Your credit score could mean as much as $45,000 in savings ... or expenses

  • The worse your score, the more interest you’ll pay, says a Lending Tree survey.
  • The person with a lower credit score could pay as much as $45,283 more in borrowing costs than someone with a very good score, over a lifetime of borrowing.
Credit score credit report
Courtney Keating | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

Over your lifetime you’re going to need things you can only buy on credit.

Big things. A house. A car. A dream vacation, or college tuition.

Most people have to finance these things. And a lackluster score will make them more expensive, because you’ll pay more in interest.

A survey from LendingTree shines a light on exactly how much a lower credit score can cost you over a lifetime.

The site analyzed loan requests and average loan balances for an apples-to-apples comparison on what loans cost for people with different scores: fair (580 to 669) and very good (740 to 799). LendingTree’s data measures the costs of five types of loans: mortgage, student, auto, personal and credit card.

Two stark price differences emerged from the data. People taking out an auto loan with a fair credit score can expect to pay 311 percent more interest on the same loan as someone with very good credit. Personal loan borrowers can pay 271 percent more in interest.

All together, the extra in interest charges if you took out loans with a fair credit score – compared with a very good score – could add up to as much as $45,000.

“It’s extremely sizeable over the course of a lifetime,” said Kali McFadden, senior research analyst and report author. And it’s all determined by your credit score.

Many people equate qualifying for a loan with getting the best possible rate for that loan.

Not true. “People’s scores change over a lifetime," McFadden said. "They finance more than one car, take out more than one set of credit card debt."

The real takeaway, says McFadden, is to boost your credit score. Even a slight rise can make a difference that will save you money.

That $45,000 is more than most people make in a year, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to investigate your credit score and take steps to improve it.

“It may seem daunting, but it’s not difficult,” McFadden said.

Check out some of the many helpful tools online. “Most credit cards offer credit-monitoring services,” McFadden said. “You can find out why your score changed and get tips to improve it.”

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The easiest things to do are lower any credit card debt you are carrying and be scrupulous about paying on time. Another tip: lower your debt-to-credit ratio. Keeping those ratios below 30 percent will work in your favor, McFadden said.

“Call your creditors and ask them to increase your credit amounts to improve that ratio,” McFadden said. “Also, there’s no harm in asking to have your credit card rate reduced. It’s surprising how often people can be successful.”

In the chart below, use the dark gray slider bar to show Total Cost Difference for payments made by borrowers with different credit ratings.

“You will get satisfaction from seeing the progress as you go along,” McFadden said.

Online tools are anonymous and judgment-free, McFadden said, which is helpful with an emotional topic like credit scoring. “People think it’s reflection of who they are, and they get intimidated,” McFadden said. “But they feel real relief when they take the steps and see some progress.”

Now is a good time to work on your credit so you can improve your rate. “TheFed is raising rates faster than expected,” McFadden said. “Less than a year ago, if you had very good credit, mortgages were at 4 percent.”

Since rates could continue to rise – McFadden said they are starting to see 5 percent for the typical home borrower – now is an excellent time to work on your score ahead of refinancing.