Improving your credit scores and your overall credit profile can help you to secure better interest rates, qualify for loan programs, and even open up employment opportunities. So many financial interactions and transactions rely on your credit to paint an accurate picture of you as a borrower. Use these 15 tips to make sure that your credit report captures your best side.
1. Get a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Everyone is entitled to a free report each year, and the site for obtaining a copy is AnnualCreditReport.com. You need a report from each bureau because different information goes in their algorithms, and not everything will show up on every report.
2. Review your credit report for erroneous information.
Look for accounts that don’t belong to you, or information for someone with your same name (especially if you’re a Jr., Sr., or III). Correcting these errors could provide a quick and easy credit boost.
3. Dispute errors like late payments, collections, or charge offs directly with the credit bureaus.
They are required to investigate all dispute claims and this is often the only way to remove derogatory information that was reported incorrectly or in error.
4. Bring any past due accounts current.
Delinquent accounts aren’t going to go away, in fact, if they turn into charge-offs or collections they’ll remain on your report for seven years.
5. Pay down any balances that are over your credit limit.
Having accounts that are maxed out weighs heavily on your credit scores and could be costing you in the form of penalty fees and increased interest rates as well.
6. Reduce your utilization percentage below 30% on all your revolving credit accounts.
The amount of available credit you have directly affects your credit scores and the lower your utilization percentage, the better.
7. Increase your available credit by requesting that creditors raise your credit limit periodically.
This reduces your utilization percentage and can help raise your credit scores as a result.
8. Keep your oldest accounts open.
The average age of your credit accounts directly affects your credit scores, so keep your oldest accounts active and in good standing. If accounts go unused for too long, creditors may shut them down due to inactivity. Consider making a recurring payment through the account and paying the balance in full each month.
9. Make on time payments every time.
Even if you can only make the minimum payment and need to set up an automatic payment so you don’t forget, it helps to build your payment history.
10. Make multiple payments per billing cycle.
This keeps your utilization percentage low while also helping to minimize your daily finance charges.
11. Pay off accounts that are the most recent and at the highest interest rates first.
This simple strategy will help you to prioritize which debts to pay off and yield the best results if you’re able to move from one debt onto the next, snowballing the payoffs.
12. Consider adding a different debt type via a debt-consolidating installment loan.
Having a mix of installment and revolving debt is beneficial to your credit scores, and consolidating higher interest debts can save you money monthly.
13. Keep your number of credit inquiries low.
Applying for new debt too frequently can actually lower your credit scores with each hard inquiry. Credit card companies that offer score reports or credit monitoring services are only making soft inquiries that won’t hurt your scores, so utilize this (often free) information.
14. Don’t close accounts that are old, in good standing, or have a zero balance.
These are helping you in three key areas: your average age of credit, your on-time payment history, and your utilization percentage.
15. Get added as an authorized user on a spouse or relative’s account in good standing.
Your scores can actually benefit from their positive history.