Credit scores are the equivalent of a financial report card. There is no way to avoid having credit scores since the Big Three consumer reporting agencies – Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian – keep tabs on your credit situation daily. These agencies then report your scores to any lender who requests it.
A credit score is also called a FICO score. If you have a low credit scores you could be turned down for home or auto loans. Your low score can also actually contribute toward your financial woes since it usually means higher monthly payments on any money you borrow.
There is hope, however! By taking the right steps, you can improve your credit scores significantly. Here are 7 tips for improving your credit scores.
Tip #1: Check your latest credit reports from each of the Big Three bureaus:
The first step toward better credit scores is to find out your current score from each of the Big Three consumer reporting bureaus. You can find a number of Web sites that give you access to this information for FREE. To find one, run a search in your favorite search engine using the keywords free credit report.
Tip #2: Immediately correct any blatant mistakes:
Download and review each report item by item, circling any blatant errors you find. Of particular importance are inaccurate unpaid balance flags, the existence of credit accounts that you never opened, and incorrect information concerning your current address. You must take each of these mistakes quite seriously and address them to both the relevant credit agency and, when applicable, the lender in question.
Tip #3: Pay your bills on time:
This is a common sense item, but people having credit problems often neglect it due to the snowballing nature of their debt situation. Paying your bills on time is very important, and nowadays even utility companies are reporting your payment history to the credit agencies. Hint: to improve your score even more, make your monthly credit card payments before the end of the statement period. This has the positive effect of keeping any charges made that month from even showing up as a balance on your cards, thereby improving your ongoing debt-to-credit limit ratio (see Tip#4).
Tip #4: Improve your debt-to-credit limit ratio:
In calculating your credit worthiness, the Big Three credit agencies factor in heavily your debt-to-credit limit ratio. As the term implies, this ratio is simply the result of dividing your total current credit card debt by the total credit limit across all of your cards. The ratio is always a number between 0 and 1, with numbers below 0.5 being most favorable. There are two ways to reduce your debt-to-credit limit ratio. One way is to simply reduce your credit card balances by paying them down. Another option that many people fail to consider: request an increase in credit limit from your creditors.
Tip #5: Pay off debt, don’t just move it around:
While it can be a smart move to transfer debt from your higher interest credit cards to your lower interest cards, this does not substitute for actually paying down your overall debt. Just moving your debt from card to card is not going to improve your score.
Tip #6: Avoid closing credit cards just prior to a loan application:
Some people believe that closing out some of their credit cards immediately prior to applying for a loan is a good idea. However, this is not true. On the contrary, it has the effect of suddenly increasing your debt-to-credit limit ratio, which is a credit score no-no. In fact, as long as you have the will power to use your credit cards wisely, it can be a good idea to keep multiple cards. Then, use these additional cards from time to time, charging small amounts and then quickly paying them off. This reflects positively in your credit scores as your having a healthy ability to manage your debt.
Tip #7: Understand the influence that bankruptcy has on your score:
As a final note, beware that having declared bankruptcy in the past can make it especially hard to achieve better credit scores. Bankruptcies can stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.