A credit score: Most people have one, and most people want it to be better. The better your score, the better the offers you’ll receive on loans and lines of credit. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to improve credit. It just takes some time and a bit of effort. While you may want to see results now, keep in mind that you can’t boost your score overnight. Once you learn the habits that lead to a better score, those habits lead to a better score for life.
Get the Details
Your credit report, which is available from each of the credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax), will give you an idea of where you stand in terms of account history, number of open accounts, and payment history. Before you do anything else, get a copy of each report. You have the opportunity to get a free report once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Once you have the report, take a close look at it. One easy way to improve credit is to spot and report any errors you see. For example, one of your credit card accounts might be showing that you have paid late, even if you have paid on time. If you do see any errors, contact the credit reporting agency and dispute the error. The agency has to investigate and fix any mistakes you report.
Get Friendly with Your Calendar
If your credit history is error-free, the most important thing you can do to increase your credit score is get in the habit of paying on time, all the time. According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, your payment history makes up the bulk of your credit score: 35 percent. If you have had trouble paying on time in the past, one of the best ways to improve your credit is to use a calendar to record when accounts are due and to use auto-scheduling to make sure you pay on or before the due date.
Focus on bringing any past due accounts current. When you look at your credit reports, pay attention to any accounts that are showing more than 90 days overdue first, then accounts that are 60 days overdue, and finally accounts that are 30 days overdue.
Cut Back on Debt
Bringing your accounts up-to-date will help you bring down your debt, which will in turn help improve your credit score. Part of your score comes from the total amount of debt you owe, often compared to the amount of debt available to you. Paying down the debt you owe will not only raise your score, it will also lower your principal. This, in turn, lowers the amount of interest you will owe over time. If you’re unsure how to go about paying down your debt or feel overwhelmed by the amount of debt you have, nonprofit debt counseling can help you make a plan and stick with it.
Remember, your credit score is not set in stone. That means you can improve it over time, but it also means your score can drop if you are not careful. Learning to manage your debt is a critical step in bringing your score up to the great or excellent range. The more you understand how credit and credit scores work, the better able you will be to make the right choices when it comes to debt and your finances.
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Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
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