How To Improve Your Credit Score: 12 Step Guide
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Improving your credit score is essential if you want to achieve overall financial wellness for yourself. If you have a history of making late credit card payments, for example, you likely already know how a low credit score can make life harder – and more expensive.
The good news is that there are very straightforward, proven steps you can take to improve your credit report and, therefore, get a higher credit score.
If you want to know how to improve your credit score, we’ve got you covered!
Why You Need a Good Credit Score
Your credit score is a numerical value representing the information inside your credit report – which various institutions will use to gauge your reliability as a borrower.
From getting a new apartment to financing a car, having a decent credit score is necessary for several aspects of modern life. That’s why increasing and maintaining your score is so vital.
The main reasons to improve your credit score:
- You’ll get lower interest rates
- You might be able to avoid paying high-security deposits
- You’ll receive a higher credit limit
- It can be easier to buy a house or rent an apartment
- Your insurance premiums may be lower
- And other benefits!
Is it Easy to Improve Your Credit Score?
Yes! Bumping up your credit score is easy to do and doesn’t take long when you know the right methods to do so. The great news is that there are plenty of ways to improve your credit score with ease.
Many factors influence your credit score. When you focus on those individual factors and work on addressing those issues, you can improve your credit score in a flash.
Some of the main factors that influence a credit score include the percentage of overall credit used (less than 30% is ideal), making payments on time, how many times you inquire about your credit when applying for new loans or cards, and the length of your overall credit history.
When you know what factors influence your credit score, you can start working on fixing those issues and boosting your credit to a higher, more favorable number.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 12 ways to improve your credit score and enable you to grab all of the benefits that go along with having an impressive credit history.
12 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
Successfully following as many of these suggestions as you can, will radically boost your credit score over time. Are you ready to get started?
1. Know Your Score & Check for Errors
One of the easiest ways to have a credit score which is less than perfect is to allow errors on your credit report to remain. Even one simple mistake on your credit report can drop your credit score down quite a bit.
That’s why it’s important to know your credit score and review your credit report periodically to see if any errors exist. By reviewing your credit report, you can keep an eye on your credit history, current credit status and your credit score to make sure that all of the reported information is accurate.
Credit Sesame offers an easy and free way to obtain and monitor your credit score, check out your credit report and make sure that what’s on your credit report is accurate.
This free tool helps individuals feel secure in knowing their current financial status and become aware of any errors exist in the report while getting their credit score at the same time.
Credit Sesame also offers plenty of other financial tools, including credit monitoring, ID protection, and more.
2. Pay Down Credit Card Balances
Another way to work on your credit score so that the resulting number is as high as can be is to pay down your credit card balances. Your credit utilization ratio compares your credit card balance to your credit card limit. You want to keep your total credit card balances at less than 30% of your total credit card limit.
So, how do you do this?
A personal consolidation loan is an excellent option to consider. A personal consolidation loan is a single loan that’s large enough to pay off multiple high-interest loans. They enable borrowers to consolidate down to a single payment each month, while also getting a lower interest rate overall – and can help you chip away at your total credit utilization ratio.
There are plenty of options for both comparing personal loan rates and obtaining these credit card payment loans.
Credible is a top option to consider for loan amounts up to $100,000. Credible offers an easy way to compare personal loan rates from multiple lenders in just two minutes. It is so confident in the rates you’ll find, Credible offers $200 if you find a better rate elsewhere (terms apply).
Whichever personal loan option you go with, the end result will be the same. You’ll be able to pay off some or all of your credit card debt at a lower rate.
3. Make Payments on Time
One of the easiest ways to improve your credit score is to make payments on time. Let’s face it: you’re only human. Sometimes you might forget to pay your monthly credit card bill or maybe you just don’t have the money in the bank at the moment to do so. With that said, it’s extremely important to make payments on time.
If you are a bit forgetful and have a tendency to miss credit card payments, put it on the calendar. Mark down all of your credit card, utility and loan payment due dates. This will provide an easy reminder for you.
Want an even easier way to ensure payments on time? Schedule your payments online so the money is automatically withdrawn each month. This way, you don’t even have to think about it. Your bills will get paid automatically each and every month. Plus, they’ll be paid on time.
Paying your monthly bills on time will help to improve your credit score and do so easily.
4. Obtain a Credit Limit Increase
Another easy way to help your credit score climb higher is to ask your credit card company for a credit limit increase. Although some credit card companies will automatically grant credit limit increases without you having to ask for them, with other companies you’ll have to request a credit limit increase – but may not grant your request if your balance history isn’t great
When you obtain a credit limit increase, your debt will remain the same while your credit limit increases and reduces the credit utilization ratio.
Although there is some debate as to whether credit limit increases temporarily hurt one’s credit score, the overall impact is a beneficial one. The lower your credit utilization ratio, the better your score.
Just make sure to keep your credit utilization ratio low once you push it down. Don’t fall back into old spending habits!
5. Make Payments to Credit Card Bills Twice a Month
When able to do so, making credit card payments twice (or more) a month will help to reduce your credit card debt and make your credit score more favorable. After paying at least the minimum, try to make small or large payments here and there to turbo-charge your debt reduction.
As it’s often difficult for individuals to pay their high credit card bills even once a month on their current paycheck, this may seem like an uphill battle. But there are ways to make more money and pay more than once a month on current credit card bills: side hustles.
What’s a side hustle, you ask? A side hustle is paying gig which you can do in your free time. Unlike a full-time or part-time job, you can put as much or as little time into a side hustle as you like. Some examples of side hustles include taking surveys online, grocery shopping for others, dog walking, delivering food, and other easy-to-do tasks.
If you love dogs, cats and other pets, you can earn some cash through Rover. Rover is a dog walking and pet sitting website where you get paid to walk or look after pets. This is the perfect side hustle for an animal lover looking to make some extra money on the side – or even as a full-time gig.
If dog walking or pet sitting isn’t your forte, you can opt for a side hustle taking surveys. You can share your opinion and make money by doing so! There are many online survey sites to try, including Survey Junkie and InboxDollars. The type of survey and the amount paid to take the survey will vary with each option, but all options will provide a form of payment. Although certain sites will offer gift cards as payment, others will offer a straight cash payment.
Want to learn more about potential side hustles to help you pay your credit card bills twice a month? Check out our recent article on 15 Side Hustle Ideas to Start Making Extra Money Right Now.
6. Open a New Credit Account
You might think that you want to limit the number of credit cards you have as opposed to adding another one to the list, but opening a new credit account can actually help your credit score – especially if you have little to no credit history.
Opening a new credit account will help to establish a credit history for yourself and provide you with a credit utilization ratio to work with.
Once you have the new credit card account open, make sure to keep your balance low and stay below the desirable 30% credit utilization ratio. This will show responsible credit card ownership and help to boost your credit score.
Ready to open up a new credit card account? The ABOC (Amalgamated Bank of Chicago) credit card is an excellent option. With a 0% APR on purchases for 12 months, no annual fee and unlimited rewards points with no expiration date, the ABOC credit card is a good option to consider if you want to improve your credit utilization ratio.
7. Open a Secured Credit Card
Another tip for how to improve your credit score is to open up a secured credit card account. This type of credit card consists of making a cash deposit with the credit card company. The company will hold the money in an account as a deposit and offer you a credit line usually up to the amount that you deposited.
With a secured credit card, you can build a credit history and this, in itself, can help you improve your credit score. You might even find that the credit card company will report your credit habits to the three major credit bureaus and, if your payment and spending habits are good, this will help you as well.
Sometimes you’ll have to stick with a secured credit card for a while and keep making timely payments on it, but it’s all worth it to build on your credit score and make it more favorable. Also, you may even find that if you are a responsible secured credit card holder, the company will replace your card with an unsecured one at some point down the road.
8. Clear Up Collection Accounts
Having active collection accounts can seriously hurt your credit score. With this in mind, you want to make sure that you pay off any old collection accounts as well as make these items disappear from your credit report.
In accordance with federal law, these issues with creditors can remain on your credit report for seven-and-a-half years after your first delinquency issue. You might think that you can simply pay all of the money owed on the account and these blemishes will go away, but that’s not the case.
You have to go a few steps further in order to get these bad credit notations erased. And you’ll certainly want to do this, as it is hurting your credit score.
Once you pay off the account, if you haven’t done so already, the next step is to ask the creditor to give you a goodwill deletion to your credit file. This type of request should be made in writing and may or may not be approved, depending on how willing the creditor is to work with you.
You can state that you have a really good credit history except for this particular instance and ask if they would be able to grant this goodwill deletion. If so, this would help your credit score increase.
On a side note, if you have a collection account or debt on your credit history which is not yours, make sure you dispute it.
9. Become an Authorized User on the Account of Another Individual
If you’re searching for another way to bump up your credit score, consider becoming an authorized user on the credit card account of another. This can be your spouse or another family member, for example. By having your name added to the account of another, you can build your credit history and boost your credit score.
Once you’re added to the credit card account of another, you will have this factor appear on your credit report. Also, all of the history of that particular account will show up on your credit report.
With that said, authorized users aren’t responsible for the charges of the primary credit cardholder and can have their name removed from the account at any time.
You may not need an additional charge account but simply want to add your name to someone else’s account in order to improve your credit score.
10. Don’t Close Credit Cards with $0 Balance
When you finally pay off one of your credit cards, you are certain to be ecstatic. You may even be so happy to see a $0 balance that you’ll want to close out your credit card, but don’t do it!
Closing out your credit card will negatively impact your credit score, because it will decrease your available credit and cause your credit utilization ratio to increase.
You’ll ideally keep your credit card account open and continue with a $0 balance. This will result in a positive credit utilization ratio which will show a low (or no) balance compared with a high credit limit.
Keeping your credit cards open with $0 balances won’t hurt you and can only help you. Just try to have the willpower to not use your credit cards if possible so that your balance remains at $0 or at a low amount which you pay off each month.
11. Try Score-Boosting Programs
A unique way to bump up your credit score is by using score-boosting programs. Score-boosting programs, such as Experian Boost, will review your past bills and payments going back two years and create a record of these past payments.
Once the prior payment record is created, the favorable payment history and length of credit will result in an improvement to your credit score. This program is ideal for those with limited credit history who want to have a more established credit report.
It can help to increase the credit score and make it more likely for individuals to obtain a car loan, rent an apartment, and other activities for which a good credit score is required.
12. Be Careful About the Timing of Your Credit Applications
Lastly, you’ll want to be cautious as to when you put in an application for any new credit card. You want to be sure that you don’t apply for multiple credit cards within a short period of time. Having multiple applications that run credit checks in or around the same time can negatively affect your credit score.
When your credit report shows that you have been applying for multiple credit cards in a short time period, you may be seen as a bigger risk. Therefore, your credit score will reflect this by coming in at a lower number.
Note that this doesn’t apply to rate shopping for a single loan. The information listed above pertains to applying with various credit card companies for different credit cards in a short period of time.
Improving Your Credit Score is Much Easier Than You Think
Now that you know some of the secrets of how to improve your credit score, you can get started. The tips laid out for you can help bump up your credit score and turn that average, or less-than-average, credit score into one you’ll be proud to have.
You don’t have to complete all of the methods above all at once. Tackle the tips at a reasonable pace and watch as your subpar credit score turns into a favorable number that will help you out as you venture into the future, applying for a home mortgage or obtaining a new car loan at a cheaper rate.
Having a high credit score provides a way to achieve many of life’s goals more easily and lead you on the path to financial wellness.