If you’re searching for how to improve your credit score, be aware that there’s no quick fix. However, you can boost your credit score with the major credit agencies by using the seven tips below.
1. Read Your Credit Report
It’s helpful to understand what’s working in your favor and what’s not while you learn how to improve your credit score. Your credit report will highlight potential issues that drag your score down, such as high credit card balances and late payments.
Action item: Get your free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, a site that’s jointly run by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Your credit score won’t be on your credit report. A financial institution like your credit card company may tell you your score, but if not, you can get it from one of the credit bureaus for a fee.
2. Pay Your Bills on Time
This might seem daunting if you’re searching for how to improve your credit score, but it’s absolutely critical. Late and missed payments damage your credit, and they tend to pile up if they’re left unchecked.
Action item: Pay your bills before they’re due, and set up automatic payments on accounts that allow it. Some companies will let you change your monthly payment date, which can also help you avoid late or bounced payments.
3. Set Up Payment Plans With Creditors
If you’re behind on payments to your creditors, you may be able to set up payment plans to cover all or part of your debt. This will show that you’re working to improve your credit score and become a more responsible borrower.
Action item: Stick to the new payment schedule. This could provide yet another incentive for you to learn how to improve your credit score, as defaulting on your debt would further damage your credit.
4. Limit Applying for New Credit
Aim to have as few hard inquiries on your credit report as possible. Applying for a new credit card or loan requires a hard inquiry, which can temporarily hurt your score.
Action item: Apply for new credit as sparingly as possible. Having many hard inquiries for different types of credit within a short period of time can make lenders view you as a riskier borrower in the future.
5. Consider Keeping Old Accounts
Keeping credit accounts open might seem counterintuitive if you’re thinking about how to improve your credit score. But closing them isn’t necessarily the right choice. For instance, while closing a credit card could reduce the debt you carry, it could also reduce the average age of your accounts and increase the percentage of your available credit you’re using.
Action item: Pay down revolving debt like credit cards and home equity lines of credit, but consider keeping the accounts open. Keep in mind that creditors may close revolving accounts that have little or no activity.
6. Keep Credit Utilization Low
Your credit utilization ratio, also known as your debt-to-credit ratio, is the amount of revolving credit you use divided by your total credit limit. Personal finance experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio under 30%, but it’s best to get it as low as possible.
Action item: Reduce your spending on credit cards and pay the bills at least twice a month to have a smaller percentage of your total credit limit outstanding at any given time. You could also ask for a limit increase, but it may not be approved if you have bad credit and are searching for how to improve your credit score.
7. Use Different Types of Credit
Having multiple types of credit – such as a secured credit card, a refinanced auto loan and a mortgage payment – is good for your credit score. Just make sure to pay your bills on time, or the downsides of holding multiple types of credit could outweigh the potential benefits.
Action item: Diversify the types of accounts on your credit report, but don’t apply for many credit types within a short time frame. Doing so could lead to multiple hard inquiries that make your credit score drop.