You know you should check and track your credit scores, but you might still be wondering, "What are they used for anyway?"
Lenders want to engage with people who have a history of being responsible with their debt obligations. That three-digit number can impact how they decide whether you're someone they'd like to do business with, how much it will cost to do so and which options they'll offer you.
Your credit scores are meant to illustrate your creditworthiness and can come into play in several key situations. Read on to learn how your credit score may be used in each of these scenarios.
Applying for Credit Cards
When you apply for credit cards, companies usually review your credit score as one of many factors to help determine whether to approve your application. The formula each company uses is a heavily guarded secret, so the exact impact will depend on which company is reviewing your application. Certain cards have additional perks and a company may decide to offer those benefits based on your credit score. Lastly, companies can use your credit scores in determining the credit limits, interest rates and other credit terms they will offer you. Interest rates, for example, can impact items such as an outstanding balance and cash advances.
Using Financing to Pay for School, a Car or a Home
Most federal loans don't review your credit score during the application process. However, if you apply for private student loans, banks will likely be very interested in your credit report and credit score, which can impact the approval and cost of your loan(s). Similar to private student loans, auto lenders generally look to your credit score to determine whether they will approve leasing a car or allowing you to borrow money to purchase a car, along with which interest rate and timeframe they will offer for either option.
With mortgages, the approval requirements are typically stricter than most other types of financing. Each lender has their unique set of guidelines, but your credit score is a major factor of your overall financial profile. After the most recent housing crisis, some lenders may prioritize credit scores more than they did in the past.
Your credit score plays a significant role in several other situations that you might not expect:
- Insurance companies are increasingly factoring in credit-based scores when reviewing whether to provide coverage, how much they'll cover and how much they'll charge for it. This can apply to home insurance and auto insurance.
- When renting an apartment, landlords may use your credit score to determine how much they'll require to be held as a security deposit.
- If you need the flexibility of a payment plan to buy a cell phone, companies could use your credit score to determine the type of payment plan options you'll be offered and whether they'll require a deposit.
- Some utility companies might use your credit score to assess whether they will require a deposit and if so, how much they'll request.
If you will be in one of these situations in the near future, it may be beneficial to check your credit report and credit scores beforehand to verify the information. Get a sense of where you stand by viewing your credit profile on Credit Karma.
Editorial Note: The opinions you read here come from our editorial team. While compensation may affect which companies we write about and products we review, our marketing partners don't review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Our content is accurate (to the best of our knowledge) when we initially post it, but we don't guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. You can visit the company's website to get complete details about a product. See an error in an article? Use this form to report it to our editorial team. For questions about your Credit Karma account, please submit a help request to our support team.
Advertiser Disclosure: We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.
Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.
Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.