How To Improve Your Credit Score In 3 Easy Steps

by The Smarter Wallet on February 14, 2010

Check your credit score, then take steps to improve it.

improve your credit score

Credits scores play a very important factor in determining where you’ll end up living and working, as well as how much interest you are charged on mortgages and other loans. The truth is, credit scores can have a major impact on your life and wallet! That’s why Fair Isaac, the creators of the FICO scoring system, include so many aspects of your credit when creating a score for your credit profile. The FICO scoring system is broken down into the following percentages and categories:

  • 10% Unused Credit
  • 10% New Credit
  • 15% Length of History
  • 30% Amounts Owed
  • 35% Payment History

Your FICO credit score is created and derived from these five categories and can range from a low 350 up to the highest score possible of 850. Most of us, however, do not make it to 850. Given that, what makes an acceptable credit score? You want your score to be above 700 in order not to be considered a credit risk. So are you there yet? If not, here are three simple steps that can assist you in raising your score today!

How To Improve Your Credit Score In 3 Easy Steps

#1 Pay your bills on time!

This seems like a no-brainer, but many people fail to do this. Once a bill becomes 30 days late in payment, your credit history takes a hit, and the credit score begins to plummet. So, one of the best things you can do for your score is to pay your bills on time or at least before they are 30 days past due. This action is included under the largest category for determining your score: “payment history.” Also, if you are struggling with paying credit card payments on time, then you may want to consider calling your creditor to ask for a hardship program or you may want to find a licensed credit counseling service in your area to assist you with your debts. You can find such a service through this link.

#2 Diversify your debt.

The second action you want to take to improve your credit score is to spread your debt out. You have heard people say, “do not put all your eggs in one basket,” right? This statement holds true for banks, investments and debt. You do not want all of your debt on one credit card, where your credit limit is maxed out. It is far better to spread the debt out and use only half the credit limit on each card. Here is an example: say you have two cards and both cards have a $4,000 limit. You have one card completely maxed out at $4,000. The other card has a zero balance. It would be far better for your score if you transfer $2,000 from the maxed out card to the other card that has no debt on it. This way, you are only using half of the credit line on each card which makes you look like less of a credit risk. This factor is included in the category of “amounts owed” and makes up 30 percent of your credit score.

#3 Check for errors in your credit report.

Finally, you want to pull a copy of your credit report and look for errors. The credit reporting agencies are notorious for placing erroneous items on credit reports. These could include items that you have paid for, but are designated as “unpaid”, collection accounts, and accounts that may have a name similar to yours, but are not yours. You can pull a copy of your report from each of the three agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Tip: Use a myFICO coupon code to receive a discount when ordering your FICO credit score. To be even more vigilant, you may want to take a look at credit monitoring services to keep tabs on your credit information on a regular basis.

Review each report and dispute any errors. All three agencies have a link on their web sites where you can dispute items online. Removing any derogatory items can cause your score to rise very quickly since this item also falls under the “payment history” category. If you can implement these three steps, you are sure to see your credit score improve.

 
Contributing Writer: Selena

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Rat February 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I find that the way credit scores are calculated are nebulous at best, and the agencies have a lot of leverage/leeway to provide scores that are not entirely accurate.

I once received ‘credit reports’ to verify the change in my credit score as I borrowed more, paid credit down, and also eliminated credit. I find the system is very slow and sometimes unresponsive for long periods of time to reflect actual changes. I find them impractical in a lot of ways.

Also, I found an error on one of my reports and the level of bureaucracy involved to make the change official made the task virtually insurmountable and I left it alone for the headache that it involved, it wasn’t worth it!

Nice thread!

2 Matthew May 11, 2010 at 8:54 am

I think the credit system is completely broken. If you lose your job or have a divorce, you can never recover. 8 years later and i’m still considered a “credit risk” even though I have not even attempted to have debt since my troubles. The troubles never go away, none of the good stuff gets reported and ultimately, the credit score is a sham. I have 2 cars and a home, all up to date. My debt to income ratio is good, yet still i’m told that I cannot borrow money simply because of my credit score.

If a person’s ebay feedback only ever showed the negatives, only people who have zero negatives would get to bid and sell effectively. Sooner or later in life, something’s going to happen to you negatively. Sometimes its out of your control. I feel like I’m at the mercy of my credit score. Now, hospital bills are thrown against your credit as well. Hospital bills and student loans have destroyed my ability to get a credit card or borrow any money, and apparently even get a good job. Without a good job, i can’t fix my credit score. How ridiculous is this?

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