Ideally, all of the decisions we make in life involve consideration of both the pros and the cons of the possible outcomes. For example, the decision to eat a piece of chicken past its expiration date should be based not just on the potential for a tasty dinner, but also the potential for a less-than-pleasant gastro-intestinal reaction.
In other words, most things in life have both upsides and downsides, and our actions should be — though aren’t always — predicated on whether the upsides outweigh the downsides. While many bad decisions can occur as a result of a failure to consider the downsides, just as many poor choices are the result of the failure to understand the downsides, rather than not considering them at all.
Most people know that irresponsible financial behaviors can give you a bad credit score, for instance, but many folks tend to underestimate the many downsides of having bad credit. To help put things in perspective for your next financial decision, here are three of the biggest downsides to having bad credit.
1. You Have a High Chance of Being Rejected for New Credit
At its heart, having bad credit is basically like walking around wearing a sign that says, “I can’t handle debt.” At least, that’s how most creditors are going to interpret your poor credit history and low credit score when you come asking for a line of credit.
That’s because lenders use your credit reports and scores as a means of determining your credit risk, or how likely you are to repay what you borrow. So, if you have a history of missing payments or defaulting on debt, lenders aren’t going to want to give you more money, and they will reject your application for new credit.
Think of it this way: If you loan your neighbor your lawnmower in June but they never return it, how likely are you to lend them your snowblower in December?
Since most major banks have a fairly low risk tolerance, bad-credit consumers are left with limited options for finding a credit card or loan. Namely, you’ll be looking at lists of subprime lenders who specialize in bad-credit, high-risk applicants — lenders who aren’t exactly known for their affordability or top-tier rewards. Which leads us to the next big downside to bad credit: the expense.
2. Creditors, Landlords, and Utility Companies Will Charge You More
It took a few tries, but you finally found a subprime lender that will work with you. Great, hard part over, right? Wrong. Lest you think that qualifying for new credit is the only big downside to having bad credit, just take a look at how much that credit is going to cost you.
As we mentioned, your credit score is what lenders use to determine your credit risk. High-risk applicants are the most likely to default on their debt (not pay it), so lenders willing to work with bad-credit consumers have to find some way to balance the risk. They do this by jacking up interest rates and adding on extra fees.
As an example, consider a $10,000 car loan repaid over three years. Applicant A, who has a great credit score of 750, will likely be offered an APR of around 3.5%, which means Applicant A will pay around $550 in interest over the three years.
At the same time, Applicant B, who has a low credit score of 580, had to use a subprime lender to get the same size auto loan. The subprime lender charged Applicant B an APR of 10%, which means Applicant B will pay over $1,600 in interest over three years.
What’s worse, it’s not just lenders and credit card issuers that will charge you more for having bad credit. You’ll likely face a credit check when applying for a new apartment or when you set up utilities in a new location, and having bad credit can result in being charged a larger security deposit than you would otherwise need to provide.
3. You May Miss Out on Valuable Financial Opportunities
An important part of finance and accounting, opportunity cost is basically the consideration of what you’re missing out on when you make a decision to do something else. For example, if you choose to spend your last $5 on a fancy coffee, the opportunity cost could be that $5 hamburger you don’t get to eat later.
When it comes to your credit, having bad credit is rife with opportunity cost. Take credit cards, for instance. With bad credit, you’re stuck using subprime or secured credit cards that likely cost a lot without offering very much. In contrast, if you had good credit, you could potentially earn hundreds of dollars worth of credit card rewards and perks every year simply by using the right credit card.
And it goes beyond credit cards. Drivers with good credit can get dealer incentives when shopping for a new car, and you can even earn insurance discounts for having a healthy credit profile.
Don’t forget the extra cash you’ll likely be required to provide when renting a new apartment. Say you’re required to make a $1,000 security deposit when you move in because of your bad credit. That money could easily be earning you dividends in your retirement account if it weren’t being wasted in your landlord’s bank account.
Don’t Let Bad Credit Hold You Back
Although it’s our own decisions that often lead us to bad credit, few of us actively choose to tank our credit scores. You can wind up with bad credit as a result of a series of seemingly minor decisions that are made without full consideration of the consequences. Hopefully, however, knowing these three major downsides of bad credit helps give you perspective when making your next financial decision, be it large or small.
For consumers already struggling with bad credit, these downsides are likely daily considerations. But they don’t have to be lifelong obstacles. You can rebuild bad credit over time by practicing responsible credit habits. You can also use credit repair to remove any errors or unsubstantiated accounts dragging down your score.
The most important rule for building credit is to always, always, always pay your bills on time. Your payment history is worth up to 35% of your credit score, and delinquent payments can cause you to lose dozens of points with a single mistake. You’ll also want to ensure you maintain low credit card balances and only borrow what you can afford to repay as agreed.
With time and diligence, even the worst credit can be rebuilt, freeing you from the many downsides of having bad credit. Even better, having great credit has plentiful upsides that will make the hard work well worth the effort.