An Annual FICO Score "Check-Up" Can Help Maintain Better Financial Health

A low FICO score can keep you from obtaining a loan for a house or car, affect the rate you'll pay on insurance and it can even keep you from being able to rent a house or apartment.

Regardless of whether you've recently denied credit or have never missed a credit card payment it's important that you obtain a copy of your credit report and FICO score at least once a year. And, if you're planning on applying for a loan for a house or a car or any other major purchase, you'll want to get an updated copy at least three months in advance so that you have time to repair any errors or negative reports. Free credit reports can be obtained by contacting any of the three major credit bureaus and, if you're working to repair a bad credit score, it might be a good idea to get signed up with a credit monitoring service.

FICO scores range from 400 to over 800 points. A score near 400 will probably exclude you from getting a credit card (although a secured credit card option might still be available), a car loan or a mortgage. With a score in the high 500s to the low 600s, you'll probably qualify for credit but the rate you'll pay will be higher and, you'll probably have to pay additional fees. If you've managed your credit properly and have a score in the low 700s or up, you'll be able to qualify for most loans, including the best balance transfer, taxes and rewards credit cards. You'll also pay the lowest rates and have fewer fees attached.

In this day and age of identity theft and credit card fraud, making a FICO score and credit report "check-up" an annual event is a little like getting an annual physical from your doctor, it's a fairly painless event that can make a big difference in your overall financial health and well being.

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