'What's Your Credit Score?'

Edith Lovett Pulaski County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Sometimes we need to be reminded to check our credit score. If you haven't checked yours this year, then today may be a good time to do it. You should check your score at least once a year. The interest you pay when borrowing money often depends upon your credit score, so you need to check it at least yearly.

Why do you need to check your credit score? Your credit score tells lenders and other businesses how likely you are to pay back debts on time. A higher score will improve your chances of getting a better offer on a loan, insurance, utilities, housing, and more. But, while this number is important, it might not be free to access. And you have more than one score. Scores for different purposes are calculated different ways.

You need to know how your credit score is determined. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), is the largest company that provides software for calculating credit scores. FICO has shared the relative weights of the five categories that make up a score. You can check it out at http://bit.ly/ukFCS_MWficofactors.

The biggest influence on a credit score is your payment history. Creditors want to know if you're reliable. They look to your report to see if you pay your bills on time regularly. This doesn't mean "if you paid the total amount off monthly," but do you pay your bills on time.

The next biggest influence is the amount of money owed relative to your credit limit. Only use a small portion of your available credit at a time. In other words, don't "max out" your credit cards or lines of credit. Pay as much as you can on your debts and keep that credit available. If you have had debt sent to a collection agent, a foreclosure, or a bankruptcy, it may impact your credit score for several years.

The rest of the score is made up of three categories: length of credit history, frequency of new credit, and types of credit used. Credit history looks at how long you've had accounts open, so don't close accounts unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

On the other hand, don't open a new account to get that one time discount, unless you truly need that card. Opening too many accounts in a short period of time may cause you to look like a riskier consumer. The types of credit used considers whether you have various types of credit, such as credit cards, installment loans, mortgage loans, or school loans.

Your credit scores will range from 300 to 850; however many different scoring models may be used. Your score is based on your credit report, so it is important to check and make sure all information recorded on your report is correct. You can question why a score may be low, such as a payment arriving late, when it wasn't your fault. One free credit report is available every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus listed below. You will be enticed to pay for your credit score, but remember you are entitled to 3 scores a year. Those are: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

To log on to your credit score report, go to HYPERLINK "http://www/" www. annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. If you don't have access to a computer, or just need help, you are welcome to use free computers at the Extension Office. Remember you may dispute information you believe is incorrect or too old to be included. Most negative information can be removed after seven years.

If your score is under 600, your credit may be considered "poor" and you may not get approved for a loan or unsecured credit card. "Fair" and "good" scores can be anywhere in the 600s to mid-700s. These scores may be good enough to get you approved for credit, but you might not get the best terms. Still, you should be able to shop around and compare options between lenders. Generally, scores over 740 are considered "very good" and scores over 800 are considered "excellent." These scores may lead to better rates and more options in repayment periods and other terms.

However, there is no "magic number" that guarantees better rates and terms, and everyone's situation is different. Each lender has different strategies to determine credit risk, interest rates, and terms.

Your free annual report does not include your score, just your report. You may purchase your score, but know that it may not be the same score lenders would use. Other groups may claim to offer a "free" credit score, but it's not truly free if you must sign up for a program or purchase a product.

However, sometimes your score is free. Some credit card and loan companies will list your credit score on your monthly statement or online.

If you need to improve your score, it may take time. Concentrate on paying your bills on time, paying down balances, and resist taking on new debt. You may be well on your way to a better score. Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status, and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran's status, or physical or mental disability.

Visit one of the farmers market in Pulaski County to get a great assortment of locally raised farm products. You can also pick up meats, canned foods, handmade crafted items, flowers, baked goods, and other great items.

Farmers Market Squash Sauté

2 cups whole grain rotini pasta, cooked

3 boneless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium zucchini, diced

4 medium size carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium yellow squash, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil

¾ cup light Alfredo sauce

2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Roast chicken breasts at 400 degrees F to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, about 25 to 35 minutes. Dice chicken into bit size pieces. In a large sauté pan, add olive oil, zucchini and carrots. Sauté until slightly cooked. Add yellow squash and garlic and sauté until all vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and stir in basil, diced chicken and pasta. Add Alfredo sauce and toss until ingredients are evenly coated. Reheat by tossing the ingredients in the sauté' pan for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Events at the Extension Office

Sign up for the free Food Processing Classes that will be held at the Pulaski County Extension Office. On Thursday, June 20 we will learn about "Water Bath Canning," and "Freezing." This class begins at 10:00 and you need to register in advance.

On Friday, June 21 we will have a Pressure Canner Class, starting at 10:00. Again please register in advance so needed materials will be available for you. Call 679-6361.

Register for Bessie Bain's painting class that will be held on Wednesday, June 12 at the Extension Office, starting at 10:00. All supplies are provided. The cost is $20 for this beautiful Christmas picture.

Shop our local farmers markets. The uptown Farmers Market opens at 7:00 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday and Saturdays. The market on highway 27, near the Somerset Mall opens on Wednesday and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. Local farmers also sell from their farm daily and on the road side.

Our Calendar Food Class will be held on Tuesday, June 18, starting at 11:30. We will be making and sampling "Hawaiian Pizza." Call the office to register at 679-6361.

The Meadowlark Extension Homemakers will meet on Tuesday, June 18 at 1:00 o'clock at the Extension Office.

The Longest Day of Play will be held on Wednesday, June 19 at the SomerSplash Water Park. The first 200 students 18 years of age and younger will be admitted free, thanks to the Town of Somerset. Registration begins at 10:00.

The Pieceful Quilters will meet at 10:00 o'clock on Wednesday, June 19, at the Burnside Library. The group is working on making cloth traveling bags for foster children. If you like to sew, you may want to join this group to help make the traveling bags.

Mary McAdoo will be teaching crocheting and knitting on Thursday, June 20, starting at 11:30. You need to supply the needles for the project you want to complete. Everything else is provided.

Denise Salter has a card making class on Monday, June 24, starting at 10:00 o'clock. You learn a new technique for card making each month at this free class.

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