It Pays To Have Good Credit

A high score has more advantages than you think

Nowelle Weatherspoon’s high credit score of 790 paid off in a big way when she secured a $120,000, 15-year mortgage at 5.6% with a monthly payment of only $813. If her score had been 620 to 674, she would have faced an APR of 7.8% and a monthly payment of $1,130, according to myFICO.com.

If you handle credit responsibly, banks, credit card companies, insurance agencies, and even employers will reward you. For Weatherspoon, a property manager for a real estate company in Chicago, her disciplined habits of paying bills on time, keeping debt low, and sticking to a budget made a huge difference–of more than $300 a month.
ILLUSTRATION by JASON RAISH : july 2007

There are several advantages to maintaining a credit score at or above the national median of 723. Here are five reasons to keep your good credit intact:

Lower rates. Being eligible for lower interest rates on loans can mean keeping more money in your pocket. Cheryl Creuzot, president and CEO of Houston-based Wealth Development Strategies, L.P., gave this example: “A 35-year-old female who drives a Toyota Corolla and has a great driving record and credit score [with] a $500 deductible, would have a six-month [car insurance] premium of $476. But, for the same person with a low credit score, that premium would jump to about $920.” According to Creuzot, a low score adds 1 to 11/2 points to car insurance rates.

Small-business loans. If your company is less than 3 years old when you submit an application for a small-business loan, your personal credit history will come under scrutiny. If you’ve managed your finances well, the process will be much smoother. “For a truly small firm, such as a sole proprietorship, the personal credit history is what a lender is going to look at, because for a sole proprietorship, it’s impossible to separate the business credit from the personal–the two are one and the same,” says Jim Hammersley, director of the loan programs division for the Small Business Administration.

Credit card rewards. Depending on the card you choose, you can get discounts on hotel stays, airfare, and other unique perks. For example, the Discover Motiva Card (www.discovercard.com/apply/motiva) offers its cardholders a full month’s interest when they make six consecutive payments on time. Some cards, like Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa Signature Card (http://personal.fidelity.com/products/ checking/content/ mcplatplus.shtml.cvsr) even encourage retirement savings. Each time a cardholder accumulates 5,000 points, the points can be converted to a $75 deposit into a Fidelity retirement account. Since points and other earned rewards like airline miles may expire, check the terms of each card.

A better job. Above-average credit can mean increased earning potential. It’s a well-known fact that some employers do a credit check before they hire. Kevin Truitt, a banker with a credit score of 790, concurs: “It has happened to me. Your credit score is indicative of a pattern of behavior. When employers check your credit, they’re looking to see if you’re responsible with your personal debt. If I had a poor credit score, I probably would

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