Caring about your credit score is one of those things that’s very easy to procrastinate until you actually need it. You think, ‘I’ll get to it later’, and before you know it, the time comes when you need to move or you’re applying for a loan or you’re trying to lease a car, and your credit score suddenly becomes a real priority.
Unfortunately, if your credit isn’t where you need it to be when that time comes there’s not much you can do about it. Building good credit takes time. And while there’s no overnight fix for a low score, these steps can provide you with an initial credit boost to help you get on track to practicing smart credit habits.
Once you begin implementing these good credit habits, you can expect to see your score improve within a few months.
Start by checking your credit reports.
To see exactly where you stand and how much you need to improve, start by checking all three of your credit reports.
Your credit reports contain the data that goes into determining your credit score like your payment history, credit card usage, credit inquiries and more.
In addition to this information, you should also be on the lookout for anything you don’t recognize in your credit reports, like credit cards, bills, mortgages or loans that are listed incorrectly or don’t belong to you. These can be indicators of fraudulent activity or errors.
Errors on credit reports are common and can have a direct negative impact on your credit score, which in turn can make it more challenging for you to get loans, new lines of credit or better lending terms and interest rates.
To make sure mistakes are corrected as quickly as possible, contact both the credit bureau and the company that provided the information to the credit bureau. Both are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information on your credit report.
Remember, discrepancies and errors can happen at any time, so get into the habit of checking your credit reports at least once a year to keep track.
Get up and STAY up to date on your bills.
The most important factor in determining your credit score is your payment history. Unfortunately, it’s one of the hardest factors to improve over a short time period like six months.
While making outstanding payments might not raise your credit score immediately, getting up to date on all your bills can help keep your score from getting any worse. After all, missing just one bill can lower your credit score by as much as 100 points.
Make sure that late payments become a thing of the past by opting into email or text message alerts to remind you when payments are due. Or enroll in automatic payments so you never fall behind. The longer you pay your bills on time, the more your credit score should increase.
Pay down your credit card balances.
Another major contributor to your credit score is your credit utilization. That is how much you owe compared to how much credit you have.
So if you have a lot of outstanding debt, especially on revolving lines of credit, like your credit cards, it could be hurting your credit score.
Paying down your credit card balances will free up more of your available credit, reducing your debt to credit ratio and improving your credit score.
Try getting and keeping your credit utilization below 30 percent. So if your credit limit is $1,000, that would mean carrying a balance of no more than $300 at any given time.
Keep in mind that your utilization ratio is evaluated both on an individual and an aggregate level. Meaning that you want to keep your credit usage on both individual cards and across all cards at less than a third of your available credit when possible.
Consider a credit limit increase.
Calling your credit card issuer and asking for a credit limit increase is another quick way to increase your amount of available credit and improve your credit score.
The key here is to make sure you don’t use up that additional credit once you get approved for a credit limit increase. If you can stay disciplined and not add to your balance when you do, this strategy can offer a relatively quick credit boost.
Become an authorized user.
If you don’t have a long or strong credit history, you might be able to establish or improve your credit profile by piggybacking on the good credit of a partner or parent by becoming an authorized user on their account.
Before you do that though, make sure you actually know the credit history and habits of the account owner, as their missed or late payments on that account will also be reflected in your credit history.
While building and maintaining a strong credit history over the long-term is the best way to ensure a good credit score, these strategies can help give your credit a quick boost in the shorter-term.
And once you have these good credit habits in place, you’ll start to enjoy more and more of the benefits of maintaining them.