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What is Bad Credit?What is Bad Credit?

Your car is on its last leg - spewing fumes and chugging along - and your tax return just came in, so you figure it is about time you bought a new one. You head down to the local dealer and pick out one that looks great and at a great price. Everything is great. As you sit there waiting for the paperwork to get done the car salesperson gets a scowl across their face while talking to the finance department and shakes their head as they walk slowly back to the office. You know what is happening. It has happened before.

You have bad credit.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand why finance companies won't work with you. You have paid your bills on time for a while now. You have a good job and make more than enough money to make the monthly payments. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way.

What is Bad Credit?

To understand bad credit, it is important to understand what credit is in the first place. According to Dictionary.com, credit is "The ability to obtain goods or services before payment, based on the trust that payment will be made in the future." Basically, you spend your entire life building good or bad credit based on how well you have made payments on goods and services in the past. Everything you have ever purchased or rented - from your apartment and car to your kids' daycare and student loans - can be used to judge your credit in the future. If you make timely payments your credit will remain untarnished. If you miss a few payments or are consistently late on things, however, it will leave you with bad credit in the future.

Whether you have good or bad credit, it is summarized in your credit score, also known as your FICO score.

FICO Scores and How They Work

Your FICO score is a score used by the three main credit bureaus - Experian, Transunion and Equifax - to determine how much of a risk you are when obtaining credit. FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, which is the company that first created the industry standards for credit scores still used today. In general, your FICO scores can range between 400 and 900. The higher the number, the better risk you are for a lender. If your credit score falls in the high 700 to 900 range you are usually determined to be a good risk for creditors.

It does not work the same from the other spectrum, however, and you do not have to be anywhere near the 400 mark to be considered poor credit. Even a FICO score in the mid-600 area could stop you from getting credit with a lender. This is why it is important to understand where you are currently sitting and make efforts to improve your credit for the future.

How to Fix Bad Credit

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix when you want to repair your bad credit. It will take time and effort on your end to catch up on the payments you have fallen behind on and to ensure that you are not late on payments in the future. Repairing your bad credit and obtaining a good credit score will be well worth your efforts, however, when in the future you wish to purchase that new car or house.

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To learn more about factors to consider when applying for or using a credit card, visit the website of the Federal Reserve Board at http://www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard.
To get a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus, go to www.annualcreditreport.com

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