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5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Credit Health

Your credit score is kind of like your school grade point average. It’s a score that grades your credit worthiness and how you measure up to other credit card holders.

The average credit score hovers around 670 in the United States. That’s not a failing grade … but it’s 70 points below the optimal credit score of 740.

If your credit score matches the average and, especially, if your score is lower than most, it’s time to pull up your credit health. Credit cardholders with high credit scores can take advantage of everything from lower interest rates and better car insurance rates to swifter approvals for apartment leases and even new jobs.

Here are five ways to improve your credit health … and boost your credit score in the process:

  1. Know where you stand: You need to know where you’re starting. And, luckily, it’s free to get your credit report. Consumers can get free reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, a site authorized by the federal government. You’re able to receive one free report every 12 months from each of the country’s consumer credit reporting companies -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. It’s up to you whether you ask for all three reports at the same time to compare and contrast or to request one every few months to check in on your progress.
  2. Keep balances low: According to FICO, consumers with high credit scores often don’t even use credit cards. If they do charge items from time to time, they only use an average of 7 percent of their available credit. Unless you’re absolutely sure you can pay off your monthly credit card bill, hold off on swiping those cards for every single purchase. Maintain a budget, stick to those shopping lists and make sure you can afford every splurge
  3. Pay on time: You’d never shop at a store that advertised a “sale” where the cost of every item is 15 percent more than the price tag. But that’s exactly what happens when you don’t pay your credit card bill on time. Credit isn’t free. The average credit card interest rate is 15.18 percent. If you don’t pay off your entire bill each month, you’re essentially paying 15 percent above the cost of the items that you charged. Let’s say it again: You should never end up with a credit card bill at the end of the month that you can’t pay in full.
  4. Don’t be tempted: This recommendation will vary based on the credit card holder, but, if you’re a new credit card holder or have trouble managing the credit you already have, don’t be tempted by new credit card offers. It’s likely higher credit card limits will just mean more credit card debt … and that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
  5. Get help: If your credit card bills have gotten out of hand, consider debt consolidation options. A debt management program, for instance, allows you to systematically pay off debts, avoid penalties and decrease interest rates.

Reaching the head of the class in your credit card health takes plenty of effort, but the payoff -- and the peace of mind -- are well worth it.

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