Your credit score is more than just a number. It’s a financial gateway that could lead to more approvals and lower interest rates. If you want to achieve better credit, read on for 5 easy tips to help you improve your credit score.
1. Always pay your bills on time
Paying your bills on time is the backbone of good credit. If you’ve been late in the past, making it a priority to always pay your bills on time could help you improve your credit score. According to FICO, a single 30-day or more missed payment could drop your score as much as 83 points! This surprising data is based on a consumer’s report with ‘very good’ credit and no other missed payments. Depending on the severity of the item, as well as what’s listed on your unique report, the exact score impact you could experience from a late payment may vary. However, paying your bills on time is a great way to prevent a possible score drop and potentially help you improve your credit. If you’re struggling to pay your bills on time, here are few tips that may be able to help.
Schedule due dates around pay dates
When setting up a new bill, many companies will allow you to choose your due date. If this is an option, schedule your due date right after your payment date. This easy tip can help you ensure that your necessary bills are paid before diving into your discretionary funds. For older bills that do not align with your current payment schedule, try calling the company to see if they will allow you to make the change.
Set up auto-pay
Auto-pay takes the stress out of remembering when and where to pay. If you’re confident that you can keep the funds available, set up auto-pay to ensure that you never miss a due date.
Mark your calendar
If auto-pay isn’t an option, or if your account is at risk for an overdraft, schedule calendar reminders before each bill is due. When you receive your alert, take prompt action to pay the bill that day.
Never ignore a bill
If you do not have the funds available on your due date, whatever you do, don’t ignore it! Too many missed or late payments could lead to a credit-busting default. Instead, call your lender and ask if they offer internal hardship assistance. Programs such as this can potentially help you reduce your monthly payments until you’re able to get back on your feet. Payment deferment, forbearance, or a good-faith grace period may also be available. Options like this may not be a guarantee, but you might be surprised to learn how many businesses are actually willing to work with you during a time of need.
2. Dispute credit report errors
Are you sitting down? Good, because a whopping 79% of credit reports could contain at least one error! Inaccurate claims, duplicate data, and even fraud can negatively affect your creditworthiness. Even though you may not be able to prevent credit errors from popping up on your report, you can take action to potentially remove them via the dispute process. To begin, review your 3-bureau credit reports. If you detect an error, it’s wise to dispute it quickly. Depending on the severity of the error listed, a successful dispute removal could help you improve your credit score. To learn more about the dispute process, including how to file a new dispute, click here.
3. Reduce your credit utilization ratio
In short, your credit utilization is your end-of-month balance as it compares to your credit limit. As a general rule of thumb, consumers should keep their credit utilization ratio at or under 30%. If you’re currently over this 30% threshold, reducing this number could help you improve your credit score. Here’s how it works. Let’s say you have a credit limit of $1,000. In order to keep your utilization ratio at or under 30%, then your balance should be $300 or less at the end of each billing cycle. Why does this number matter? Glad you asked. The more unused credit you have on hand, the more appealing you may be to potential lenders. Maintaining a low utilization ratio shows that just because the funds are available to you, doesn’t mean you’re going to spend every penny of it.
4. Request an increase in your credit limit
By this same token, if you have a track record of successful payments, consider requesting an increase in your credit limit. As we touched on above, having more unused credit in your name could help improve your credit score. However, it’s important to realize that if you are able to secure an increase, this shouldn’t give you the green-light to charge items you can’t afford. This is especially true if your end-of-month balance exceeds 30% of your new limit. Remember, the goal here is to keep your credit limit high and credit utilization low.
5. Diversify your credit profile
Remaining in good standing on a single loan or credit card is a great start to building healthy credit. However, if you’re looking to improve your credit score, you may want to consider diversifying your profile. Having a mixture of various types of credit (i.e. credit cards, an auto loan, mortgage, etc.) may help you boost your score. The key to this tip is to have different forms of credit that are all in good standing. With this in mind, opening up a ton of new credit cards at once or taking out a loan that you can’t afford is not the trick. Instead, strive to have a responsible combination of credit on your report paired with a history of successful payments on each.
Exceptional credit can be achieved in many ways. The 5 easy tips above are some of the basics behind reasonable credit management. So whether you’ve had some dings in the past or are looking to build on the score you have, actions such as paying your bills on time, disputing report errors, and reducing your credit utilization ratio, could help you improve your credit score.
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Disclaimer: The content provided is for informational purposes only and not to give advice or guidance on credit improvement. The list above is general in nature and may not cover all of your options or lead to credit improvement. Always be sure to do your own research on which credit strategies are right for you.