Your credit score is important for so many areas of your life. To buy or rent a home, your credit will get checked. When you apply for a car loan, credit card or any other lending, your credit score gets checked. If your credit score is higher, you may even qualify for lower interest rates.
Since your credit score can impact so many of your future financial decisions and opportunities, you want to make yours as high as possible. If you’re not where you want to be, there are things you can do to improve your score and put you in a better position in the eyes of lenders.
What is a credit score? A credit score is a rating based on your credit history, usually ranging from the low 300s to the mid-800s.
Your credit score isn’t going to change overnight. But you can increase your score with some planning and patience. Here’s how:
Pay Your Bills on Time
One of the biggest factors that determine your credit score is making on-time bill payments. Consistently paying your bills on time can increase your score. Simple, right?
Unfortunately, being late or missing a single payment can cause your score to drop. And let’s be honest, sometimes a bill just slips our mind and we forget to make a payment.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, here are some things you can do:
- Enroll in automatic payments so your bills will get paid even if you forget
- Set up payment reminders for yourself when bills are due
- Regularly monitor all of your accounts to make sure that your bills are paid on time
Be Smart With Your Credit Cards
Credit cards can help increase your credit score when they’re used properly. Having a credit card with an established history can work in your favor if you stick to a smart spending plan.
This means you don’t want to use your credit card to live beyond your means. You don’t want to have a bunch of credit cards that are maxed out or carry a massive balance from month to month.
Pay your credit cards on time. Choose the right credit card or transfer your balance from high interest rate cards to lower interest rate options to help you make your payments while saving money.
Pay Down Your Debt
If you have a large amount of debt, it can impact your credit score. Most people have some debt, so don’t worry about eliminating every single thing you owe all at once. But look at the big picture and come up with a plan to get rid of debt where you can.
Simple budgeting is all it takes to pay down debt. Create a goal or set of goals to keep yourself on track while paying off your debt. Use budgeting tools to help monitor your progress along the way.
Monitor Your Credit Score and All of Your Accounts
There is no quick fix when it comes to increasing your credit score. However, mistakes can happen on credit reports. And when they do, it’s important to address them as soon as possible.
Here are some things to check for:
- Accuracy of all personal information
- Payments coming up as late or missed that were actually paid on time
- Make sure all of your credit accounts are listed
- Make sure there are no accounts or applications listed that you did not initiate
- See if the report is still showing data from decades ago
Each of the three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) has its own scoring model, so make sure to check all three. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to get a free copy of each of the three reports once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can stagger these reports so you’ll have a good idea of where you stand throughout the year. If you come across any errors, disputes must be done separately for each report.
While you’re at it, monitoring your all of your bank accounts is also a good idea. Log in to your online banking every day to help protect yourself from identity theft and deal with issues before they go on to negatively impact your credit.
Get Help When You Need It
If you’re in debt and struggling to improve your credit score, don’t let it overwhelm you. Consider free financial counseling to help you develop a debt management plan.
Once you have a plan to handle your debt and you dispute any credit report errors, your financial path can begin to improve.