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Ascent Blog

Navigating Credit Scores: Your Key to Long-Term Financial Success

Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that’s determined by a range of factors including the current amount of debt you have, the type and number of bank accounts you have open, how you utilize your credit, your payment habits, and your credit history (if you have any). 

By understanding credit scores and why they matter, you’re well on your way to reaching financial independence. 

Why does my credit score matter so much? 

Many people think that the main reason they need a good credit score is the ability to borrow money. While this is true and better credit can lead to better approval rates for credit products (like a credit card or loan), lower interest rates, and better credit terms and benefits, a good credit score is also important for your career success. Many careers and professional opportunities today may require you to manage finances or determine your department’s spending and budget, and at the very least show that you are responsible with finances. Employers occasionally check credit history as part of the interview process – and you want your credit history to look good! 

Curious what kind of student loan rates you can get without impacting your credit score? Check your rates here

Have a lower score? Here are 6 ways to build your credit history: 

1. Learn to budget 

Think of budgeting as a roadmap for your money. You calculate how much money you earn, and figure out what you can and can’t afford. When you budget well, you’re more likely to pay your bills on time and manage your debts responsibly. This shows lenders that you’re reliable, which can gradually increase your credit score.  

Whether it’s finding a mentor, using free education tools like AscentUP2, helpful budgeting apps, or keeping track of subscriptions that can sneak up on you, budgeting is essential for managing your finances effectively and achieving your financial goals. 

If you’re looking for more information on how other students budget, learn from Gemma Cook, a past intern at Ascent, on her best practices on our blog! 

2. Apply for a secured card  

A secured credit card can help you build your credit history.  

As an example, with the NerdUp by NerdWallet card, you don’t need credit history to build credit history. Designed for people looking to build or rebuild their credit history, there’s no interest, no annual fees, no application fees, and no catch*.  

How the NerdUp by NerdWallet card works: 

  • Make a deposit: Put down an initial deposit of $100 or more to set your credit limit 
  • Build your credit: As you make on-time payments and strengthen your credit, you may start to become eligible for unsecured cards. 
  • Get a new card: When you’re ready to graduate, NerdWallet will recommend smart unsecured credit cards from its partners based on your spending. 

3. Keep track of deadlines to avoid late or missed payments 

Be sure to keep track of when your bills are due – if you miss a payment or pay late, it can negatively affect your credit score. But don’t worry! By staying organized, being proactive, and making sure you pay on time, you’re showing lenders that you’re good at managing your money which gives you an opportunity to boost your credit score.  

Be sure to keep a planner or set calendar reminders with all your due dates and sign up for autopay  to avoid late or missed payments! (TIP: Some lenders will give you discounted rates when you sign up for autopay.) 

4. Consider credit counseling 

Credit counseling can be a smart move if you’re struggling with debt or managing your finances. When you meet with a credit counselor, they’ll take a close look at your finances, including your income, expenses, debts, and savings. Based on this information, they’ll help you come up with a plan to manage your money better. 

Working with a credit counselor not only helps you manage your finances better but can also positively impact your credit score. So, it’s not just about managing your money—it’s also about making your credit score look good too! 

5.Add your rental history to your credit reports 

Adding your rental history to your credit reports can be a smart move for building your credit history. Your payment history is a key factor in determining your credit score, and including on-time rental payments can demonstrate responsible financial behavior to lenders. 

By showing that you consistently pay your rent on time, you’re building a positive credit history, which can help you qualify for loans, credit cards, and other financial products with better terms in the future. 

6. Choose your lenders wisely 

Good lenders can help you build a strong credit history, making it easier to get approved for loans and credit cards in the future. But if you choose lenders who aren’t so great—maybe they have sneaky fees or unfair practices—it could actually hurt your credit and wallet.  

At Ascent, we are committed to helping students and families build responsible credit; as a leading student lender, we are focused on each student’s journey to academic and financial success, ensuring they have the right tools, knowledge and skills to be set up for long-term success. , We put our borrowers first with benefits like a 1% cash back graduation reward1, access to AscentUP2 a professional training platform to help learners get access to career readiness tools and resources that can help them succeed in school and in their careers, autopay discounts3, and much more.  

So, take your time, do some research, and choose a lender that treats you right, and helps you reach your credit goals without any nasty surprises! 

Your credit score can stick with you for a long time, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. With the right tools and patience, you can build your score and create more opportunities for yourself. It’s all about establishing credit responsibly, being proactive and managing your credit wisely by paying bills on time and keeping balances low. It takes time, but with dedication, you can make positive changes and set yourself up for financial success! 

*NerdUp by NerdWallet credit card: NerdWallet is not a bank. Bank services provided by Evolve Bank & Trust, member FDIC. The NerdUp by NerdWallet Credit Card is issued by Evolve Bank & Trust pursuant to a license from Mastercard International Inc.  

The NerdUp maximum credit limit is $10,000. Any deposits above this amount will not increase your credit limit beyond $10,000. 

Impact on your credit may vary, as credit scores are independently determined by credit bureaus based on a number of factors including the financial decisions you make with other financial services organizations. Failure to make monthly minimum payments by the payment due date each month may result in delinquent payment reporting to credit bureaus which may negatively impact your credit score. This product will not remove negative credit history from your credit report. 

There are instances when cardholders will be assessed a fee, including but not limited to ATM withdrawals, cash advances, returned payments, or late payments. See NerdUp by NerdWallet and cardholder terms and conditions for details.  

1Ascent’s 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward is for eligible college students only and subject to terms and conditions. Eligible students must request the graduation reward from Ascent. Learn more at 1% Cash Back Reward amount dependent upon total loan amount for Ascent college loan borrowers; approximately $365 average reward amount based upon eligible borrowers who received Cash Back Rewards in 2023.    


2Eligibility for the AscentUP platform requires that a student be an undergraduate associated with an Ascent college loan, either as the borrower or through a parent, grandparent, guardian, or sponsor who has applied for an Ascent parent loan. Ascent’s graduate student loans and consumer loans for bootcamps do not qualify for access to AscentUP. Eligible students must agree to the AscentUP terms of service and privacy policy before accessing AscentUP.     

3The final ACH discount approved depends on the borrower’s credit history, verifiable cost of attendance, and is subject to credit approval and verification of application information. Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25% is for credit-based loans and a 1.00% discount is for outcomes-based loans when you enroll in automatic payments. For more information, see repayment examples or review the Ascent Student Loans Terms and Conditions. 

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