Credit scoring can feel like an abstract concept. It’s tough to think in concrete terms about how a few points might affect your ability to get a loan or a credit card.
For example, what could adding 100 points to your credit score actually mean to your finances?
Adding 100 points to your credit score is significant, but what it could mean to your finances will depend on your starting point. With that in mind, here are some possibilities if your credit score is:
500 – With a 500 credit score, you probably find it almost impossible to qualify for a credit card or loan. You probably are paying more for car insurance, because insurers in most states use a credit-based score derived from the same information to determine your rates.
To be clear, 600 still constitutes poor credit in the eyes of most lenders, and you’ll likely have to pay a high interest rate on the credit products you manage to obtain.
But making the jump to a 600 credit score will give you a reasonable chance of getting certain credit cards or a personal loan if you need one. If you do, using plastic responsibly will help boost your score even further. It might not seem like much, but going from 500 to 600 will position you for future financial growth.
600 – Adding 100 points to a credit score of 600 will open a lot of financial doors. Once your score hits 700, you’ll be able to qualify for credit cards that require good credit. This is great news, because these cards tend to come with rewards programs (unlike most of the cards for people with poor credit). You can start racking up points or cash back with every purchase.
Also, with a credit score of 700, most banks will agree to offer you other types of financing without requiring a co-signer or charging a sky-high interest rate. It’s likely you’d even be able to obtain a mortgage.
Now’s the time to shop around for car insurance, too, as the penalties for a poor credit-based insurance score have disappeared — but your insurance company won’t automatically lower your rates.
700 – Bumping a 700 credit score up to 800 will put you in the big leagues. With a credit score this high, you’ll get approved for nearly every credit card on the market (assuming your income is high enough). This means you can get a card that offers primo rewards, including some of the more exclusive travel credit cards, or a 0% balance transfer card that allows you to consolidate debt cheaply.
An 800 credit score also means that you can get the most favorable terms on almost any loan you seek. In other words, having good credit means that you can borrow cheap.
Tips for pumping up your score
If you’re excited about the possibilities that will open up with the addition of 100 points to your credit score, you’re probably itching to get to work on your score. If so, here are our top tips for improving your credit:
Pay your bills on time — no exceptions: This is the most important thing you can do for your score.
Keep your credit utilization low: Don’t use more than 30% of the available credit on any of your cards at any time.
Use credit early and consistently: The easiest way to do this is to regularly use your credit card (while staying under that 30% utilization) and then pay it off every month.
Borrow sparingly: Applying for several loans or credit cards in the span of a month or two will ding your score. Only apply for credit you really need, and allow plenty of time between new applications.
Keep an eye on your free credit reports: Watch your credit report information for errors. The easiest way to do that regularly is through an online site, such as NerdWallet, that offers free credit scores and credit report information. If you see something that looks wrong, dispute it. Your credit scores are derived from information in your credit reports, so an error could result in your having a lower score than you deserve.
This article was updated Oct. 27, 2016.