You may not know the ins and outs of what makes up your credit score, but we can all agree on one thing, your credit score is extremely important.

Not only can you be denied a home loan if your score is too low, but poor credit could also lead to difficulty being approved when you’re renting an apartment, higher insurance premiums, being denied on a job application and it determines what types of loans you are eligible for.

“Basically, the higher your score, the better your financial wellness across the board,” says Debi Honeycutt, Credit Enhancement Specialist at TowneBank Mortgage.  “There are so many factors involved when it comes to your credit score. It can be more complicated than most people think and sometimes what you think would improve a score, can actually be extremely hurtful.”

As an expert on credit with over 30 years of experience, Debi’s job is to help mortgage applicants improve their credit scores, which allows them to qualify for a mortgage, or with the best rates available to them.”

“I have the most interesting job in the company,” says Debi. “There’s never a dull moment and every day brings something different. That’s what I love about credit—it might seem boring, but it’s actually very interesting. There are so many scenarios to help someone’s score. It’s like solving a giant puzzle every day.”

As a visual person, Debi loves to play with different scenarios and figure out the best way to improve a client’s credit score—whether they need a quick boost, or a more long-term plan to help counsel their credit over time.

“I feel like I have a duty to help people and to pay it forward,” said Debi. “Everyone deserves a shot to improve their credit. If we can get them into home buying shape in one to months, or one to two years from now, it’s worth it.”

So here’s the ultimate question. HOW DOES SHE DO IT?

She’s not magic, though it may seem that way.

“I run scenarios with various options on how to raise the score,” she said. “Some people assume that it’s just for those files with low credit, but the truth is that there are very few credit files that we can’t help improve with time.”

Once she reviews the files, she gives borrowers a roadmap of all the tasks they should complete to help improve their score and a potential timeline.

Tasks include things like removing themselves as authorized users on family member’s credit cards, paying down debt, or opening a secured credit card. No two clients are the same—therefore everyone’s roadmap looks different.

“Sometimes, what I’ve done to help one person, would hurt another,” Debi said. “When it comes to improving credit, nothing is across the board—and every circumstance is unique.”

How long does it take to improve your credit?

“Some files take 30 days, some take three months, others take three years, it just all dependents on the individual client,” she said.

“We’ve had lower credit scores around 580, and BAM they’ve been able to pop their file to a 640 in 30 days. But sometimes trying to get from a 717 to a 720 can take three months, because there’s less to work with.”

While those three extra points might not seem important, they can help qualify a borrower for a better interest rate on their mortgage.

“I always try to boost clients up to that next bracket level so that they can enjoy a better rate,” Debi said.

How do you know if you have good or bad credit?

Debi suggests going to to get a free copy of your credit report once a year. While it won’t tell you your scores, it will tell you what has been reported on you from each credit bureau.

It will give you an accurate snapshot of your credit history and will also allow you ensure that everything is being accurately reported. This way, you’re able to dispute anything on your file that is not yours.

“For instance, if you’re a Junior, and your dad’s information is being reported to your credit report, you can dispute it to have it removed,” Debi said.

You’ll also be able to detect fraud that could otherwise go unnoticed. You can opt to pay for your score if you’re curious, which Debbie recommends.

Some folks subscribe to credit monitoring sites like Credit Karma, which Debi says can be useful as a gage to help you monitor your credit.

“Just be aware that the score that you’re going to get on Credit Karma is probably going to be different than the scores I’m looking at,” says Debi.

Because Credit Karma only pulls from one of the three bureaus, it will likely only reflect part of what’s being reported on you, not everything, says Debi.

TIP: If you detect fraud on your credit report, you should:

  1. Notify social security that your social security has been compromised
  2. Notify the police of your stolen identity and file a police report
  3. Write a letter to the creditors disputing the fraud and ask them to remove fraudulent information
  4. Call the credit bureaus and ask them to place a fraud alert on your files

Bureau Fraud Numbers:

Equifax: 800-525-6285

TransUnion: 800-916-8800

Experian: 888-3973742

While taking out credit can seem daunting, especially to those who have always been told to always pay in cash, it is important to have a credit history when applying for a loan.

TIP: When trying to establish credit, you should work towards:

  1. Two revolving loans (such as credit cards)
  2. One installment loan (such as a car loan)
  3. Parents: consider making your college-aged child an authorized user on your credit card to help establish their credit early on


The information contained herein (including but not limited to any description of TowneBank Mortgage, its affiliates and its lending programs and products, eligibility criteria, interest rates, fees and all other loan terms) is subject to change without notice. This is not a commitment to lend.