New short course from UW Extension highlights credit practices, pitfalls

            Credit score information and learning ways to build credit are part of a free, self-paced online course offered through University of Wyoming Extension.

“Personal Financial Literacy: Understanding and Avoiding Credit Pitfalls” also offers why credit scores should be checked. The online course takes about 20-30 minutes and offers tips for keeping credit scores high enough to qualify for lower interest loans.

A hundred points difference to a credit score could mean the difference between thousands of dollars in savings or thousands in extra expense, according to course information.  Yet half of Americans, according to CNN Money, haven’t checked their credit report in more than six months.

“Understanding credit can have a huge impact as couples embark upon marriage, friends start a business partnership or parents co-sign school loans,” said Mary Martin, community development educator for UW Extension and author of the course.

The online course provides tips for using credit accounts to build, rather than damage, credit scores.

“Many people are surprised to learn that simply paying off their credit card balances each month does not ensure a good credit score,” said Martin. “In fact, a credit score can be negatively impacted by taking advantage of discounted purchase prices if you open a store-sponsored credit card.”

Martin suggested taking time to learn more about your credit history.

“Because credit cards are simple to use and readily available, most people simply roll with the monthly payment cycle without focusing on details and risks,” she said.

Martin offered a lesson she learned years ago when purchasing a new car.

         “I wanted to shop around for a good deal, so I went to dealerships in four different states, all of whom checked my credit score,” she said. “When I finally found my car, I realized the numerous inquiries had created a negative issue with my credit score.”

The course is at http://bit.ly/Personal_Financial_Literacy

For other free personal financial courses from UW Extension, including “Wyoming Tax Facts” and “Introduction to Estate Planning,” go to www.uwyo.edu/uwe and click the Extension Online Courses button.