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7 New Year's Resolutions to Improve Your Credit


7 New Year's Resolutions to Improve Your Credit

Whether or not you are a believer in New Year's resolutions it is a smart idea to take an honest look at your credit from time to time in order to see how it can be improved. Good credit can help you to save tons of money, get approved for the loans you need, and can even help you to land a better job. It is 100% worth your time, energy, effort, and money to work towards achieving and maintaining the best credit possible.

Here are 7 steps that every single person can take to make steps toward having better credit this year.

1. Pay every bill on time.

The importance of paying your credit obligations on time, every time cannot be overstated. In FICO's credit scoring model a whopping 35% of a consumer's credit scores are assigned based upon factors included in the "Payment History" category of a consumer's credit reports. If late payments do occur you can bet the bank that they will have a very negative credit score impact.

2. Cut spending.

Overspending is perhaps the #1 cause of credit problems for most Americans. When consumers charge more than they can afford to pay off in any given month not only do they hurt their credit scores by doing so (yes, credit card debt can in fact lower credit scores even when payments are made on time), but they also set themselves up for financial problems and serious credit problems in the future. In fact, overspending can lead to late payments, collections, judgments, and even bankruptcy if the problem is left unchecked.  

3. Make a plan.

Failure to plan is the same as planning to fail. A well planned budget is a crucial step towards healthier credit. Smart consumers tell their money where to go instead of wondering where the money went after it has already been spent. CLICK HERE for a free copy of the HOPE4USA Basic Budgeting Worksheet to get started.

4. Establish credit.

Credit cards can be extremely useful tools in building or rebuilding better credit, as long as they are managed properly (on-time payments and never revolving a balance from month to month). Even consumers with credit issues can qualify for many secured credit cards. CLICK HERE for a list of credit cards to compare and see which ones might be a good fit for you.

5. Become familiar with your credit reports and scores.

Every consumer should be in the habit of checking all 3 of his credit reports often. The credit bureaus and your creditors are obligated by law to report accurate information on consumer credit reports. However, it is up to you and you alone to ensure that the information contained on your credit reports is actually correct.

You can access your 3 free credit reports each year at (credit reports only, not scores). You can also access your credit scores for a fee or as part of a free trial offer from a credit monitoring service. CLICK HERE to compare credit monitoring services which may offer free or low cost credit scores as part of their introductory offer.

6. Correct errors.

Errors occur on credit reports all the time. In fact, in 2013 the Federal Trade Commission released a study which found over 40 million errors to be present on consumer credit reports. If you discover incorrect or suspicious information on your credit reports then you have the right to dispute that information according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Disputes can be handled yourself or you also have the right to hire a professional credit expert like our HOPE4USA team to assist you. CLICK HERE to schedule a no-obligation credit analysis with a HOPE4USA credit expert to learn more about how our team can help you fight for the better credit you deserve. Fixing credit problems can certainly be a difficult job, but it is not a job that you have to do alone.

7. Establish goals.

The final tip is perhaps the first step that you should take as you set out on your journey toward better credit. Identify the reason why you want to achieve better credit. Do you desire to purchase a home for your family? Is your goal to have the strong credit you need to finance your education or the education of your children? Do you need better credit to start or build a business? Building better credit can be a long, hard journey (especially if you are working alone without professional help). Your "why" can help you to stay the course even if you feel frustrated or impatient at certain points within your journey. Your "why" is also the reason that all of your hard work will be worth it in the end. 


Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with over a decade of experience, the credit blogger at, 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, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.


5 Proven Ways to Earn Better Credit Scores


5 Proven Ways to Earn Better Credit Scores

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 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, 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. 


The Fastest Way to Improve Your Credit Scores


The Fastest Way to Improve Your Credit Scores

Smart consumers know to be skeptical of any "fix your credit quick" promises. However, there certainly are real, actionable credit steps that you can take to see a fast improvement in your credit scores. In this short video Credit Expert, Michelle Black, will show you the most actionable way to improve your credit scores in a hurry.


Credit Cards: Evil Traps or Useful Tools?


Credit Cards: Evil Traps or Useful Tools?

Your credit scores are arguably the most important numbers in your life. After all, credit has an impact upon you when you apply for a mortgage, try to finance a vehicle, open a new utility account, and credit may even impact you when you apply for new insurance policy. In fact, building healthy credit scores is so important that you should consider it to be one of your top wealth building priorities. Building healthy credit scores is right up there on the financial importance scale with becoming debt free and saving for retirement.

In order to establish healthy credit scores, you have to prove that you are capable of managing credit responsibly. One of the best ways to prove that you can manage credit responsibly is to open credit card accounts. However, for many people it can be very intimidating to have open credit cards. If you have ever made credit mistakes in the past or if you have ever overextended yourself financially and found yourself underneath a crushing load of debt then it is understandable why you may be a little gun shy where credit cards are concerned.

It can be very tempting to avoid credit cards all together if you have ever made credit card management mistakes in the past. Unfortunately, avoiding credit cards might have negative repercussions where your credit scores are concerned. What you need to remember is that credit cards themselves are not evil. A properly managed credit card offers customers a lot of great benefits. Here are a couple of the best ones:

1. Fraud protection –
If someone steals your cash, you have no reliable way to get your money back. If someone steals your debit card, your personal money could be at risk (at least temporarily) while the bank investigates the unauthorized transactions. If someone steals your credit card then the bank’s money is on the line, not your own.

2. Credit Building Possibilities –
If you keep a $0 or very low balance on your credit cards and you always make your payments on time, you have the potential to receive a credit score boost from your well-managed credit card accounts. The longer you manage your credit cards properly, the better the impact may be upon your credit scores.

Consider the Facts

People who are determined to live a “plastic-free” life with a cash only payment mentality often wind up paying more money in the long run than those who have credit cards but manage them properly. Remember, credit cards are not evil or bad. Racking up a ton of credit card debt by overusing your credit cards is definitely a horrible idea. However, excessive credit card debt can absolutely be avoided if you manage your accounts properly.

Properly managed credit cards can be a powerful tool to help to build your credit scores. An individual with no credit scores (or low credit scores) will likely pay more for car insurance, home insurance, and utility deposits. Plus, while it would be nice to pay cash for a house, most of us have to take out a mortgage to in order to purchase a home. Without good credit scores you can expect to either be turned down for a mortgage or to perhaps pay a higher interest rate and down payment. A higher interest rate on your mortgage could cost you tens of thousands of extra dollars over the life of the loan.

The truth is that bad credit happens to good people all the time. Just because you have low credit scores does not mean that you are a horrible person. Low credit scores simply mean that either you have made credit management mistakes in the past or that you have been the victim of unfortunate circumstances. Either way, you deserve a second chance and you can absolutely make a plan to begin rebuilding healthier credit again today. However, swearing off the use of credit cards is not a good strategy.

If you need help developing a plan developing a plan to begin rebuilding healthier credit, CLICK HERE to schedule a no-obligation analysis with a HOPE Credit Expert.

CLICK HERE to check out some great reviews for secured credit cards. It is best to do your research BEFORE you apply.


Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with over a decade of experience, the credit blogger at, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and  a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE Facebook page by clicking here. 

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