10 Ways To Improve Your Credit Score
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Having a good credit score can make life easier in a lot of ways, from qualifying for better mortgage rates to getting approved for the best credit cards. If past mistakes have left you with a number that's less than desirable, there's no need to worry. Here are 10 ways to improve your credit score.
1. Check your credit report & dispute errors.
Being aware of the information on your credit report is extremely important for a number of reasons. For starters, it shows you the behaviors that are negatively affecting your score. Secondly, it allows you to determine whether all of the information on your file is correct. If you see errors, it's important to file disputes to have them resolved. Doing so can lead to an improvement of your credit score.
A great way to stay on top of your credit file is by using a service such as Credit Sesame, which can provide you with a free credit score each month. It will also show you exactly what is impacting your score, and how your financial snapshot compares to those of your peers. You'll also be alerted anytime your credit score changes, allowing you to quickly catch and correct any errors.
TransUnion also offers up-to-date credit scores and reports, as well as free identity protection. If you suspect you've been the victim of fraud, it makes it easy to send alerts to your creditors and other credit bureaus. Its online credit score simulator is also a great way to predict how your credit score would change based on future actions and events.
Services such as IdentityForce are useful when it comes to protecting yourself in the age of rampant identity theft. This particular service monitors your identity and credit, and is able to detect the illegal selling of your personal, financial, and credit information. You'll receive an alert anytime your personal information is at risk.
2. Use a credit repair service.
Although it's certainly possible to dispute credit report errors on your own, it sometimes helps to hire a professional service such as CreditRepair.com. Its team of experts has the time and expertise to battle the credit bureaus on your behalf, so you can sit back and know you're in good hands. Previous subscribers of the service have seen an average 40 point jump in their TransUnion credit score in just four months of membership.
Another credit repair service to consider is Lexington Law, which has been helping consumers repair their credit for over 27 years. If you're curious about what it has to offer, head to the website to take advantage of its free credit repair consultation, which includes a complete review of your credit report summary and score. In 2016, Lexington Law helped remove over nine million negative items from credit reports.
3. Pay your bills on time.
Your payment history makes up a whopping 35% of your credit score, which means that paying your monthly bills on time is absolutely necessary to achieve a healthy score. This applies to just about everything, from credit card bills to student loan and utility payments. If you're not the most organized person in the world, consider automating your bill payments to ensure you never miss a due date.
4. Reduce the amount of debt you owe.
Just because your credit card has a large spending limit doesn't mean you should max it out. In fact, you shouldn't even come close. The general guideline is to keep your credit utilization ratio at 30% or less.
Asking your credit card company to raise your limit can allow you to achieve a lower utilization ratio. Of course, this is only advised for financially responsible people who will not actually use the extra spending power at their disposal.
5. Don't close old credit accounts.
Part of your credit score is based on the age of your oldest account and the average age of all your accounts. For this reason, it's important to keep your old credit accounts open – even if you don't use them very often.
6. Choose your applications wisely.
Applying for a new line of credit may seem completely harmless, but that isn't the case. Each time you sign up for a new card, a new inquiry will take place on your credit file. It can take up to 24 months for a hard inquiry to disappear from your credit history, so it's important to limit them.
7. Have a diversified debt portfolio.
You've probably heard about the benefits of having a diversified investment portfolio, but you may not be aware that the same rule applies to your debt portfolio. It's a concept referred to as “credit mix,” and it accounts for 10% of your credit score. The general idea is that having a range of debts shows you have the ability to pay off various types of loans. Think of it as a way of showing credit bureaus that you're a well-rounded consumer.
8. Consider credit counseling.
While credit counseling doesn't directly improve your credit score, it can provide you with useful tools and tactics to help you take control of your credit. These tips can lead to an improvement of your score over time.
If you're struggling with debt, you may want to consider entering a debt management plan through a non-profit credit counseling organization. Doing so typically means the counseling agency will negotiate with your credit card company on your behalf. This can result in lower interest rates and smaller minimum payments, helping you pay off your debt and subsequently improving your credit score.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a great resource to find legitimate agencies aimed at helping consumers break free from crippling credit card debt. Just remember that you should never pay for credit counseling – so be sure to walk away from any companies that charge for their services.
9. Become an authorized user.
Asking a friend or relative with good credit history to add you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards can be a great way to benefit from their good credit standing. Although this tactic is generally more beneficial for those with little or no credit, it can also help people who are trying to fix past mistakes. However, keep in mind that any missteps made by the cardholder will negatively affect your credit.
10. Know the facts.
Even if you implement all of the advice listed above, it's important to know that improving your credit score isn't something that will happen overnight. Mistakes can take a long time to fix. For instance, late payments take seven years to disappear from your file. It takes the same amount of time for a foreclosure or Chapter 13 bankruptcy to vanish from your credit history. However, the good news is that your score can still improve while negative marks remain on your file.
Although improving your credit takes time and commitment, doing so is entirely possible once you understand the best plan of attack.