If you perform a quick online search on the topic “how to improve credit score,” you’re sure to come across pages of tips and ideas. Yet when it comes to your credit, you have to be careful which advice you decide to follow. Take the wrong advice, and you could end up hurting your credit instead of helping it.
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are 9 of the best strategies to help you learn how to improve your credit score.
How to Raise Your Credit Score
- Fix credit mistakes.
When it comes to your credit reports, it’s up to you to make sure the information on those reports is accurate. The best way to accomplish this is to check all three of your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. If you find mistakes on your reports, federal law gives you the right to dispute them.
You can claim a free credit report from each credit bureau once every 12 months via AnnualCreditReport.com. If you want to check your TransUnion credit score for free or sign up for free credit alerts, you can also check out the free Credit Score Plus program from RISE.
- Pay on time. It's no surprise that paying your bills on time is the most important factor considered when your credit score is calculated. In fact, payment history is worth 35% of your FICO Score. On-time payments could be just what you need to put your credit score on the path toward improvement. If you don’t already use one, creating a budget can go a long way toward helping you break the late payment habit. You can also set up payment reminders and schedule automatic payment drafts to help you avoid any late payments due to accidental oversights.
- Consider establishing credit.
When you don’t have much experience with credit, you might not be eligible to receive a credit score. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be difficult to establish credit, even if you have no previous history or credit problems in your past. Consider starting with a secured credit card that reports account history to all three credit bureaus. Once you have your first credit accounts, be sure to pay them on time and make it a goal to keep the balance below 10% of the credit limit.
- Open a mixture of accounts.
Credit scoring models are designed to reward you when you properly maintain a variety of different account types. Although credit mix isn’t a huge factor, it is worth 10% of your FICO Score.
If you only have credit card accounts currently, you might consider opening an installment account, like a credit builder loan. If you only have installment loan history on your reports, adding a credit card to the mix might be a good move.
- Don’t apply for too much new credit.
When you fill out an application for financing, like a credit card or auto loan, a lender will usually check your credit report as part of the process. A record that your credit was accessed is recorded on your report. This is known as an inquiry.
Some credit inquiries don’t hurt your credit score, like when you check your own report. However other inquiries, like those that happen as part of a loan application, have the potential to impact your credit score in a negative way.
If you want to earn better scores, it’s best to develop the habit of only applying for new credit when you really need it.
- Pay down credit card balances.
Debt, in particular credit card debt plays an important role when it comes to your credit score. This is measured by both the total dollar amount owed and the credit utilization rate.
Paying down your credit card balances will decrease the amount you owe and decrease your credit utilization rate which can boost your credit score.
- Consolidate credit card debt.
If you’re currently living with credit card debt, you’re not alone. According to Experian, the average balance on credit cards is $6,028.
While it’s in your best financial interest to pay your credit cards in full each month, that may not be realistic based on your current financial situation. A consolidation loan could be an option to consider instead, if your credit scores are already in decent shape.
Using a consolidation loan to eliminate credit card debt certainly has the potential to save you money if you can qualify for a lower interest rate. Plus, if you pay off your revolving credit cards with an installment loan, you could lower your revolving utilization and potentially raise your credit score at the same time.
- Increase credit limits.
Another way to lower your revolving utilization ratio is to ask your credit card issuer for a higher credit limit. Remember, the percentage of your credit card limits being used, your credit utilization ratio, is a factor in your credit score.
You can lower your revolving utilization ratio by paying down a credit card balance. However, you can also lower utilization by increasing your credit limit. So, if your credit card issuer is willing to raise your credit limit, there’s a chance your credit score could improve as a result.
- Get added on as an authorized user.
Having a credit report that contains older, well-managed accounts is an important key to earning a good credit score. Yet you might not realize that you can get someone else’s positive account added to your report.
If you have a friend or family member who is willing to add you as an authorized user onto an existing credit card account, you could reap the benefit of your loved one’s good payment history. Keep in mind that any negative history on an authorized user account could hurt your credit score too.
It’s also never a good idea to pay money to be added onto a stranger’s credit card. There are companies who will help you “rent” a tradeline to be added to your credit reports. But, if you fall for this scam there’s a chance you might be guilty of loan fraud.
How to Increase Credit Score Fast
While you may be able to see a quick impact on your credit score by following some of the tips above, it’s important to remember that it takes time to improve your credit. Stay the course, track your progress, and be patient. As long as you consistently follow these 9 good credit strategies, your credit score stands a great chance to improve over time.