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10 simple ways to improve your credit score

  • Credit Score
  • Natasha Young
  • 11 minutes

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Your credit score is one of the best ways to figure out how healthy your finances are. The better your credit score, the easier it will be to get new loans or credit lines. how to improve your credit score

A higher credit score comes from making payments on time, having low balances on your credit cards, having a mix of credit card and loan accounts, having older credit accounts, and not looking for new credit very often. Major things that hurt a credit score are late or missed payments, high credit card balances, collections, and court judgments. Here are some ways to improve our credit score. 

Check the accuracy of the credit score report 

You should check your credit score often to see if there are any mistakes but make sure you use “soft inquiries” so that your score doesn’t drop. Check with your bank to see if you can sign up for free credit monitoring and get alerts when your score changes. 

Each of the three major credit bureaus must give you a free report. Check for mistakes, like payments marked as late when they were paid on time, someone else’s credit activity mixed in with yours, or negative information that is too old to be listed anymore.  

Make sure to rectify all the errors. Add yourself as an authorized user to an old account with a good payment history and, if possible, a low rate of use. This should be done by a friend or family member, who doesn’t even need to give you the card. You can also pay for a credit repair service to help you make a deal with someone you don’t know. 

how to improve your credit score

Pay your bills on time 

More than 90% of the best lenders use FICO credit scores, which are based on five different things: 

  • History of payments (35%) 
  • Use of credit (30% ) 
  • Credit account ages (15% ) 
  • Credit blend (10% ) 
  • New credit checks (10%) 

Your payment history has the most effect on your credit score, as you can see. So, avoiding late payments is a simple way to improve your credit score. Here are some ways to do that: 

  • Setting up a paper or digital filing system to keep track of monthly bills 
  • Having due date reminders lets you know when a bill is due. 
  • Getting a bank account that automatically pays your bills. 

You could also put all or as many of your monthly bill payments as you can on a credit card. This plan is based on the idea that you’ll pay off your balance in full every month to avoid paying interest. Taking this route could make it easier to pay your bills and improve your credit score if you always pay on time. 

Understand credit utilization 

Credit utilization is how much of your total credit limit you are using at any given time. It’s the second most important part of your FICO credit score after how well you’ve paid your bills. Paying off your credit card balances in full every month is the easiest way to keep your credit usage in check.  

If you can’t always do that, a good rule of thumb is to keep your total outstanding balance at 30% or less of your total credit limit. From there, you can try to get that number down to 10% or less, which is thought to be the best way to raise your credit score. 

If your credit utilization ratio is getting too high, use the high balance alert feature on your credit card to stop adding new charges. Ask for a credit limit increase. This is another way to improve your credit utilization ratio.  

If your balance doesn’t go up at the same time, raising your credit limit can help you use your credit better. Most credit card companies let you request an increase in your credit limit online. All you have to do is update your annual household income. In less than a minute, it is possible to get to a higher limit. You can also call and ask for your credit limit to be raised. 

Limit your new credit requests 

There are two kinds of checks on your credit history, which are often called “hard” and “soft.” 

Soft inquiry

A typical soft inquiry could be you checking your own credit, allowing a potential employer to check your credit, financial institutions you already do business with checking your credit, or credit card companies checking your file to see if they want to send you pre-approved credit offers. Your credit score won’t change because of soft inquiries. 

Hard inquiry

Hard inquiries, on the other hand, can hurt your credit score for a few months to two years. Applications for a new credit card, a mortgage, an auto loan, or some other type of new credit can be hard inquiries. The occasional tough question probably won’t make much of a difference. But doing a lot of them quickly can hurt your credit score.

Banks might think that you need money because you’re having money problems and are thus a bigger risk. If you want your credit score to go up, don’t apply for new credit for a while. Getting hard inquiries taken off your credit report will help your score, but not by a lot.

Only 10% of your overall score is based on how many hard inquiries you’ve had recently. You should try to get rid of any wrong inquiries, but this step won’t make a big difference by itself. 

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Build a solid credit file 

There are ways to add to a thin credit file and improve your credit score, which is good news. Here are some ways:

Experian Boost

This program gathers financial information that isn’t usually in your credit report, like your banking history and utility bill payments. This information is then used to figure out your Experian FICO credit score. It’s free to use and made for people who have little or no credit but have paid their bills on time in the past. 

UltraFICO

This free program helps you get a FICO score by looking at your banking history. Having a savings cushion, keeping a bank account over time, paying your bills on time through your bank account, and avoiding overdrafts are all things that can help. 

Renters

If you pay your rent every month, there are a number of ways to get credit for being on time. Rental Kharma and RentTrack, for example, will report your rent payments to the credit bureaus for you, which could help your score.

Keep in mind that reporting rent payments may only change your VantageScore, not your FICO score. Some companies that report rent charge a fee for this service, so read the fine print to find out what you’re getting and possibly buying. 

Perch

Perch is a mobile app that reports rent payments to credit bureaus for free, and is a new player in this field. 

Get credit for paying rent and bills 

Reporting services for rent can put the fact that you pay your rent on time on your credit report. Not every scoring model takes rent payments into account. For example, VantageScores does, but FICO 8 does not. Still, if a potential creditor looks at your credit report, rent records will be there, and a long history of paying rent on time can only help. 

Experian Boost can also help, though not as much. You link your bank accounts to the free Boost service, which then checks for payments to streaming services, phone bills, and utility bills. You decide which payments you want Experian to add to your credit report. If a creditor pulls your FICO 8 using Experian data, you can use that extra payment history to your advantage. 

Some services offer an instant “lookback” of the last two years of rent payments, while Boost works right away. Without that, it might take a few months to show that you pay on time. 

Practice credit monitoring 

The length of time you’ve had your credit accounts is part of your credit score. The longer your average credit history is, the better you look to lenders. 

Don’t close out old credit accounts that you’re not using. Even though the credit history for those accounts would stay on your credit report, closing credit cards while you have balances on other cards would lower your available credit and raise your credit utilization ratio. That could make you lose a few points. 

And if you have accounts that are late, charged off, or in collections, do something to fix them. If you have charge-offs or accounts in collection, decide if it makes sense to pay them off in full or make a deal with the creditor.

Newer versions of FICO and VantageScore give paid collection accounts less of a negative effect on your credit score. If you pay off collections or charge-offs, your score might go up a little bit. Remember that negative account information can stay on your credit report for up to seven years, and bankruptcies for 10 years. 

Combine your debts 

If you owe money on more than one thing, you might be better off getting a loan from a bank or credit union to pay off all of them at once. Then you’ll only have to worry about one payment, and if you can get a loan with a lower interest rate, you’ll be able to pay off your debt faster. That can help you use less of your credit, which can make your credit score go up. 

Another way to pay off multiple credit card balances is to use a balance transfer credit card to pay them off. Most of the time, these cards have a period when they don’t charge any interest on your balance. But watch out for balance transfer fees, which can cost 3–5% of the amount you’re transferring. 

It takes time to get your free credit report, read it, file a dispute about mistakes, and keep track of what happens next. But it’s worth it, especially if you’re trying to improve your credit score before a big step like getting a big loan. If you want to get a mortgage, settle any disputes well before you apply. 

The credit bureaus have 30 days to look into what happened and give a reply. Some companies say they can fix your credit quickly by disputing mistakes, but you should be careful. 

Use a credit card with a deposit 

A secured credit card is another way to build or fix your credit. This kind of card is backed by a cash deposit. You pay for it upfront, and the amount of the deposit is usually the same as your credit limit. You can use it like a regular credit card, and making payments on time will help your credit score. 

This is most likely to help people who are new to credit but have accounts or people with bad credit who want to make up for past mistakes by adding a more positive credit history. 

Look for a secured card that tells all three of the major credit bureaus about how you use it. You could also look into other credit cards that don’t need a security deposit. 

It could take a few months. The point isn’t just to get another card, though that can help your score a little by giving you a wider range of credit. Your goal should be to show that you can keep your balance low and pay on time. 

how to improve your credit score

Add to your range of credit 

A good-standing credit account can help your credit score, especially if it’s a type of credit you don’t already have. If you only have credit cards, you might want to think about getting a loan. A low-cost option is a credit-builder loan. Check to see if the loan you’re thinking about applying for will be reported to all three credit bureaus. 

If you only have loans or don’t have many credit cards, a new one might help. In addition to improving your credit mix, it can help you use less of your total credit by giving you more credit. People who only have credit cards are most likely to be helped by opening a loan account, and vice versa. And people with few accounts or a short credit history have the most to gain. 

Think about whether the time you spend researching providers and filling out applications is worth the score boost you might get. Think about how much you’d pay in interest and fees if you only want a loan or credit card to help your credit. As soon as the activity on the new account is reported to the credit bureaus, it will be of help. 


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