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Having a low credit score leads to paying more for everything. The apartment complex may deny your application to rent with a low credit score.
You don’t want to go through that rejection.
Here are 20 ways to improve your credit score today.
1. Review Your Credit Reports
The first step to improving your credit score is to get a copy of your credit report.
Pull all three credit bureaus and view them for errors and dispute any you find.
You can also get your free credit score from Credit Sesame. Track your progress as you work to improve your credit score.
2. Get All Bill Payments Under Control
These five factors determine credit scores:
- Payment history (35%)
- Amounts owed (30%)
- Length of credit history (15%)
- Credit mix (10%)
- New credit (10%)
Get your bill payments under control. Make sure you're paying all of your bills on time and in full every month. The more you pay down your balances, the better your score.
If you have trouble managing all of your payments, consider using a budgeting tool like Mint, or You Need A Budget (YNAB). These tools can help you stay organized and keep track of where your money is going.
The quickest way to lower your credit score is to miss payments.
Set up automatic bill pay through your bank or card to make sure you never miss a payment.
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Pay off your balances each month. Lenders will see you're responsible with money and can handle debt.
Collections accounts may stay on your credit report for up to seven years. Many companies have a deferment program that will allow you to pay off the debt over time, and your credit score will not decrease. If you are unable to pay any debt, call the company.
Best to communicate before you fall behind on payments.
3. Keep Credit Utilization 30% or Lower
Credit utilization is the second most crucial factor in your credit score.
If you have a credit card with a $1000 balance, be sure only to charge $300 and not a dollar more.
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Pushing it to 50% may not seem much higher yet a lot, but creditors don't like to see more than 30%.
When you have multiple credit cards, do your best to keep them under 30% and pay the balance off in full each month.
4. Minimize Requests for New Credit as Well as “Hard” Inquiries
Your credit score takes a temporary dip when you apply for any new credit (personal loan, mortgage, or card). A hard inquiry will stay on your report for up to two years.
Lenders may think with too many hard inquiries, you're desperate for money or have over-extended yourself financially.
Only request new credit when you need it. Spacing out your requests when you need credit will help minimize the impact on your score. Don’t apply for too many cards at once.
When applying, ask creditors if they'll do a soft pull of your credit. A soft pull will not affect your score and will not appear on your report as an inquiry.
5. Optimize a Thin Credit File
If you are young and have a thin credit file, it can be tough to improve your score when creditors have limited information; they usually err on the side of rejection.
The primary cardholder’s payment history will be added to your report. Be careful who adds you as a user, as they may not have a good payment history. Being added as an authorized user will boost your credit score.
6. Keep Old Accounts Open and Sort Out Any Delinquencies
Creditors like to see long credit histories, so it's best not to close any accounts.
One exception is if there are annual fees involved. You may want to close the account and apply for a new card with no fee instead.
You should also check your report for any errors or other delinquencies. If you notice anything, dispute it immediately to remove the information from your file.
7. Consider Debt Consolidation
If you have several high-interest credit cards, you may consider a consolidation loan. You will save on interest and only have one payment each month. A consolidation loan is also known as a personal loan.
You can also apply for a 0% interest rate card on balance transfers. You transfer the high-interest credit card balance to the one that has a 0% interest rate.
Most of these cards give you 12-15 months of 0% interest, so make sure to pay off the balance in full before the interest kicks in.
8. Track Your Progress with Credit Monitoring
Credit Sesame offers an excellent free service that keeps you updated on any changes to your credit.
9. Utilize Score Boosting Programs
Every slight improvement helps.
10. Only Apply For Credit You Need
Don't apply for credit you don't need.
Ask yourself these questions before applying for any new credit:
- Do I need this item/house/car?
- Do I have enough room in my budget to comfortably make the monthly payment?
- How will this impact my overall utilization rate?
If you answer yes to all of these questions honestly, go ahead and apply.
11. Be Patient
Don't get discouraged if you don't see results right away. Keep working and staying consistent in your good financial habits. Positive credit history takes a long while to build.
Make sure always to use prudent judgment when borrowing money and repaying debts. Don't buy it if you don’t need it.
12. Catch Up On Past Due Accounts
Call the creditor of your past due accounts. Even if you don’t have the money, ask about your options. If they haven’t sent your account to collections, there may be no impact on your credit.
13. Check Your Credit Report Every Year
You can get your credit report from all three bureaus for free. Stay updated on what’s been happening. Most years, there will be nothing out of the ordinary.
14. Pay More Than Once In A Billing Cycle
Paying twice a month can help you pay off the balance more quickly and improve your score.
15. Be Careful When Paying Off Old Debts
Depending on how long ago the debt was charged off, you may decide not to pay it off.
Once enough time has passed, a creditor marks a debt down as uncollectible and won’t pursue it any further. If you pay toward this debt, the creditor will begin chasing you again.
Sometimes it’s best not to poke sleeping bears.
16. Diversify Your Accounts
Credit mix counts for 10% of your credit score.
Remember from above, only apply for the credit you need. Do not apply for new credit simply because you think your score will increase. Having a mix of credit cards, mortgages, and personal loans can help you score marginally.
17. Get A Secured Credit Card
A secured credit card will help start rebuilding your credit if it's been damaged in the past.
You will give the company a deposit, and your credit limit will usually be the same amount as your deposit. If you provide a $300 deposit, that’s what your limit will be for the card.
After some time of paying the balance off in full, you would be wise to apply for a traditional credit card. The company can sometimes convert the secured card into a standard credit card, and you will receive the deposit back in full.
18. Take Advantage Of Balance Transfers
If you have a card with interest over 10% APR look into a 0% interest balance transfer card. There are usually many different promotions like this available at any given time. Do your research and stop paying that high interest.
19. Dispute Any Errors On Your Credit Report
Reach out directly to the credit bureau responsible for the error. so don't hesitate for a second
Here are the contact pages for each bureau:
20. Be Careful If You Have Multiple Loans
While it's a good idea to have multiple lines of credit with several lenders, don’t go overboard.
Again, only apply and have the credit that you need.
Remember that your credit score is just one part of your financial picture. Don't get too caught up in improving it if you do not see the results you want.
If you are serious about improving your credit score, use these tips, and you will see improvement over time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is A Credit Score?
A credit score is a number that represents your level of risk as a borrower. Lenders use it to determine whether or not you are likely to pay back the money your borrowed. Your credit score determines how much interest you will pay.
What Are The Different Credit Scores?
There are three credit bureaus in the US. You will have a score from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax.
Each lender uses its own underwriting and scoring system, so it's always important to check with the specific company before applying for any loans.
The last time I applied for a home mortgage, the lender used my Equifax score.
What affects my credit score?
- Late payments
- Accounts in collections
- Credit utilization (ratio of credit used to available credit)
- Length of credit history
- New credit accounts and inquiries
As a certified credit counselor and syndicated writer at MaxMyMoney, Max has coached over 250 Millennials to help take the stress out of money. When Max is not coaching, you'll find him reading financial books, indoor cycling, or visiting local pawn shops looking for swiss-made watches.