by Ethel Wilson
Want to know how to improve your credit score? You’re not alone! There are tens of millions of people in the United States alone who have credit scores that make it difficult for them to get loans or credit cards. A score of below 620 is generally considered a low credit score, but that number can be raised more quickly than you realize. By taking a few fast and simple steps, you can quickly turn your score into a positive one. Even if you already have a good credit rating, you can further improve it by following these proven methods on how to improve your credit score.
How to Find Out Your Credit Score
If you’re not sure what your credit score is you can find out from FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation). Though there are sites online that offer free credit reports, these reports do not contain your credit score, and they are not what lenders generally use in their analysis. FICO is the company that introduced the internationally accepted method of calculating credit scores, and your true credit score can only be purchased from them. You can do so on their website, but beware that their offer to “get your free FICO score today” involves signing up for a 10 day trial of a three month membership subscription; not a recommended method of how to improve your credit score!
How to Improve Your Credit Score – Step #1 – Get a Credit Card
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to improve your credit score is to get a credit card if you don’t have one. If you don’t qualify for a standard card because of a low rating, apply for a secured card. With a secure card the bank will issue you a line of credit equal to the amount of the deposit you make with them. Don’t believe the myth that you need to carry a balance to get a good credit score. Paying off your card regularly and maintaining a zero balance will raise your score on a monthly basis.
How to Improve Your Credit Score – Step #2 – Keep Old Accounts Active
This secret of how to improve your credit score is a little known one, but very effective – don’t close unused or old credit card accounts. Canceling a credit card will actually lower your credit score, as it will diminish your payment history. Rather use old credit cards occasionally, even if it’s only once a month for small purchases. This will keep your payment history current, your balance low, and consequently raise your score.
How to Improve Your Credit Score – Step #3 – Stay Within Your Limit
Maxing out your credit cards regularly is a sure-fire way to damage your credit score. It is recommended to keep your balance at below 30% of the card’s limit. For example, if you have a limit of $1,000, don’t allow your balance to be over $300 – $350. It would be better to have two cards with balances less than 30% of the limit rather than one with 60% or more.
How to Improve Your Credit Score – Step #4 – Pay Bills on Time
If you are constantly late paying bills you are seriously damaging your credit score. This has the biggest negative effect on your credit score than anything, especially if you are referred to a collection agency. If you have overdue bills that you are having difficulty paying, contact your creditors and make arrangements for a payment plan. This will provide you with “goodwill” – show that you are making an effort to reduce your debt – and will go a long way to improving your credit score in the long run.
How to Improve Your Credit Score – Step #5 – Clear Up Old Disputes
There may be blemishes on your credit score that are not justified. Many of us have received late payment notices for bills that we have already paid. Unfortunately, even if you did pay the bill on time, the credit bureau has no way on knowing that unless you inform them. This must be done in the form of a dispute, which involves writing a dispute letter. You can also contact the company with whom you had the dispute and request that they inform FICO of their error. Unfortunately the onus is on the consumer; it’s unfair, but a necessary and commonly overlooked method of how to improve your credit score. ##
Ethel Wilson is a financial and credit specialist with 12 years experience in the banking, credit scores, and financial industry. She has advised countless clients on how to improve their credit score rating. She shares the best of her credit score information as a contributor and editor of CreditScoreResource.com.