How to Improve Your Credit Score
When was the last time you checked your credit score? Has it been a while? Have you been putting it off because you’re not sure you’re going to like what you see?
Your credit score is an important part of your financial health – and it’s something that you should always have a handle on – even if it’s not exactly where you want it to be.
Credit scores generally fall between 300 and 850, and they’re usually categorized as follows:
- 300-579: Poor
- 580-669: Fair
- 670-739: Good
- 740-799: Very good
- 800-850: Excellent
This three-digit number gives lenders an indication as to how likely you are to pay your bills on time. And the higher the credit score, the more likely a lender is to loan you money.
But what can you do if you’ve got a credit score that lenders aren’t so keen on? It’s time to improve it!
- “Thin” Credit File? Start Building Credit: Maybe you’ve always lived by the phrase “cash is king” and have avoided credit cards. Unfortunately, that can hurt you as it means you have no credit history or a “thin” credit file. In order to build credit, you actually have to have it. Applying for a credit card can help. You may not qualify for a traditional credit card – due to lack of credit – but you can probably get a secured credit card to get you started.
- Take a Look at Your Credit Reports: If you have established credit, you should keep an eye on your credit report. Each year you are entitled to a free copy of your report, and you can get that by visiting: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
- Once you get it, check it carefully for any mistakes. If you find any, call creditors to get them corrected as they may hurt your chances for future credit.
- Pay Your Bills On Time: Did you know that by paying your bills on time, you are improving your credit score? It’s true. By doing so, you show creditors that you take your finances seriously, and, in turn, this raises your credit score.
- Know How Much Credit You Are Utilizing: You want to track how much of your total credit you are using for each credit card. In general, a low credit utilization rate indicates you are doing a good job managing your credit. For example, if you have a credit card with $10,000 of available credit and you have a revolving balance of $3,000 – your credit utilization is 30%. Most experts recommend you keep your credit utilization score below 30%.
- Limit Credit Requests: When a lender or credit card company pulls your credit report to see if you are eligible for additional credit, this is known as a “hard” inquiry. If you apply for several forms of credit in a short amount of time (from several weeks to several months) this can have a negative impact on your score. Lenders will wonder why you are seeking so much additional credit – which in turn can make them uneasy about giving you credit from their institution.
- Consolidate Debt if Needed: If you’ve got a lot of debt, it may make sense to consolidate it. Shop for a good interest rate and then consolidate, so you’re making only one payment per month.
- Keep Old Accounts Open: Yes, you probably have old credit cards that you no longer use, but you may want to keep them open. They are factored into your credit utilization score – so they are probably helping you out in the long run.
- Deal With Accounts That Are Delinquent: If you have delinquent accounts, reach out to them and see what options are available to you. Many creditors will work with you to avoid you filing for bankruptcy.
Building good credit is a slow and steady process, but with some work – you can do it. These tips can help you improve your score – so that if you need credit in the future, you’ll have lenders who will be happy to work with you.