7 Steps to Improve Your Credit Score Right Now

Your credit score is not the best? Fortunately, there are steps you can take now to increase this score and improve your financial situation.

A high credit score has several advantages. This leads to lower interest rates on everything from personal and student loans to credit cards and mortgages. Lower rates, in turn, mean lower monthly payments, leaving more money for other goals like boosting your emergency or retirement funds, adding to a college fund, or funding a dream vacation. .

Your credit score can also impact other aspects of your life. A low score can affect your eligibility for a new apartment rental or even a new job.

If your credit needs a little help, now is the time to start improving it. Significant changes will not happen overnight. These steps will help you get started.

How to increase your credit score

Your credit score is meant to tell lenders whether you are a high or low risk borrower. FICO and VantageScore (the score developed by the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) will range from 300 to 850. A score of 700 is considered “good”. The better your credit score, the better the interest rates and terms that lenders will offer you.

1. Pay your bills on time

According to Experian, payment history is the most influential factor for your FICO and VantageScore. From the lender’s perspective, an established history of timely payments is a good indicator that you will also manage future debts responsibly.

“You want to avoid issues like late payments, defaults, repossessions, repossessions, and third-party collections,” says credit expert John Ulzheimer, formerly of FICO and Equifax. “And declaring bankruptcy is a horrible idea. Anything that indicates a breach of a liability is going to hurt your credit score.

2. Keep credit utilization low

Weigh your balances against your credit limit to make sure you’re not using too much available credit, a practice that can indicate risk.

Ulzheimer recommends trying to maintain a 10% utilization rate. “The higher this ratio, the fewer points you will earn in this category and your scores will absolutely suffer,” he says. “In fact, people with the highest average FICO scores have 7% utilization.”

The date your credit card provider reports to the credit bureaus can also impact your usage rate.

Ulzheimer points out that FICO’s scoring systems don’t distinguish between those who pay in full each month and those who have a balance. Your usage rate at the time your transmitter is reporting is what is used for your score. VantageScore, however, considers whether you pay in full or carry over your balance from month to month.

If you’re struggling with high balances and mounting interest payments on your cards, consider consolidating with a 0% introductory rate balance transfer credit card, but make sure you know when the rate is. will increase and by how much.

3. Leave old accounts open

Once you’ve finally gotten rid of your student debt or paid off your car loan, you may be eager to erase all traces of it from your report.

But as long as your payments were timely and complete, these debt records can actually improve your credit score. The same goes for your credit card accounts.

“A fully paid account is a good thing; however, closing an account is not something consumers should do automatically in hopes that it will have a positive impact on their credit score,” says Nancy Bistritz-Balkan, Vice President of Communications and Education. consumers at Equifax. “Having an account with a long history and a solid track record of paying bills on time, every time, are the kinds of responsible habits lenders and creditors are looking for.”

Closing a credit card account can actually lower your credit score because you will now have a lower maximum credit limit. If you still have balances on other cards or loans, your utilization rate will increase. It is better to keep the card with a balance of $0.

Any bad debts that may negatively impact your score are automatically removed over time. According to Ulzheimer, bankruptcies can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, while late payments and defaults such as collections, foreclosures, foreclosures and settlements stay on your report for seven years.

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A low credit score not only hurts your chances of being approved, but can also affect your interest rate.

Credit repair experts can help improve your credit score by identifying and disputing errors in your report.

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4. Take advantage of score improvement programs

The number of accounts and the average age of your accounts are two important factors in your credit score, which can disadvantage those with a limited credit history.

Experian Boost and UltraFICO are programs that allow consumers to boost a thin credit profile with other financial information.

After opting for Experian Boost, you can connect your online banking data and authorize the credit bureau to add telecommunications and utility payment histories to your report. UltraFICO allows you to allow your bank details, such as checking and savings accounts, to be considered with your report when calculating your score.

5. Apply only for the credit you need

Each time you apply for a new line of credit, a thorough investigation is drawn on your report. This type of survey temporarily lowers your score. Applying just to see if you are approved or because you received a pre-qualified credit offer is not a good idea.

If it is a single credit draw, the decline will be slight. However, a series of difficult inquiries could signal to lenders that you are in too much debt. According to a TransUnion representative, the effects of bad credit on your score can last up to 12 months.

If you need to apply for new credit, research your likelihood of approval to make sure you’re a good candidate before you apply. If possible, get pre-approved or pre-qualified, as in many cases this results in a soft credit application rather than a hard one. Smooth Withdrawals Don’t Affect Your Credit Score You don’t want to risk lowering your score for a denied application.

You should also refrain from applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time or before taking out a large loan like a mortgage.

When shopping for a mortgage, car or personal loan, you can minimize difficult inquiries by making rate comparisons in a short period of time. Requests for the same type of loan within a specific time frame will only appear as one serious request. According to FICO, this duration can vary from 14 to 45 days.

6. Be patient

You won’t dramatically improve your credit score overnight. The best way to get a great score is to develop good long-term credit habits.

According to Ulzheimer, two influential factors that go into your score are the average age of the information and the oldest account in your report.

“You’re really going to need to have credit for a few decades before you max out these categories,” Ulzheimer says. “It takes a really, really long time to improve a bad score and a very short time to destroy a good score.”

Establish good habits like paying your balances on time, keeping usage low, and requesting credit only when you need it, and you should see these practices reflected in your score over time.

7. Watch your credit

When you view your own credit, a gentle inquiry is made which does not affect your credit like serious inquiries do.

Tracking your score fluctuations every few months can help you understand how well you are managing your credit and if you need to make any changes. However, you shouldn’t base any financial decision you make solely on your credit score.

“I wouldn’t recommend hanging every decision on a credit score, but hanging every decision on what matters,” says VantageScore spokesman Jeff Richardson. “Focusing on your financial health and that of your family is the number one priority.”

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Keeping a close eye on your credit reports and scores is crucial for your financial health.

Suspicious activity on your credit reports is usually a sign of potential fraud. Be aware of your credit activity to mitigate any possible damage

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How to check your credit report

You can get a free copy of your report at annualcreditreport.com.

Under normal circumstances, you would be able to get one free report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) per year. However, in response to COVID-19, you can access a free weekly report from any of the offices through April 2022.

Check your credit report for errors, which could lower your score. If you find errors, such as payments that have not been recorded, you can have them removed by disputing the information directly with the credit bureau. They are required to investigate any dispute and resolve it within a reasonable time. Keep in mind, however, that only incorrect information can be removed from your report.

According to Richardson, each credit report will contain the information you need to improve your score. “There are four or five bullet points on your credit profile that can help you lay out a roadmap of what to do if you really are in a position where you need to improve your score,” he says. .

You may also find a numeric or text code in your report, but no additional information as to what it represents. These are factor codes and represent items that can lower your score. VantageScore has a free website, ReasonCode.org where you can enter the code from any credit report and get an explanation of what it means and advice on how to fix the problem.

If you are unsure if there are any errors in your report or if you find it difficult to resolve the issues on your own, you can seek expert help. Credit repair companies not only know how to identify and correct erroneous information, but can also help mitigate the impact of legitimate negative items on your report.

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