5 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score and Why You Should Care
Your credit score is the beating heart of your financial health. With a poor credit score, your finances are likely to be in weak shape. If your credit score is severely damaged, you will have a very hard time doing anything in the financial sector that involves borrowing money, opening new financial accounts or even setting up vehicle insurance or renting a new apartment.
Credit scores are used for more than just taking out a mortgage or a car loan. They are used by many companies as a temperature check on your ability to manage your finances. If your credit score isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can improve it. These five steps will help you raise your credit score.
Pay Your Bills On Time or Early
If you are dancing around with bill payment dates and past due notices, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Every bill you pay late is dinging your credit score, and if you have bills that are more than thirty days late, you’re smashing substantial holes in your credit score that are going to take some time to repair.
The first step for repairing your credit score is to simply get ahead of your current bills. Set up automatic payments through your bank so that every bill gets paid with the minimum payment on or before the due date.
Clean Up Your Credit Report
If you haven’t pulled your full credit report lately, it’s time. Credit unions will provide you with a free copy of your credit report if you request it, or you may pay a fee to have your credit report available immediately online. Once you have your actual credit report in hand, start digging.
You want to be sure that everything reflected on your credit report is accurate. If you find mistakes you can petition the credit unions to remove things that are there in error. You should also use this copy of your account to double-check that you have not been the victim of identity theft and that nobody has opened false accounts in your name.
Pay Down Balances
Your credit score is calculated using a formula. Part of that formula is how much credit you have available to be used. The more available credit you have, the higher your score. Credit that has been used, however, is not available.
So if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit and you’ve maxed it out, you don’t have any credit available. But if you have that same $10,000 limit but you’ve only used $6,000, you still have $4,000 in available credit. The more available credit you have on your existing cards and loans, the higher your score. So pay down your existing balances to free up that credit.
Use Your Credit
If you never use your credit, you’re actually harming your credit score. Lenders want to see that you can use the credit you have responsibility. That means charging things and paying them off. This doesn’t have to mean taking wild shopping sprees and then spending months paying off the bills.
You can establish good, healthy credit use in simple ways. Use one credit card to pay your power bill every month. Then send your power bill money to the credit card company to pay it off again. You can do the same with your groceries, cell phone and any number of other monthly bills that are roughly the same every month and easy to budget.
You’ve cleaned your credit report. You’ve been working on your balances and you’re using your credit wisely. Now you just need to monitor your credit score to see what it is doing. Set up credit monitoring through your bank or a separate company. Keep an eye on alerts that the monitoring sends to be sure no new accounts are opened, your finances are safe and your hard work is paying off as you intended.