How to Improve Your Credit Score

Building a good credit score can help you reach big milestones on your journey through life. Renting a nicer apartment, getting lower interest rates on college, car or home loans, and even landing that dream job — they’re all influenced by good credit! So, on to the big question: how can you improve your credit score? We’ve got some tips that’ll help.

How Long Does It Take to Improve Credit Score?

The short answer? It depends. Say your score took a hit when you opened a new credit card or maxed one out — that can usually be resolved within a few months. But if you’ve made a habit of missing payments, you may be looking at a couple of years. No matter where you’re at on that scale, there are a few things you can do to improve your credit score more quickly.

Pay on time

It may seem like a no-brainer, but paying your bills on time is the #1 step on how to improve your credit score. Setting up automatic payments from your bank account can help you stay on schedule, but remember to keep enough money in the bank to avoid overdrawing.

Make payments frequently

It’s no secret that paying down debt is easier said than done. But reducing your credit card debt, along with paying off student loans or mortgages, can help raise your credit score. One smart way to start hacking away at that debt is to make multiple smaller credit card payments each month vs. one big one. Making payments each time you get paid will help you keep it top of mind, not to mention it helps you pay down that credit card debt more quickly, which is one of the fastest ways you can improve your score.

Only use 30% of your available credit

Keep below your credit card limits. The amount you owe compared to your credit limit (or your credit utilization ratio) typically has a big impact on your credit score. If your monthly credit card spending is usually close to your credit limit, it can negatively affect your score — even if you pay off your credit card bills right on time. So, try charging less each month to stay well below your limit. 30% is typically a good rule of thumb, but if you can get your spending down to 20-10% of your limit, that’s a formula for a bump in credit score.

Request a higher credit limit

Remember how we talked about only utilizing 30% of your credit limit at a given time? That might be difficult depending on your financial situation. But one thing you can do is request a higher limit on your card. There are a couple of pros and cons to this. First, if you up your limit and then just up your spending as a result, you’d be doing yourself no favors. The idea is to up the ceiling on that limit, but keep the spending at the same level so that credit utilization ratio remains ideal. Another thing to look into before going this route is if you’re able to request a higher limit without sparking a hard credit inquiry, which can temporarily drop your score. Call your card issuer to ask what’s possible.

Keep credit cards open

While you might think having less credit cards would help you improve your credit score, that’s actually not the case. In fact, closing credit cards can ding your credit score, because closing a card means losing its limit, which effects your credit utilization ratio. So keep all of your current cards open, and use them occasionally so the issuer won’t close them. Just be sure to keep on top of payments and you’ll be on the path to improving your credit in no time.

Review and dispute inaccurate credit reports

A key step in improving your credit score is making sure you’re regularly monitoring your credit reports. A mistake on any one of your credit reports could be making a big impact on your score, so you’ll want to keep an eye on things. You can request a free report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. Be sure to do so and dispute any errors you see.

The first step if you see something that looks inaccurate would be to contact the creditor directly to verify the error. If they disagree with your dispute, take these steps:

  • Write a letter to the credit reporting company and include what information you think is inaccurate.
  • Include copies of materials that support your dispute.
  • Send the letter by certified mail with “return receipt requested” to make sure your letter will be delivered.
  • Allow 30 days for the investigation.
  • You’ll be given the results of the investigation in writing. If your error is verified, you’ll need to reach out to the three major reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) so they can correct the information.
  • Finally, notify anyone who received your report in the past six months so it does not continue to negatively impact you.

These tips can get you on the right track to having great credit, which can help you plan for your future!

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