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5 Tips for Actually Improving Your Credit Score This Year



5 Tips for Actually Improving Your Credit Score This Year

It’s easy to decide you want to improve your credit score, but doing so can be complicated in practice. There are so many different factors to manage, and little things can make a big difference in your score. But don’t hesitate to get started, because the earlier you start, the sooner you’ll see results. Kick off your financial future with these five tips for improving your credit score this year.

1. Practice Healthy Payment Habits

The most common and consistent way to build your credit is by using a credit card to its fullest potential. All you need to do is to pay your bills on time, and restrict your total credit utilization to 30% of your limit. Pay off your balance monthly if possible, or at least pay down as much as possible each month. Set aside this amount in your monthly budget so you make it a habit. If you take out a loan, then treat it the same way (paying enough monthly so you don’t build interest).

Not everyone has the good standing that will get them accepted for a new credit card, though, and that’s OK. There are still plenty of options for you if this is the case. Secured credit cards require a security deposit instead of good credit. These cards allow you to make those crucial payments without the hurdle of needing good credit in the first place.

2. Use a Bill Reporting Service

Along with your credit card and loan bills, car and mortgage payments are the main activity reported to credit bureaus. If you don’t own a car or home, then you won’t be able to build credit as quickly.

Even rent payments are, unfortunately, not always reported by landlords — but there are services that will report them for you. Services like Piñata report your payments at no charge to you, while others require an enrollment fee or charge by the month. Rental Kharma and Rock the Score are two options that offer a monthly paid option.

Depending on your financial situation, setting aside the money for this can make a notable difference in your credit score. You can even find services that report utility and phone bills, although their effect on credit will be less visible. Still, every bit counts, and the life opportunities that a raised credit score affords you will likely outweigh the downsides.

3. Plan to Pay Off Any Outstanding Debt

Any amount of debt in your name for any reason will have an undesirable effect on your credit score. Whatever kind of debt it may be, it is best that you pay it off as soon as you can. Create a plan within your budget to treat debt the same as any other payment you need to make on time. Don’t let it build up any more, or not only will it hurt your score, it will also cost interest.

Some people say that spreading out debt payments monthly will actually help you financially (like an extra credit card payment). According to Experian — one of the main three credit bureaus in the United States — this is almost never true. As long as debt persists unpaid on your credit record, it will always negatively affect your score in some fashion.

4. Ask for Help From a Trusted Friend or Family Member

If you are having trouble getting approved for a credit card then you still have options. Ask a loved one with good credit to co-sign a card or add you onto theirs as an authorized user. The former makes you more likely to get approved and the latter will tie your credit to their account activity. This way, you can piggyback off their good credit by association to build your own safely.

Take care to treat their help with respect, because it can be risky for them if you miss any payments. It’s important that you act responsibly since both scores can be affected by your actions.

5. Be Mindful When Opening or Closing Credit Accounts

One of the main factors of a credit score calculation is your activity regarding opening, closing, and maintaining accounts. Opening too many accounts closely together or closing them without consideration can make lenders assume you aren’t careful with money. It can also lower your average account age, which will lower your credit score in the short term. The older your accounts (i.e., the longer you maintain them), the more trustworthy you look in the long run.

In truth, it’s often best not to close any of your accounts at all if you can help it. Still, too many can be overwhelming, in which case it may be more responsible for you to do so. It’s better to be in good standing with a few well-tended accounts than in bad standing with an unmanageable amount.

The credit scoring system is scary to dive into due to the many rules and downsides. Unfortunately, even one chance event can make things take a turn for the worse. Regardless of this fact, you can do your best to prepare for your future (and emergencies) by taking the initiative. Only you can build up your credit score, and when you do, you’ll be all the better off for it.