The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

The Credit Road Map

I took a class yesterday on credit. It was taught by Patrick Ritchie, author of The Credit Road Map, and Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction Nominee. He is an animated man; passionate about a seemingly unexciting subject. It was a great class and I recommend taking the opportunity to hear him speak if you get it. The title company who set up the class did a drawing midway through the class for a copy of his book and I won. So I will let you know what he’s like in prose vs. person.

Anyway, I want to pass on a few nuggets of interesting info about credit I picked up:

1. Opening department store credit cards can ding your credit, but so can closing them. Your best bet is to stick with what you’ve got.

2. 1-888-5-OPT-OUT is the number to call to have your name taken off of lists to be sent preapproved credit card offers. It’s not a flawless system, however. If you opt out using your first and last name, they can still send you offers with your middle initial included.

3. To keep your credit at a maximum number, you never want to charge more than 50% of your limit on to any one credit card. You also don’t want to charge more than 80% on your home equity line of credit.

4. is where you go to get your free annual credit report. This will not give you a credit score. If you want that you’ll have to pay for it.

5. Even though your accounts may charge you a fee for being ‘late’ a few days on your payment, they cannot report that you are actually late until 30 days after the due date. So it might cost you $30, but at least getting that check in the mail a few days late won’t cost you 30 credit points.

6. 720 is what you want your credit score to be. This will allow you the best rates and programs for loans. There is no financial advantage to having a credit score higher than this, but if you shoot for 800, when something small inevitably goes wrong and drops you down 40 points or so, you’re still in a range that will allow you the best products.

If you have any specific credit questions, you can email the author and instructor at

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