How To Boost Your Credit Score
June 18, 2021
Any of us who have ever applied for a loan or credit card understand the importance of a quality credit score. In fact, the lifetime cost of paying higher interest rates due to bad or mediocre credit can exceed six figures. Unfortunately for many of us, the importance of a credit score can be learned too late. According to a 2017 survey, over 44% of U.S students say they have not received any education on credit responsibility from parents or educators.
With this in mind, many Americans are seeking ways to improve their credit score. Outlined in this article are steps to:
- Pull Your Credit Report
- Understand Factors That Affect Your Score and How to Improve Them
Pulling Your Credit Report
Pull a copy of your credit report from one of the three major national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This can be done through the official AnnualCreditReport.com website.
You can also sign-up for credit monitoring where your score can be viewed. These credit monitoring companies, like www.creditkarma.com, are helpful because they will also show you what factors are affecting it positively and/or negatively.
Understand Factors That Affect Your Score
Once you have pulled your credit report, take some time to review the factors contributing to your score. These factors include:
- Payment history
- Credit usage
- Credit history length
- Credit mix
- New credit
Don’t miss payments! This is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Any missed payments made 30 days or later can be reported to the credit bureaus and hurt your credit score.
If you struggle with remembering to make on-time payments, consider these tips:
- Download a bill tracking app like Bill Organizer & Reminder where you can upload bill information, connect to your accounts, and receive monthly/daily reminders.
- Automate bill payments from your debit/credit card or bank account.
Credit Usage is the next most important factor used in determining your credit score behind payment history. Credit usage refers to the portion of your credit limit that you are using at any given time. This applies to credit cards and lines of credit.
Those with the highest credit scores tend to keep their credit utilization ratio in the low single digits, but if that is too difficult for your situation, a good rule of thumb is to keep your total outstanding balances at 30% or less of your total credit limit.
Some tips to lower your credit utilization and therefore improve your credit score include:
- Asking for a credit limit increase, reducing your credit utilization (if your balance does not increase as well).
- Many credit cards have a high balance alert feature to warn you when your credit utilization ratio is getting too high.
Credit History Length
How long your revolving credit account has been open also has a small impact on your credit. This factors in the average age of all your accounts. The older your credit, the more favorable you appear to lenders.
This means that instead of closing all credit accounts your no longer using, keep them open and allow the available credit of those accounts to positively affect your credit utilization ratio.
Credit Mix refers to the types of credit accounts you have. This can include credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, etc. While this factor is not heavily weighted when determining a credit score, it does have some effect, and lenders like to see that you can manage revolving credit with installment accounts, like student loans.
Before a credit card or loan is granted to an individual, something called a credit inquiry is done by the lending party to see how the applicant has managed credit in the past.
There are two types of credit inquires; hard inquires and soft inquiries. A soft inquiry may include pulling your own credit report to review standing, a check by a potential employer, and a credit card company checking to see if you may be prequalified. These soft types of inquires do not affect your credit score.
A hard inquiry is done by creditors and lenders upon application of a credit product like a mortgage, or credit card. The occasional hard inquiry is unlikely to have much of an effect. But many of them in a short period of time can signal to lenders that you are facing financial difficulties and therefore a risk.
If you are trying to boost your credit score, avoid applying for financing options that would require a hard credit inquiry for some time.
How Long Will It Take to Fix My Credit?
How long it will take to rebuild your credit will depend on the amount and type of damage done. Once you begin to repair the damage done by catching up on past-due balances, making on-time payments, and building your credit history, negative marks will fall off over time. Most negative marks will fall off your credit report in seven years and stop impacting your score even sooner. Chapter 7 bankruptcies can stay on your report for up to ten years.
For more personal finance education and tips check out the rest of our blog posts at https://www.sunmarkbank.com/blog.