Your credit score affects your ability to get credit for expanding the comforts and necessities of your military lifestyle. It also determines how much you will pay in interest for the privilege of credit.
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Manage Your Credit Report to Enhance Your Military Money Power

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Your credit score affects your ability to get credit for expanding the comforts and necessities of your military lifestyle. It also determines how much you will pay in interest for the privilege of credit.

You'll often see your credit score as a number from 400 to 850. How does that number add up?

Your credit score is the result of a formula applied to the information provided in your credit report, which reflects your outstanding loans, your loan payment history, in short, your credit attitude and behaviors. The higher the score, the better.

Knowing your credit score is the first step to increasing it. And we think you in the military should always know the score.

We recommend you give yourself access to your credit score, before you need it. When you're in the military, it's easy:

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, FINRA, is offering the military free credit scores through its Investor Education Foundation in partnership with the nonprofit InCharge Institute of America, which developed a product called BrightScore.

BrightScore normally costs $19.95, but it will be free to military and spouses of military, who can access it through their personal financial managers on installations by attending one of FINRA's free financial forums offered held periodically at military bases worldwide, or by sending an e-mail to [email protected] The free offer is also available to National Guard and reserve members serving on active duty and their spouses. It is available to service members overseas, too.

BrightScore will give military and their spouses a detailed analysis of their credit reports, showing which items positively or negatively affect their score. The program then provides a personalized plan to improve your credit score. It also provides access to live professional counselors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday.

FINRA is the largest nongovernmental regulator of all securities firms doing business in the U.S. The FINRA Foundation's Military Financial Education Program has done educational seminars at more than 33 military installations, reaching more than 8,000 service members and military families.

Lower credit scores equal higher interest rates, which add up to hundred and thousands of extra dollars you'll pay on your credit purchases over the life of your credit loans. Lower credit scores can also result in higher auto insurance costs.

For instance, with good credit, you may have access to a $20,000 car at 3.5 percent interest for five years; you pay only $364 per month. After five years, you have paid only $1,830 in interest. With weaker credit, perhaps you can only get a loan at 10 percent for five years, and your monthly payment is now $425 per month, and you pay $5,500 in interest during the length of the loan. With truly bad credit, you may pay interest as high as 25 percent, which would be a monthly payment of $587 and more than $15,000 in interest.

When you're active military or a veteran with good credit, you'll have lenders actively competing for your business. Sure, let them come after you - with the best deals, including low interest rates, great terms of repayment, even the smallest down payments on that new car or new home. If you have bad credit, you may pay 20 percent down or more. With good credit, a VA home loan may only require three percent down on that dream home for your military family, plus an excellent interest rate. (With excellent credit, veterans and active military may even get deals of 0% down on VA new home loan.)

We think those in the military should always aim high - particularly when it comes to your credit score. Know the score and expand your credit limit - you deserve it.



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