If you’re a typical Grand Forks area consumer, like most North Dakota residents, it wasn’t too long ago that you were being constantly bombarded by offers to let you in on a secret: your credit score. The “free credit score” ads got a lot of responses, but lately, they’ve grown scarcer. We wondered why.
It used to be that thrift-minded people shied away from plastic because it made overspending too easy. Today, credit card bonus points and associated discounts and freebies make the opposite true. After all, taking a vacation without using at least some of your credit card airline “miles” or hotel “points” seems more careless than thrifty.
And the fact is, you don’t have to use the credit part of credit card purchases: if you’re careful, you can pay off the balances before interest starts to accrue. And there’s a major additional benefit to conscientious attention to of all your credit accounts— that is, the credit score dimension.
For many years, credit scores seemed a sort of hush-hush affair. That was before initiatives by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Fair Isaac Corp (FICO) changed the rules of the game, making it mandatory to allow free access to your credit scores. Even so, it was still a bit of a hassle to get to see them—and the “free” access was limited to once a year.
But that’s been changing. Today, many credit card accounts include free access to the FICO credit scores associated with them. If you use the card issuers’ online account systems, you’re usually just a mouse click away from your most recent score. Apparently, the banks behind the cards know it’s a good way to make online bill paying more attractive than snail mail—which is a profit saver for them. At last count, by April of last year more than 150 million accounts included the instant credit score feature.
What that means to real estate transactions is a solid positive. When consumers can keep a steady watch on their credit scores, they are much more likely to notice FICO mistakes or any of their own inadvertent slip-ups. The scores affect the interest rates associated with their credit card accounts—but they also heavily influence the offers they can expect from the mortgage underwriters.
We recommend prequalifying for a home loan: it’s one of the best ways to make your offer the winner in a multiple offer scenario. For other ideas that give you a head start when it comes to buying or selling Grand Forks area real estate, just give us a call!