I’ve always been on the nerdy side, but it’s only in recent years that I’ve become a credit geek. I used to be one of the “cool kids” who was a free spirit spender who didn’t worry about boring subjects like credit balances, retirement savings and interest rates. Over the past few years, though, I’ve embraced my inner credit nerd.
While I’m not quite the top of the class yet, I have earned my entry into credit geekdom. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. I actually enjoy spending time with my calculator.
I never used to want to crunch numbers, budget or even balance my checkbook. That was something only geeky accounting types did, and I was the opposite of that – an English lit major. But being responsible for a household budget and running a small business forced my hand into accepting the process.
Now I actually kind of enjoy doing the math. In fact, there’s no greater feeling than coming out ahead at the end of the month, which thankfully happens more often than not.
Geek tip: Ease into number crunching by finding a budgeting app or using a budget template, and using online calculators to help make financial decisions. That way, all you have to do is plug in the dollar amounts.
2. I get giddy over high credit scores.
Back in my school days, I didn’t want to just pass, I wanted to excel. I’ve now applied that approach to my credit score.
As I started making better financial choices over the years, I began diligently checking my free credit score to watch it climb. I was thrilled when I made it out of the 600s, but it’s when I achieved credit overachiever status with scores above 800 that I literally celebrated.
Geek tip: See if a free credit score and credit tracker is available from your credit card issuers or bank. Or get your TransUnion credit score and credit report for free here at CreditCards.com. Once you find a source for your free credit score, look at your score periodically and take note of how various behaviors cause it to fluctuate. Also, be sure to inspect your three free credit reports each year via annualcreditreport.com.
3. I love earning extra credit.
By extra credit, I’m referring to the fact that I never have to worry about getting approved for a loan product or credit line now.
As such, I’ve done things such as successfully refinance my mortgage and lease vehicles, and I know if I ever want to open a small-business credit card, I’ll be able to get one. These things weren’t always no-brainers before I became a credit geek.
Geek tip: Re-evaluate where you stand credit-wise every year. If you think your credit score has risen and your accounts are in good standing, call your credit issuers to see if they will lower your interest rates. Or, shop around for a rewards card or cash back card that better suits your needs. You can also look into loan refinancing, and get new quotes for insurance.
4. I never stop researching and studying.
There’s always something new to learn when it comes to maximizing credit cards, so I’m always reading up on ways to earn rewards and cash back and take advantage of perks.
I’ve managed to score some great deals by staying in the know about bonuses and promotions, and you can do it, too, if you’re willing to do a little research.
Geek tip: Take a few minutes to get to know what your credit issuers are offering. Sometimes you have to opt in to a promotional offer, such as card-linked offers or bonus category cash back cards.
5. I tutor family and friends on all things credit.
Sharing my credit nerd knowledge with others is something I enjoy doing. It’s not rocket science, but there is a learning curve as to how credit works that isn’t always common knowledge.
For example, I’ve helped a friend through the process of reporting a fraudulent credit transaction, and another relative fix a credit report error. My children are schooled in credit, too, as I’ve taught them crash courses in how interest works and why building credit is important.
Geek tip: Never be condescending if someone asks you for money advice. Finances can be a very personal and emotional topic. Instead, try sharing helpful strategies that worked for you, and recommend some trusted resources and tools.
Being a credit geek is not something I ever thought I would be, but through education and determination, here I am. And believe it or not, I am now a member of a pretty cool club of credit geeks.
See related: How to use your year-end summary to set credit goals, 4 easy things I did to trim my credit card bill, How a bit new bill has me adjusting the family budget