In the world of personal finance, a lot of things are uncertain: should you pay off debt or save? Purchase a home or rent? Invest in your company’s 401(k) or go it alone with an IRA? Sometimes it certainly seems like there are more questions than answers!
However, there is one thing that’s very clear about our financial lives: our credit scores matter. In fact, your credit score is undoubtedly one of the most important digits attached to your name. After all, it impacts your ability to purchase a home, the interest rate you’ll get on a loan, and possibly even your job prospects. Not to put too fine a point on it, but keeping your credit in tip top shape is one of the best money moves you can make.
Unfortunately, though, many of us have made a money mistake (or two) in the past, and our credit scores aren’t in the pristine condition they should be. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably on the look-out for some tips to boost your score. Well, look no further than these five proven strategies for putting your past financial missteps to bed and waking up to a brighter fiscal future!
1. Cull Your Credit Reports – All Three
According to a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year, one in five Americans has an error on at least one of their three credit reports. The three major credit reporting agencies – Experien, TransUnion, and Equifax – each keep a record of your how you’ve handled credit in the past, and mistakes on any of those reports could result in a ding to your credit score. This is why it’s very important to regularly look over your credit reports and make sure each is accurate. According to federal law, you’re entitled to one free report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies – go to annualcreditreport.com for more information.
2. Pay Down Your Credit Cards
A whole 30% of your credit score is determined by how much outstanding debt you have so it’s important to prioritize reducing the amount you owe. High credit card balances are particularly damaging to your credit score, so throwing as much extra cash as you can at your cards will serve to boost your credit score quickly.
3. Shop For New Credit Strategically
If you’re looking for a new car or home loan, be careful about how you shop for credit. Ten percent of your credit score is determined by how much new credit you’ve obtained; the credit reporting agencies recognize several credit score inquiries in a short period of time (30 days or so) as an attempt to find a single loan. If you spread your score inquiries out too much, they will be interpreted as several different attempts at obtaining new credit, which will damage your score. So if you’re in the market for a loan, limit your search to a 30-day period of time.
4. Pay Your Bills On Time And In Full
The largest factor impacting your credit score is your past history with making loan and other credit payments on time. If you find yourself forgetting to pay bills by their due dates, this is probably dragging your credit score down quite a bit. To prevent yourself from continuing to pay bills late, buy a calendar and map out the due dates for all your monthly payments. Or alternatively, set an alarm on your phone to alert you pay your bills in a timely fashion. Either way, keeping up with your bills is essential to repairing a poor credit score.
5. Be Patient
While there are certain moves that will boost your credit score faster than others (like paying down your credit cards; see above), the truth is that it will take several months before your improved financial habits will be reflected in your credit score. Just remember to be patient and keep up with your newfound money skills. Your discipline will pay off in no time!
The bottom line:Iimproving your credit score might seem daunting, but it can be done. Making just a few of the changes above can have a big impact on your score, so jump on the path to credit-worthiness today!