All adults should keep a close eye on their credit score and do everything possible to raise it.
Most people think that credit scores only play a role in determining whether you qualify for a loan. This is of course one of its main uses. Lenders use this three-digit score to assess the risk of lending you money. If your credit score is high, you can get approved for a loan at a relatively favorable interest rate. If your score is low, you may not be able to get this loan, but if you are, it will be at a slightly higher interest rate.
Your credit score impacts many other areas of your life. It can be used by insurance companies to calculate your premiums; by utility companies to determine the amount of your deposits; and by landlords to see if you are a good candidate to rent an apartment.
A recent survey by the Consumer Federation of America showed that consumer knowledge about credit scores has steadily declined over the past eight years.
It is essential that you have a basic understanding of what you can do to increase your credit score and that you do everything you can to achieve it.
Check your credit reports regularly
Ask for a copy of your credit report to make sure the information is accurate. You receive credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Before the pandemic, you could only receive one free credit report per year from each of these three credit bureaus. However, the three bureaus decided last year during the pandemic that consumers could receive a free report each week until April 20, 2022. You can access these reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Take advantage of these reports. Review them and immediately report any inaccurate information to the credit bureau. An error on your report could decrease your score, so it is important to study them carefully.
Pay all bills on time
There are five factors that go into calculating your credit score, and the most important is your payment history. This represents 35% of your credit score. If you’re looking to boost your credit score, one habit you need to implement is paying all your bills on time each month. If there were compelling reasons why you were late on some past payments, note it on your credit report. This may not affect your credit score, but it can be helpful when negotiating future loans. Commit to making all future payments on time for every bill you receive. When it comes to your credit card bill, it is very beneficial to pay the full balance each month to avoid high interest penalties. But if you can’t, make at least the minimum payment before the due date each month.
Reduce your debt
The amount you owe is another key factor in determining your credit score. it counts for 30% of your score. To maximize your credit score, you should not use more than 30% of your available credit. So, if you have a credit limit of $10,000 available on all your credit cards, have a combined balance of less than $3,000.
You need to pay off your existing debt as soon as possible. When it comes to credit cards, the best way to do this is to stop making additional transactions on your card. Then put as much money as you can each month to pay off your balance. The average credit card has an APR of 19%, so it’s very expensive to carry over a balance from one month to the next. The faster you reduce your balance, the faster your credit score will increase.
Do not close your old accounts
You might be tempted to close your old credit card accounts that were inactive. However, this can damage your score in two ways. When determining your credit score, the credit bureaus analyze the age of your accounts and create an “average age”, which is 15% of your credit score. If you close some of your old accounts, the average age of your accounts will decrease and your credit score will likely decrease.
Closing an old credit card account will hurt your credit usage. If you have two credit cards with a total balance of $4,000 and a combined credit limit of $10,000, you’re using 40% of your available credit. If you decide to close a credit card that you are not using that has a credit limit of $5,000, your available credit would drop from $10,000 to $5,000. Your credit utilization would immediately jump from 40% to 80% just by closing the single credit card. This will cause your credit score to drop and it will take you even longer to reach a 30% credit utilization score.
Don’t ask for multiple new credit cards
You might feel the need to apply for a new credit card to give you additional payment options. However, if your credit score is not good, it may be difficult to be approved for a card with a reasonable interest rate. Also, each time you apply for a new credit card, the issuer will pull your credit hard. If you have more than one, your score may drop for a while. If you need a new credit card, determine your credit score and only apply for cards that match your credit quality. This increases the likelihood of approval and fewer hits to your credit.