Protecting Your Credit

We want to make sure you understand how your credit history is tracked and what goes into your credit score early on, so there are no surprises down the road. It’s important to be vigilant to protect the credit you’ve worked so hard to establish.

A credit score is a number, based strictly on credit history, created to help creditors weigh the risks they take when they loan money. Your credit score determines whether you can get credit and your interest rate. Higher numbers look better to lenders and many times, those with higher scores get lower interest rates. Your score plays a vital role in most borrowing situations, so it's important to understand what goes into it.

How does it work?

  • Credit scoring is a statistically-based prediction of how likely it is that a borrower will repay a loan. It can either show lenders that you are low risk or raise red flags that you are a high risk borrower.
  • When you manage your credit responsibly, your credit score goes up over time. A strong credit history will give you a strong credit score.
  • Income level is not a factor in your credit score. You could have a low income and a high credit score, or a high income and a low credit score. It just depends on your credit history.

What are common scores?

According to Fair, Isaac and Company, Inc., the developer of today's most commonly used scoring system, scores can range from 300 to 850. Most people score in the 600s and 700s, and scores break down along these lines:

499 & below 1%
500-549 5%
550-559 7%
600-649 11%
650-699 16%
700-749 20%
749-799 29%
800 & above 11%

No credit score lasts forever

It changes over time as your credit maintenance changes. Depending on a variety of factors, your score can go up or down at any time. In fact, every time you apply for, use, make or miss a payment on a loan or credit card, you add on to your credit report and either raise or lower your score.

What goes into your score?

A variety of factors in your credit report make up your credit score:

  • Your payment track record
  • The amount of debt you owe
  • How long you've used credit
  • The number of recently opened accounts and inquiries made by creditors
  • The types of credit you currently use

Protecting your credit

Raising your credit score and improving your credit history go hand in hand, so it's important to know what's on your credit report and take responsibility for proactively monitoring it. Thanks to the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, you are entitled to a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get your free reports by going to or by calling 1-877-322-8228. You also can write:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, Ga. 30348-5281

If you review your credit report and something seems unusual, be sure to check with your credit card company or lender as soon as possible. Roughly 7-10 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year, and the last thing you need is to be a thief’s next victim.

What can you do?

Be vigilant, as you would be with any type of theft. It can be as easy as doing the following simple tasks:

  • Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT or visit to be removed from credit bureau marketing lists to reduce the number of offers you receive via phone and by mail.
  • Shred all old bills, new credit card or loan offers, or financial papers you no longer need. This way, “dumpster diving” thieves will have fewer opportunities to get your information.
  • Be alert when asked for personal information on the phone, through the mail or via the Internet unless you are absolutely sure you know who you're dealing with.
  • Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly to look for unfamiliar transactions.
  • Keep your purse and wallet secure at all times.
  • Protect your Social Security number.
  • Be mindful of people at ATMs and in line at the bank or grocery store.

Learn more about the warning signs and specific steps you should take to gain a greater level of protection against identity thieves – so you’ll never have to worry about becoming a victim.

Contact your financial advisor

If you are concerned about your credit history, your local financial advisor may be able to help. Schedule a meeting with a financial advisor in your area to discuss how your credit history (and spending) may impact your long-term financial goals.

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