Achieving and maintaining great credit should be a lifelong commitment. After all, your credit reports and scores exert a tremendous amount of influence over your life and finances. Your credit can impact your ability to purchase a home, purchase a vehicle, land your dream job, and even your ability to pay for your child's college tuition. When you struggle with bad credit you are often either turned down for the things that you need or you are forced to pay much more than you would be required to pay if your credit was in better shape. Check out these 5 proven credit score improvement tips to help you begin your journey down the path toward a better financial future.
1. Set up automatic payments.
Payment history is the #1 factor considered by credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore. If you want to reach stellar credit scores then it is absolutely essential that you pay your credit obligations on time, every single time. Setting up automatic payments for your bills, especially credit card payments which tend to fluctuate from month to month, can serve as a safety net to protect you from late payments due to busyness and oversight.
2. Pay down credit card debt.
The second most important factor considered by credit scoring models is probably the percentage of your credit limits which are being used. This is also referred to as your revolving utilization ratio and it is calculated by measuring the relationship between your credit card limits and the balances you owe on those accounts. For example, if you have a credit card with a $5000 limit and you owe $2500 on the account then you are at a utilization level of 50%. The higher your revolving utilization ratio climbs the lower your credit scores will fall. Paying down your credit card debt, even by a mere 10% at a time, can easily start to push your credit scores back uphill.
3. Open new credit strategically.
Another important credit score factor is the age of the accounts on your credit reports. Both the average age of your accounts and the age of your oldest account are considered when it comes to credit score calculations. Opening new accounts too frequently will lower the average age of the accounts on your credit reports and, as a result, could potentially have a negative impact upon your credit scores. Therefore, it is best to open new credit accounts only when necessary and never because you simply want to score a 15% discount off your purchase at the mall.
4. Pay attention to your credit "mixture."
Credit scoring models reward people whose credit histories show that they have a history of managing a variety of different types of credit accounts. Therefore, if you have only 1 type of account on your credit reports - such as credit cards - then you are probably missing out on some potential credit score points. Maintain a variety of account types (i.e. auto loans, mortgages, installment loans, credit cards, etc.) over time and you could see a potential credit score improvement.
5. Stop having your credit pulled too often.
Any time your credit reports are pulled a record of the access, known as an inquiry, is placed upon your credit reports. Some inquiries, though not all of them, have the potential to damage your credit scores. Of course inquiries are only worth 10% of your FICO credit scores and around 5% of your VantageScore credit scores so they are not a huge factor considered during credit score calculations. Still, it is wise to be very selective about who you allow to pull your credit reports and when you allow them to be pulled. (Note: You never have to worry about checking your own credit reports. In fact, you should check them often via AnnualCreditReport.com or a credit monitoring service which includes your credit scores. These types of "soft" inquiries will never hurt your credit scores.)
Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with over 13 years of experience, the credit blogger at HOPE4USA.com, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.