January 21st, 2014

How Improving Your Credit Health Is Like Making the Perfect Marshmallow

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How Improving Your Credit Health Is Like Making the Perfect Marshmallow | Credit Karma Blog

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I wanted to make marshmallows. After all, I had to put that shiny new candy thermometer I got for Christmas to use somehow, right?

And I gotta say… creating those marshmallows was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I’ve never been a fan of cooking, but baking (and apparently marshmallow-making) has always fascinated me, as it’s more of a science than anything else. One mistake and your entire batch could be ruined. Do everything perfectly and you end up with sweets that’ll delight your coworkers.

The title kind of gave it away, but managing your credit health is the same way. If you have an excellent score and miss one payment, your score could tank. But if you’re careful enough, you just might end up with a score good enough to get you the best rates and financial products.

More than that, the journeys to the perfect marshmallow and excellent credit health are remarkably similar. Check out the sweet parallels:

They both require precision.

When I was heating up the sugar/corn syrup/water/salt mix, the instructions told me to stop when the mixture reached 240°F. It was a very precise temperature that I knew was mentioned for a reason, so even when the thermometer told me my mixture was stuck at 230°F for a long time, I patiently waited until it hit the, ahem, sweet spot.

Credit scores are the same way. They’re very fickle and not very forgiving. A few months ago, I logged into my Credit Karma account and was astounded to find my score had dropped 20 points just because I let my credit card utilization slip to 0%. But it makes sense—how can the bureaus accurately judge me if it looks like I’m not using my credit cards?

Now I know better. I keep my credit card utilization at the optimal rate of 1-20% and my score is back to its excellent self.

Preciseness: it does credit a world of good. Be vigilant as you work on improving your credit health. Keep your credit card utilization between 1 and 20%, your payment history at 100%, your number of credit inquiries as low as possible and your derogatory marks at 0. You won’t regret it!

They both require constant supervision.

After the sugar-heating process (which required lots of supervision in itself, by the way) (who knows how the marshmallows would’ve turned out if I’d accidentally heated the sugar to 300°F?), the next step was to mix the hot sugar with the gelatin and whip it until it was stiff.

Even though I’d never made marshmallows before, this process felt familiar—like whipping egg whites to form a meringue. I knew that over-beating egg whites causes them to collapse on themselves, so I made sure I watched my mixer until the mixture was exactly the right consistency. And spoiler alert: the marshmallows turned out great!

At Credit Karma, we can’t under-emphasize the importance of monitoring your score and account balances and transactions. Doing so is an integral part of helping you detect fraud early and take action before anything serious happens. While whipping up a new batch of marshmallows is easy, fixing the damage done to your credit could take years. So trust us. Let us keep an eye out for you.

Things will get messy. And sticky.

Here’s a tip to keep in mind if you ever decide to make marshmallows: be prepared for the stickiness. And be prepared for the powdered-sugar-bath your kitchen counters will receive. And don’t cover your pan (in which the marshmallows will set) with Saran wrap, because the marshmallows will get to that too. Seriously. Sticky.

Improving your credit health isn’t all fun and games. You may kick yourself for opening up that credit card after the hard inquiry lowered your score. But sometimes sacrifice is necessary—in the long run, that card can help your utilization rate and number of accounts. So don’t be afraid of a little mess—sometimes it’s exactly what you need to secure a happy ending.

They take time.

The whole marshmallow process took about 8 hours—1 hour to make, 6 hours to set, and 1 hour to cut. Can you imagine how they would’ve turned out if I had heated the sugar until I felt like stopping, whipped the mixture for less time than it required or impatiently cut into the marshmallows before they properly set? I’m shuddering just picturing it.

Don’t be discouraged if your score doesn’t seem to be increasing. Besides literally needing time to pass to increase your average age of open accounts, it also takes time to learn the ins and outs of credit and show lenders that you can be financially responsible.

In other words, improving your credit health is a journey. Don’t get flustered by the bumps on the road when your score dips. Instead, use those moments as opportunities to learn from your mistakes, and eventually you’ll find yourself with some pretty sweet marshma—I mean, great credit.

Jenna

is Credit Karma‘s Social Media Manager. Although her specialty lies in creating witty post-it notes, she also enjoys sharing all the financial information she’s learned since joining Credit Karma in February 2012. When she’s not working, you can probably find her trying out a new dessert recipe or learning/perfecting any musical instrument she can get her hands on. She may or may not have created a Twitter specifically to put in this byline. Say “hi” @leejennaa!

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Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.

26 Comments

  1. I do everything perfect and my score drops what’s up with that how to I get my score higher
    Everything us paid off no credit cards or debt

    marie at 8:42 am on January 22, 2014
  2. Mike

    Hi Marie – Our blog offers a lot of great posts on how to improve your credit. I’d recommend starting out with the following: https://blog.creditkarma.com/credit-101/credit-scores/4-ways-to-get-a-better-credit-score-now/

    Mike at 2:36 pm on January 22, 2014
  3. You folks at CreditKarma need to stay on the same page.

    You state ” Keep your credit card utilization between 1 and 20%, ”
    and on CreditKarma’s Website it reads “You should aim to keep your credit card utilization to less than 30%”

    So which is it?

    I always tell everyone to keep utilization under 20% and better to keep it under 10%.

    ichowie at 8:24 am on January 26, 2014
  4. Mike

    Thanks for the comment, ichowie. Though we advise that under 30% is a good goal on our CCU page (https://www.creditkarma.com/myfinances/ccu), we do still list 1-20% as the best category under our grading system.

    Mike at 2:17 pm on January 27, 2014
  5. I need some help. I checked my credit score and it is awful due to public records. Do you know how I go about finding the public records and late payments. I have had medical issues and was not able to make timely payments due to lack of work. Things are better now and I am wanting to get my credit back in order. I see all of my student loans but I do not see any of the deliquent things or public records. Any help would be great. Thanks

    Holly at 8:12 am on February 14, 2014
  6. Mike

    Hey Holly – I’d recommend starting your search for more information by going to AnnualCreditReport.com for your three, free credit reports. If you’d like more help with this, please feel free to email us at support@creditkarma.com. Thanks!

    Mike at 4:35 pm on February 14, 2014
  7. Hi, Credit Gods,
    OK, I’m getting serious about never missing a payment/bill/etc…and want to use a bill pay service. My bank does not have one…can you guys recommend one? They look a little scary..should they always have a fee?
    Thanks!
    Carrie

    Carrie at 10:57 am on March 9, 2014
  8. Mike

    Hi Carrie! This sounds like a great question for our advice section (https://www.creditkarma.com/all/advice). I’m sure a fellow CK member could make a recommendation there. Thanks for using Credit Karma!

    Mike at 10:45 am on March 10, 2014
  9. Can anyone inform me as to why the credit score on credit karma’s site is different when I pull my credit report from the credit bureau’s?

    Kenneth at 12:50 pm on March 24, 2014
  10. Jenna

    Hi Kenneth,

    You actually have many scores that can vary based on the bureau and scoring model used and date pulled. You can learn more here: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/differentscores

    Jenna at 8:09 am on March 25, 2014
  11. It seems all a racket to me to be honest. I have been improving my scores for over 2 years now. This last step I took totally shocked me however. I actually paid off over a $100,000.00 mortgage, yet my scores remain the same even 2 months later…come on, how can you possibly explain this one…I mean my debt to income ratio had to skyrocket in a positive direction. Nothing else has changed…no delinquency reports, no late payments, credit card utilization the same. Obviously the number of accounts with a balance has changed but seriously.

    Ken at 8:20 am on April 15, 2014
  12. Mike

    Hi Ken – I’m sorry to hear that you’re a bit frustrated. I’d recommend checking out this article from our blog to learn more about why your score might not have changed: http://blog.creditkarma.com/credit-karma/why-didnt-my-credit-score-change/

    Mike at 9:03 am on April 16, 2014
  13. Why did my credit score decrease when I’ve just paid off $13,000 in co-signed school loans for my son, I paid off a low balance credit card (monthly) and the only bill I have is my mortgage? How does doing all that decrease my credit score?

    Darren at 8:18 pm on April 18, 2014
  14. CreditKarma – Is CC Utilization calculated as the balance remaining after payment due date or the highest balance anytime during the billing cycle?

    Some say the CCU is the balance remaining after the payment due date.
    Others say the CCU is the highest balance at anytime during your billing cycle, regardless if you pay off the entire balance before the payment due date.

    Which is it?

    Thank you.

    Trying2B850 at 10:01 pm on April 18, 2014
  15. Mike

    Thanks for your question. Your Credit Card Utilization is not necessarily calculated at either of the moments you listed above. This number is simply calculated whenever your credit card company reports your balance to the bureau. This could be after your due date or at the time of your highest balance, but could also be at a different moment. You can read more about CCU here: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/credit-card-utilization

    Mike at 9:55 am on April 21, 2014
  16. I was told that if I paid off all the bad on my credit on 1payment, that’s better than making payment
    Is that true one lump sum payment or individual payments until they paid off which one would you do

    Connie at 2:56 pm on April 26, 2014
  17. Mike

    Hey Connie – If none of your fellow commenters can offer a good answer to your question here, I’d suggest asking this question over in our advice section (https://www.creditkarma.com/all/advice). We usually have plenty of people ready to chime in over there. Thanks!

    Mike at 1:19 pm on April 28, 2014
  18. I have a question. Last month I used the credit simulator and it showed that if I increased my line of credit on my credit card, my score would go up. I increased my line of credit and my score went up. I want to increase my line of credit again for my score to go up again, but the credit simulator is showing that this will not change my credit score now. Why?

    lynn at 6:28 am on April 30, 2014
  19. I like using creditkarma to monitor my credit.I am a bit confused though, I applied for one card through Barclays and was instantly approved for $1,500 however, my credit score was decreased 55 points. My credit utilization prior to applying for the Barclays card was 27 percent. I’m confused! Please shed some light on this.

    Mrs.B at 8:57 am on May 8, 2014
  20. Mike

    Thanks for your comment, Mrs. B. I’d suggest checking out our articles section for more information on why your score might have dropped. We recently published an article that’s relevant to your question, which you can find here: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/how-often-should-my-score-change

    Mike at 3:59 pm on May 8, 2014
  21. last month I applied for a new credit card thru an ad on the Credit Karma site only to be denied because they show my credit score to be some 100pts less than you are showing me!! What’s up with that…

    Jan at 3:43 pm on May 28, 2014
  22. Mike

    Hi Jan – I’m sorry to hear that. If you could email our support team directly at support@creditkarma.com, we’d be happy to reply back with more information. Thanks!

    Mike at 3:38 pm on May 29, 2014
  23. I do enjoy using this site, but I finally decided to try getting a new card with the 0% interest so I could pay off another couple cards to a zero balance. I have paid off MOST of my cards and do use them and pay them off to avoid the interest charges. I was hoping to pay off a couple more with the new Barclays card AND use that interest savings to pay off the rest and get the airline miles and all the other goodies they were promising. DENIED.. I also tried with my own banks card and clicked on the link to increase the credit line for that very same reason ( that card now has a zero balance) so now I have 2 HARD inquiries on that portion with the attendant RED ARROW DOWN and POOF 16 points off my credit score. No more attempts to take those good deals offered… in fact.. I am going to close several of these cards.. Lesson learned

    Now if I could just get the messed up link from my list of cards so I could add that bank back in and have it actually work…. perhaps I could achieve happiness with Credit Karma once again.

    Jeanne at 12:10 pm on June 20, 2014
  24. Mike

    Hi Jeanne – I’m sorry to hear you had a bit of trouble there. The offers you see on Credit Karma are personalized for you, but are still subject to approval by the lender. If you’re still having any trouble linking your accounts, I’d recommend you contact our support team at support@creditkarma.com so that they can look into this further. Thanks!

    Mike at 4:32 pm on June 23, 2014
  25. I am puzzled to why my credit score has only went up 1 point in 5 months. I have been using my credit cards, and paying off my cards ahead of the due date every month. At this rate I’ll be 80 years old before I reach my goal of an 800 credit score! Any idea to why this is happening?. I have Credit Karma linked to all my credit cards.

    Chad at 5:53 pm on July 8, 2014
  26. Mike

    Hi Chad – Great question. Often, it takes significant change in your credit profile for your score to move. Using your cards appropriately and making diligent payments is great, but the effects of your good work will more likely be noticed over the long-term rather than more immediately. I’d recommend checking out this article for more information: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/how-often-should-my-score-change

    Thanks!

    Mike at 1:19 pm on July 9, 2014

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