You’ve heard it before, and you’ll probably hear it again – it’s important to have a good credit score. If you have a high credit score, you’re showing lenders that you’re a good risk. That means you are more likely to pay your loan (or credit card bill, etc.) back on time and in full. Having a lower credit score can actually be pretty expensive in the long run. Loans, including mortgages, will carry higher interest rates, and you may also find you’re not eligible for credit cards with higher rewards, or even better cell phone plans. We’ve gone into greater detail on why you should you care about your credit score before. Here are a few simple tips on how you can take your score to the next level.
Strategy: How to improve your credit score
Improving your credit score might seem like a daunting task, but if you break it down, there are some simple steps to take. The five factors that make up your credit score are: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), credit mix (10%), and new credit (10%). Some of those are hard to make changes to quickly. But, if you focus on the ones you can make changes to, you’ll start see your credit score rise. Today, we’ll help you find out how to improve your credit score with three easy actions.
#1: Target Amounts Owed
The easiest, fastest way to improve your credit score is to target the amounts you owe on your credit cards. This portion of your credit score looks at your utilization rate, or how much of your available credit you’re using. To optimize your credit score, try to keep your utilization rate between 1-10%. There are two easy ways to get your utilization in good shape:
- Pay your balances down more often: Instead of waiting until the end of the month to pay your credit card bills, make payments to your credit card every two weeks, or even every week. That will keep your overall balance lower throughout the month, lowering your utilization and improving your credit score. Pro tip – check out our product, Debitize, to automate this!
- Increase your credit limit: A second option is to ask for a credit limit increase. This will cause a temporary hit to your credit when your bank does a hard credit inquiry to decide whether or not to approve the increase, but a higher limit will improve your utilization rate and credit in the long run. With higher available credit and more frequent payments, you’ll start to see big jumps in your credit score. Not sure if you should ask for a credit limit increase? Find out here.
#2: Target Payment History
Did you know that only 30% of Americans check their credit report more than once a year? Staying in the dark about what’s on your credit report could be harming your credit score. There may be mistakes on your credit report that, if left unnoticed, could drag down your credit score.
The only way to make sure you’re not being penalized for mistakes on your credit report is to check your report regularly! Set up periodic calendar reminders to check your credit report for errors on one of these free sites. If you find an error, make sure to get it removed. Find out how here. Removing any mistakes on your credit report will help improve your performance in payment history part of your credit score.
#3: Target Length of Credit History
Getting errors removed from your credit report is helpful, but don’t crazy with the removal requests. Old debt that you handled well and paid off as agreed actually helps your credit score. It shows that you have a longer credit history that you’ve handled well in that past, making you a better risk for loans and credit cards in the future.
For example, if you recently finished paying off a credit card and don’t plan to use it again, don’t close the card. Leave your oldest credit cards open for as long as possible to maximize your length of credit history.
Improving your credit score can seem daunting, but cleaning up your credit score doesn’t have to be hard. If you focus on the individual components that make up your credit score and look at small ways to improve in each of those areas, you’ll see your credit score start increasing in no time.