Credit scores are like report cards for grown-ups. It’s a three-digit “grade” based on a scale that ranges from 300 to 850. Your score indicates your creditworthiness to potential lenders, banks, landlords, insurance companies, and even to some employers. As we all know, the higher your score, the better. When it comes to boosting your score, there’s no magic trick – but don’t worry, increasing your credit doesn’t have to be difficult or take a decade.
Try these tips to increase your score:
– Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on your score.
– If you’ve missed payments, get current and stay current. The longer you pay your bills on time, the better your score.
– Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report. It stays on your report for seven years.
– If you’re having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor. This won’t improve your score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score will get better over time.
– Keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit”. High outstanding debt can affect a score.
– Pay off debt rather than moving it around. The most effective way to improve your score in this area is by paying down your revolving credit. In fact, owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your score.
– Don’t close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score.
– Don’t open new credit cards that you don’t need just to increase your available credit. This approach could backfire and actually lower your score.
Length of Credit History
– If you’ve been managing credit for a short time, don’t open a lot of new accounts too quickly. New accounts will lower your average account age, which will have a larger effect on your score if you don’t have a lot of other credit information. Also, rapid account buildup can look risky if you’re a new credit user.
– Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a focused period of time. Credit scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.
– Re-establish your credit history if you’ve had problems. Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your score in the long-term.
– It’s OK to request and check your own credit report. This won’t affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agency or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers.
Types of Credit Use
– Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Don’t open accounts just to have a better credit mix – it probably won’t raise your score.
– Have credit cards – but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans (and paying timely payments) will raise your score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, tends to be higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
– Closing an account does not make it go away. A closed account will still show up on your credit report, and may be considered by the score.