Are you looking for ways to improve credit? Your credit score is a number that potential lenders use to decide how likely you are to pay your financial obligations. Your score is an important part of your financial life as an adult and can factor into how high the interest rates you pay on credit, whether you qualify for a mortgage, and sometimes even whether an employer will hire you. The better your score, the more favorable the terms will be when you apply for credit.
If you’re just starting out with building credit, it will take some time to build a healthy score. And if you’ve made some credit mistakes and are looking to improve credit, the good news is that with time and effort you can recover. While you may want to see instant results, keep in mind that you didn’t damage your score overnight, and you won’t improve it overnight either. Once you learn the habits that lead to a better credit score, those habits can lead you to a better score for life.
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.
If your credit history is error-free, the most important thing you can do to improve your credit score is to pay on time, every time. According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, your payment history makes up the bulk of your credit score -- as high as 35 percent. Even one late payment can have a negative impact on your score, and if you habitually pay late, it can significantly reduce your score. 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.
Bringing your accounts up-to-date will help reduce 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, but 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, non-profit credit counseling can help you make a plan that works for your household budget and stick with it.
Your credit score is not fixed in stone. That means you can improve credit 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 a 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.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
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