Many people ask “how can I improve my credit now” looking for tips that will help them put 100 points on their credit score in a month. Now, depending on your credit score situation, you may be able to do this. However, if you’ve got a 680+ credit score, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to be able to add so many points in such a short amount of time.
Instead, think about how you can improve your credit in the long term in order to get closer to that coveted 850 credit score. Here are some tips to help you improve your credit.
Start snowballing your debt.
Snowballing your debt is a debt elimination strategy espoused by personal finance expert Dave Ramsey. This strategy essentially has you pay off your debts starting with the smallest balance. What you do is simple: set up minimum payments for all your current debt except your smallest debt balance. You pay as much over the minimum as you can afford on your smallest debt balance. This way, you start eliminating debt one at a time. When one piece of debt is paid off, you take what you were paying on that debt and allocate it toward the next smallest balance.
This debt elimination strategy is effective for several reasons. First, it focuses on getting rid of each debt item and freeing up more cash to pay down the larger debt balances. Second, it takes your mind off of the more expensive debt and keeps you focused on the long term goal: being debt free.
As an added tip: paying down credit cards will have a bigger effect on your credit score than paying down nearly any other type of debt. If you’re concerned with your credit score, get rid of your credit card debt as soon as possible!
Set up automatic payments for as many bills as possible.
35% of your credit score is determined by your payment history. Most people have a lot of different bills they need to pay, and it can get hard to manage. Automatic payments takes the brainwork out of paying your debt obligations. Whether you’re paying the minimum balance or you’re trying to get rid of the debt ASAP, automatic payments can help make sure that you never miss a payment.
A good payment history isn’t just important for preventing your score from dropping. The longer you go without missing any debt payments, the better it is for your credit score. Most people should see their credit score increase over time so long as they’re making all their payments on time and not being overzealous with their borrowing.
Request credit limit increases (but don’t change your spending)
Another part of your credit score is based on how much debt you owe in relation to your available credit, or your credit limits (when referring to credit cards). The ratio of your card balances and your credit limit is called your credit utilization ratio. If you have a credit limit of $5,000 and you currently owe $2,000, your credit utilization ratio is 40%. The lower this ratio, the better, and generally speaking you want a credit utilization ratio under 30%.
Increasing your credit limit is a way to “hack” this. Although getting a credit limit increase will reduce your credit score in the short term, the reduction to your credit utilization ratio will be beneficial in the long term so long as you don’t change your spending habits! For this reason, many financial advisors don’t actually recommend this because some people may believe that they have more money available at their disposal. You, however, should know that this is not true and that just because you have more credit doesn’t mean you should borrow more.
Dispute any items on your credit report that seem suspicious to you.
Sometimes, credit bureaus and lenders make mistakes. People often pay for these mistakes and don’t even know it because their credit report might have errors that they’re unaware of!
In order to have as much control over your credit as possible, you need to be aware of what’s actually on your credit report. If you haven’t, get your free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. You’re entitled to receive a credit report from each credit bureau once per year by law. Learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)!
Once you’ve taken a look at each of your credit reports, look for items that you don’t recognize. If you see any, it’s time to start the dispute process. To do so, you’re going to need to call each of the credit bureaus that is reporting the item in question and file a dispute claim. This process can take some time. If the item in question is indeed incorrect or fraudulent, then you can have that item removed.
One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the best way to prevent problems from occurring on your credit report is to make sure that nobody can take out debt in your name.
This tip isn’t really going to improve your credit score: instead, it’s going to prevent it from going down in case your identity gets stolen. If your credit is frozen, it means that nobody (not even you) can take out new debt in your name. This means that you can’t open new credit cards, get a new mortgage, or borrow any more money.
To freeze your credit, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus. To do so, click the below links to be redirected to the Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion websites and follow the directions provided.
If this sounds detrimental, don’t worry: it’s not. You can unfreeze your credit at any time by contacting each of the three credit bureaus, similarly to how you froze your credit initially. It takes some time before your credit can be unfrozen, but once it is, you’ll be able to take out loans and open new credit cards again.