So, you’ve opened your first credit card. When used correctly, it can help you build your credit. But you’ll also want to practice this money-smart move.
In the end, Dupaco Community Credit Union’s inaugural Great Credit Race was too close to call.
When the six-month contest to build good credit ended March 15, two racers tied with the same credit score. After competing in a 30-day run-off, Lucas Hefel and Mykenna Garner remained tied. Dupaco declared both of them winners.
For their efforts, the two young racers each received 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.
The winning strategy
Both winners used a similar strategy to build a solid score during the Great Credit Race.
Both racers used their Dupaco Visa credit cards for small purchases only. And they paid 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.
Dupaco’s Jill Rothenberger, the racers’ credit coach, said the winning strategy was surprisingly successful.
Dupaco launched the Great Credit Race in collaboration with a national consumer finance research and innovation institute. The goal: 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 who carried balances month to month and more than 50% capacity wound up with scores ranging from the mid- to upper-600s.
“These are still good scores for young borrowers. But it will not help them obtain the lowest interest rates on loans,” Rothenberger said. “We only had about three of the racers end 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 national report for other credit unions.
Dupaco will use the research to improve the program in the future. The financial cooperative will also use the experience 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 home loan.
“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.”