In the end, Dupaco’s inaugural Great Credit Race was too close to call.
When the six-month friendly-but-competitive contest to build good credit ended March 15, two racers were in first place with the same credit score. After competing in a 30-day run-off, Lucas Hefel and Mykenna Garner remained tied. They were both declared winners.
For their efforts, the two young racers were each awarded a $500 check. But perhaps more important, all of the racers and observers had an opportunity to gain a better understanding of how credit works and how it impacts every stage of life.
Both winners used a similar strategy to build a solid score during the Great Credit Race. Each used their Dupaco VISA credit card for small purchases only, paying off their consistently low balance throughout the month. By the end of the contest, the winners had achieved a credit score in the mid 700s.
Jill Rothenberger, the racers’ credit coach and a lending consultant supervisor at Dupaco, said the winning strategy was surprisingly successful.
Dupaco launched the Great Credit Race in collaboration with a national consumer finance research and innovation institute to help credit unions across the nation understand how people interact with credit, how they learn about credit and how they use credit, said David Klavitter, Dupaco’s senior vice president of marketing and public relations.
The racers that carried balances month to month and more than 50 percent capacity wound up with scores ranging from the mid- to upper-600s.
“These are still good scores for young borrowers, but will not help them obtain the lowest interest rates on loans,” Rothenberger said. “We only had about three of the racers that ended up under a 630 credit score, which was due to a collection posting or opening multiple credit lines in such a short amount of time.”
So, what’s next for the Great Credit Race? The findings will be documented in a report that will be rolled out nationally to other credit unions wanting to participate. Dupaco will use the research to improve the program and to educate young consumers on how to achieve a high credit score so that they can pay low loan rates, avoid paying deposits for utilities and apartment rentals, and some day qualify for a mortgage.
“The easy step is to educate,” Rothenberger said. “The harder part is for the individual to have the will power to keep the credit card balance paid off, not to open a bunch of credit cards because they are approved for them and to make payments on time.”