Your credit score can determine a whole lot about your life. It can dictate how much you pay on your car. It can affect your ability to get life insurance. It can even be the deciding factor in where you live. Since your credit score has such a large impact on your life, it’s important to do everything you can to build good credit. If you’re struggling with a low credit score, this one’s for you. And if you already have good credit (lucky you), then the tips covered in this article will help keep you on track. Keep in mind that there’s no quick fix that will boost your credit score significantly overnight. But building good habits will improve your creditworthiness as long as you remain consistent. Alright, let’s dive into these trusted tips that will help you improve your credit score.
1. Review your credit.
Before you can start working to improve your credit score, you need to find out where you stand. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to receive a free copy of your credit report once a year. Review the report to find out what’s helping or hurting your score. You can also use a free credit-monitoring tool, like Credit Karma or CreditWise from Capital One, to keep track of your credit score more regularly.
2. Pay bills on time.
This one is pretty much a no-brainer, but for the sake of being thorough, allow me to encourage you to pay your bills on time. Installment loans — like mortgage, student or auto loans — and revolving credit, i.e. credit cards, are types of debt that can appear on your credit report. So, to build credit and improve your score, be sure to make these payments on time every time. If you can swing it, set up automatic payments. Or, at the very least, set up reminders to help you keep track of due dates so you can avoid late payments.
3. Handle delinquent accounts.
There are all kinds of reasons why you might get behind on your bills. Medical emergencies. Job lay-offs. Inflation. Whatever the reason, delinquent accounts can negatively impact your credit score. Catching up on them can help quite a bit. Do your best to get caught up on past due payments, and then create a plan or a budget to help you make future payments on time. If you’re in collections, figure out if paying accounts in full or offering a settlement is the best course of action. You may need the assistance of a credit counselor who can help you with a debt management plan.
4. Avoid using too much available credit.
Your credit utilization rate is the sum of your balances on all of your revolving accounts divided by the sum of your cards’ credit limits. In other words, it’s the percentage of total available credit that you’re using. You want this rate to be as low as possible. People with perfect credit scores have a rate of about 7%. That might not be doable for you just yet, but aim to keep your rate below 30%, which is what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends. Doing so will let creditors know that you’re managing your credit responsibly.
5. Keep old accounts open.
Paying off a credit card can be a big relief. But rather than paying it off and closing the account, it’s better to leave it open with a zero balance. Age-of-credit is an important factor in your credit score. Having an older average credit age will help you appeal to lenders because it can demonstrate a history of timely payments and a good track record of responsibility.
Again, these tips won’t cause your score to shoot up instantly, but they will help you improve your credit score over time. Remain diligent and commit to your financial goals. You’ll see the fruits of your efforts soon enough.