Trying to figure out how to raise your credit score might seem like a massive challenge. After all, it’s not like you’re handed a “book on your life’s financials” when you become an adult. (Some of us think that would be a great idea, however.) It can seem like your credit score is almost arbitrary, or something that’s out of your hands. At Credithub, though, we’re here to tell you this: it’s not arbitrary. It’s not out of your hands. And you can start raising it right now.
Check out these 10 ways that you can boost your credit with practical, easy-to-do actions that you can implement right away to start pulling your credit score up.
- Join a friend or family member’s account as an authorized user. If a family member, friend or other trusted person is willing to help you with this, it can be extremely helpful to your credit. Have them add you as an authorized user on their credit card. That way you can use the card to make purchases and the card’s payment history shows up on your credit report as well as theirs.
- This makes it vital to choose a person who you know is financially responsible and pays off their credit cards regularly. You also need to make sure you work out a system with them where you pay off your debt to them regularly because at the end of the day they are the ones responsible for the credit card debt.
- Pay everything you can with automatic payments. The most important factor in determining your credit score is your payment history. Make sure you don’t miss any payments by putting any bills you can on Autopay. This is usually quite simple, and some creditors even reward you for setting up Autopay.
- Make a budget. It’s really a very simple thing to do, and it makes you think about where your money is going. If you’re not quite sure how or where to start, this tool from Experian may be a helpful place to begin. Or quite simply, you can list two columns in a notebook or on a legal pad for credit (money coming in, like salary, tips, freelance work, etc.) and debit (money going out, like mortgage/rent, bills, your daily coffee from the local shop, etc), and use that to begin understanding how you are making and spending money.We know this doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing to do, so maybe make it a late Sunday morning task instead of a Friday or Saturday evening one. Here’s the best thing about doing your budget, though: you are now empowered. You know what is going on and where you can make changes so that your money is working for you. You can see exactly where your pitfalls are and know how to change them.
- Keep your old credit card accounts open. Even if you no longer use a particular credit card, it’s typically best to keep the account open. Your credit score benefits from a long credit history and a high total credit limit. If you close those established accounts, it shortens the average age of those accounts and lowers your total credit limit. If keeping the account open means being charged a high annual fee you can’t afford, it may be wiser to close the account, but first ask the creditor if they will work with you towards a lower or no-fee card. They may be willing to work with you on this.
- Limit applying for new lines of credit. Oh, it’s so tempting to jump at those credit card offers that arrive in the mail, offering the sun and the moon and a handful of stars for a low low APR and no annual fee. Every time you apply for a credit card, however, your credit report will show a “hard inquiry” and may drop your score briefly. Plan to apply only for the credit that you truly need, after having done all of your research and determined what you’re probably going to qualify for.
- Always dispute errors in your credit report. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people have errors on their credit reports. Nobody’s watching out for your credit score but you, and if there are errors on your report, it is your responsibility to find them and dispute them. You are entitled to one free credit report each year from the major reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). When you receive your reports (you can apply for them all at once at annualcreditreport.com), go through them with a fine-tooth comb, and file a dispute if you find any errors with that specific agency.
- Pay balances down. Paying down your credit card balances shows creditors that you are financially responsible. The second most important part of what makes up your credit score is your debt-to-credit ratio — your credit utilization ratio. Pay down the debt on a high-interest card or loan first, since these are costing you the most in terms of interest rates and spiking your credit utilization ratio. The pros say it’s a good idea for that ratio to be below 30% at all times.
- Avoid fraud by protecting your personal information. Identity theft can affect your credit, wreaking havoc on your financial life and sometimes leaving you financially responsible for things you never purchased, accounts you never opened, or other fraudulent activity. Help keep your data safe by using a different password for all of your online accounts, from email to banking and credit cards, and using a password manager to keep track of them and simplify their usage. This is especially important if you use a lot of public WiFi networks, as these can leave your information more vulnerable than when using protected networks.
- Stay away from “credit repair” scams. There are, unfortunately, a number of unscrupulous, for-profit companies who will promise you that they can get items erased from your credit score or otherwise help raise your credit score by paying them a fee. These scoundrels are selling snake oil. There is no way to pay anyone, including the reporting agencies, to remove negative items from your report or boost your credit otherwise. The methods we have discussed here will work, but stay far, far away from anyone trying to tell you that they can get rid of your bad credit if you’ll pay them. It’s impossible to do because if the items are accurate, they cannot be removed from your credit report. And if they are inaccurate, you may — and should — dispute them as discussed above.
- Use a nonprofit credit counseling agency. They’re very easy to find, and they can assist with a wide variety of concerns, from applying for your first credit card to helping with debt management plans. Many of these services are offered free of charge or at extremely reduced costs. Sometimes they can assist in helping you plan a budget, plan for a large expense, or offer other assistance, as well.
That’s all we have time for today, but check back in with us soon to see our follow-up, ten more ways to boost your credit in 2020. As always, we love hearing from you, so feel free to contact us anytime.