Back when you were in your teenage years, you didn’t really care how to increase your credit score, because it didn’t really affect you.
But now that you’re older and you’re buying things like cars, big TVs, furniture, boats, and even your first or second house, having a good credit score is becoming increasingly more important to your finances. Personal finance training is becoming much more important.
The difference between a credit score in the mid 600s and one in the mid 700s (or even 800s!) will literally mean tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your life in saved finances charges, and will also allow you to use that money for other more important things.
Just think of what you could do with an extra $30,000. Fund your retirement maybe? Hopefully that’s what you were thinking!
But I don’t have to convince you that having a great credit score is a good thing. You already know that. You want to know the is the “how to” behind credit scores in the high 700s and even the 800s.
The Formula to Increase Your Credit Score
I’ve used the strategy below since I was a undergraduate student to grab a credit score in the upper 700s. I’m not saying that to boast at all. I’m saying that because I want to help you get yours there as well. Trust me. This stuff works.
I wish I could tell you there was a magic way to get your credit score to the 800s tomorrow, but the fact is, there isn’t. Good credit score are established over time through paying your bills on time, and mostly just really boring responsible financial management.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little bit of credit score hacking to get there in a more efficient manner. It always helps to know how things work!
First – Check out the infographic below for a few seconds, courtesy of www.personalloans.org. After you’ve given it a look, scroll down below it. I’m going to explain a little bit about how your score is calculated, and how each strategy in this post caters to increasing your score along with the rules of the system.
Increase Your Credit Utilization Rate
First take a look at the section to the bottom right on the puzzle piece card in the middle of the graphic. It says 30% amounts owed, blah blah blah. Well, if you read the fine print of what this actually means, it boils down to one question in the mind of creditors.
How much debt does this person have vs. how much available credit does this person have? Or, total debt / total credit. This is an easy way to get an at a glance look at how responsible you are with the credit you currently have.
This is called your Credit Utilization Rate and it makes up a huge chunk of your score.
If you’re tapped out, your score is likely to decrease because you’re more likely to default on the credit you already have.
Here’s how to improve this portion of your score over time.
- Pay down outstanding debt with high interest rates
- Negotiate a lower interest rate
- Increase your available credit limits
- Avoid racking up additional debt
Paying down outstanding debt is as simple as allocating money automatically towards your high interest accounts. Pay towards these accounts first so you don’t even have the chance to spend that money. This will help you take the emotional pain out of paying down your bills, making it much easier on you to accomplish.
Negotiating a lower interest rate is usually fairly straightforward. All it takes is a call to your credit card company, a conversation telling them you have been focusing on paying down your debt, and a little persistence. They’ll usually lower your rate a few points which will allow you to pay your debt off even quicker.
Increasing your available credit limits is also fairly simple. Some cards actually allow you to do it online. Make your payments on time for a few months and get your account in good standing. Then simply call up your credit card company and ask for an increase. Do this every six months or so and over time you’ll significantly increase your limits.
Only do this if you’re a responsible spender. Don’t get a credit limit increase so you can spend more. Get it with the idea in mind that it will help you increase your credit score for the long term, which will save you a lot of money in the long run. This is not about getting you more money to irresponsibly spend. It’s about improving a key credit metric.
Most of all for this strategy to work, you have to avoid racking up additional debt. Do things like eliminating monthly expenses and making use of sites like Mint.com to take control of your spending. Avoiding additional debt will help you in a lot more ways that just your credit utilization rate.
These things combined will lower your total debt, while simultaneously increasing your total credit. This will improve your overall utilization rate and thus give you a nice bump in your credit score. Expect this to take about a year to take full effect for double digit increases, but when it does, it will make a significant difference, so get started now.
Clear Your Credit Report of Delinquencies
See the top left section of the puzzle card on the graphic above? This section represents your payment history on lines of credit that you have. Strikes against your name are obviously bad in the eyes of creditors.
Have you ever missed a payment for any reason? Ever had anything repossessed, your identity stolen, a store flub and use your name when it should have been someone else’s? The fact is, you don’t know what is on your credit report unless you look.
People make mistakes, and even if you have a perfect payment history, one of those mistakes might end up as a strike on your credit score. With this section making up a giant 35% of your credit score, it’s just plain stupid not to keep a good eye on it.
This might not be the most glorious task in the world, but it’s really important and it’ll only take you about 10 minutes at most to check. Here’s how.
- Check Your Credit Report for Delinquencies
- Clear Your Report By Contacting Creditors
- Continue to Pay Your Bills on Time
- Set Up Reminders to Stay on Top of Your Report and Score
By law, you are due one free credit report each year. You can get this at this address - https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp
To get your credit score, go to http://www.myfico.com/ - This site will give you a free trial normally, but it’s only about $15 if not, which is well worth it to stay on top of your score. Check this yearly to see where you stand. It’s always good to stay informed. And don’t fall into the trap of buying all 3 scores. They’re all essentially the same. I’ve never seen anyone’s score dramatically differ between the three.
Set up a reminder on your calendar once a year to get these once a year. It’s quick and easy and fully worth it.
Be careful not to go to the other credit sites you see on TV. They’ll give you the correct information, but then they’ll try to profit from you by selling you their premium credit monitoring services in exchange for your report. This is useless. Don’t fall for it.
Fill out your information and complete the simple process to access your credit report. This will show you all of the lines of credit you currently have, and most importantly, will tell you if anything has been reported against you. This is what you’re looking for.
What To Do If You Find Delinquencies on Your Credit Report
I’ve actually had stuff on my report that shouldn’t have been there. Some from mail being lost. Some from actual errors made in processing. But believe it or not, I’ve actually missed payments in my life too, and those appeared on my report. Here’s what to do if this happens to you.
Identify each item that counts against your score. Each one should list details next to it with contact information. If you find something that shouldn’t be on your report, simply contact a representative using the information provided and have a conversation with someone to get it taken care of.
Even if you have screwed up, you can often get items removed quicker if you prove you are on the road to recovery. Contact people at those places as well and talk to them about your efforts. Ask what you can do to get the items removed quicker and follow their advice.
Write letters, make phone calls, send emails. Be persistent with these places. Sometimes you might not get a response the first time. This won’t take you any more than a few hours of total effort and it can result in a very quick boost in your credit score – sometimes double digit increases in just a few months.
Try it. You have absolutely nothing to lose by trying.
Now that your name is cleared, make sure you stay on top of your report by grabbing it each year and checking it for errors. Oh and… pay your bills on time from now on!
Keep Your Credit Accounts Active and Automated
This strategy refers to the bottom left portion of the puzzle card above. It factors in things like how long you have been using credit and how much active credit you currently have. It basically gives creditors a picture of your history and experience with credit. The more responsible history you have, the better it is for your score.
- Get Started With Credit Early
- Keep Your Accounts Active
- Automate Your Payments
If you’re someone without much of a credit history, you’re going to want to get started as soon as you can. The length of your credit history plays a pretty large factor in determining your overall score. If you haven’t proven you can maintain responsible credit, you’re not going to look good on paper to creditors.
Even if it’s a card with a $500 limit, just get started. To ease into establishing your credit history, only buy things on it that you absolutely need and pay your card off at the end of each month.
Once you’ve got your account active, make sure it stays active. Use your card at least once a month. Use technology to automate your payments straight from your bank account. This way you don’t have to worry about missing a payment.
Get a few different cards over time to increase your overall available credit.
One great strategy that I like to use to keep multiple accounts active is by auto-paying small monthly subscriptions like music services, magazines, and online tools. Just one transaction a month keeps a card active, and will allow it to contribute to your overall credit utilization rate and credit history. If you let cards idle for too long, they won’t count towards your score.
Follow this strategy over time to build up a good history. This one won’t be a quick contributor like the others, but history is incredible important to determining your score, so make sure to get started now if you haven’t already, even if its in a small scale.
The strategies above account for around 80% of your credit score. Focus on maintaining them, remember to pay your bills on time, and you’ll be in pretty good shape to build a solid credit score.
Please Comment and Share This Post
Well that was a monster post, and there’s some serious gold in there for you. Post any questions you have in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Also, this is a post that can help a lot of people save a lot of money. Please share this with your network to spread the message as widely as possible. Your friends will greatly appreciate the help!