notice again that your income isn’t listed above. Of course, having enough money to pay your bills matters a great deal to lenders. It is almost certainly a factor lenders will consider when you apply for a loan.
Yet income isn’t a metric which credit scoring models consider (at least not anymore). Ergo, income isn’t a factor used to measure creditworthiness.
Income affects your ability to pay your bills. It doesn’t affect whether you’ll choose to pay them.
Besides your income, here are some other factors which do not affect your credit scores or your creditworthiness in the eyes of a lender. In fact, according to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), it might be illegal for lenders to consider some these factors in a creditworthiness evaluation, even if they wanted to.
It’s a good idea to remain credit worthy at all times, even if you don’t have any immediate plans to apply for new financing. You never know when an opportunity might arise (or an emergency may strike). Plus, maintaining good credit can save you money in ways you might not have considered before.
If your credit isn’t currently in the best shape, the good news is that you can work to change your situation for the better. To improve or maintain creditworthiness, individuals should do the following:
Keep in mind that your credit doesn’t need to be perfect to qualify for financing either. (Though, better credit typically means better rates and terms). If your creditworthiness isn’t so great at the moment, a larger down payment or shorter loan term might make lenders more comfortable about doing business with you as well.
Creditworthiness is primarily measured by your credit scores. So, when you’re working to improve your credit, it can take some time for your new, positive actions to take effect.
For example, just because you establish a new credit card account and pay on time, that doesn’t erase any late payments or collection accounts which are already damaging your credit. The more negative activity on your credit reports, the harder it will be to improve your creditworthiness; but if you don’t have negative marks you’ll likely see your scores rise fairly quickly.
Remember that progress is progress, even if it’s slow. Stay the course. Over time your new, positive credit management habits can begin to pay off.
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