How to Improve Your Credit Score
Credit scores are very important in the United States, as a good credit score is often required to rent a property, lease a car, take out a mortgage or receive other types of loans. Read on to understand exactly what a credit score is, what affects a credit score, how to avoid credit score pitfalls and how to improve your existing credit score.
What is a Credit Score?
Credit scores are based on your credit history, calculated by credit bureaus such as Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. These bureaus calculate your credit score based on how much credit you have used and how quickly you have repaid the credit you’ve taken out.
Good credit scores these days are essentially anything above 700, while having a score beneath 700 has recently been deemed as unsatisfactory and could even lead you to being rejected from obtaining certain loans or additional credit cards.
What Affects Your Credit Score?
Your credit card score is ultimately determined by how well and how frequently you make repayments on your credit cards or other debt obligations. Paying your rent on time, making car payments or mortgage payments, paying the electricity bill, water bill, tv and internet bill and other similar activities can all affect your credit score.
Here’s a breakdown of just a few of the many elements that determine your credit score:
- Your Payment History – If you have a habit of letting months go by without making any repayments to your credit card, then your credit score will be nowhere near 700.
- Only Paying Minimum Payments – Making a minimum payment to your credit card won’t affect your credit card as much as not paying anything at all, but if you continue to only make minimum payments this will eventually negatively affect your credit score.
- Maxing Out Your Credit Cards – The difference between what you owe on your credit card and your credit card limit plays a big part in how your credit card score is calculated. If you have maxed out a card, or multiple cards, this will reflect poorly on your score, whereas if you owe very little on all of your cards, this will improve your credit score.
- Making Late Payments – A recent study by from Fair Isaac, which developed FICO scores, reports that being 30 days late on a mortgage payment affects your credit score by dropping it somewhere between 40 and 110 points. Being late 90 days was reported to drop credit scores between 70 and 135 points.
- Length of Credit History – How long you have owned your credit cards also affects your score, as people with the highest scores have often maintained a regular repayment scheme on their credit cards for at least five years. Even people who manage their credit card well may have an average or even below average credit score if they have only had a credit card for a year or so.
- Declaring Bankruptcy – Declaring bankruptcy can negatively affect your credit score for years to come. Counter-intuitively, bankruptcies have a greater impact on people who previously had a great credit score than they do on those with poor credit scores. Depending on which Chapter you file, a bankruptcy virtually ruins your credit for years to come (7 years for Chapter 13, 10 years for Chapter 11 or Chapter 7). The same study noted above by Fair Isaac reported that bankruptcy can drop your credit score somewhere between 130-240 points, which is a serious hit that should be avoided at all costs.
- Foreclosures, Short Sales & Deeds-in-lieu – Foreclosures, short sales, and deeds-in-lieu certainly aren’t good for your credit score, but recent reports show them to be slightly less negative than bankruptcies. Filing for foreclosure is likely to decrease your credit score somewhere between 85-160 points.
How Do You Improve Your Credit Score?
A bad credit score causes significant problems when trying to buy a house, rent a property, or finance a major purchase, but fortunately there are many ways to improve your credit score. Here are just a few:
Make Payments Regularly and On Time
Avoid late fees, interest charges and other penalties by always aiming to make your credit card repayments on a regular basis and on time. This is the quickest way to improve your credit score. This can be easier said than done, especially if you earn a low income or simply don’t have a lot of cash lying around, but the quicker you can pay off your debts, the faster your credit score will be restored to a healthy number.
Have Multiple Credit Cards, Each with Low Balances
To avoid maxing out your credit card, which can be extremely damaging to your credit score, take out multiple credit cards, each of which you maintain a low balance on. Paying off these cards individually and on time will help you to maintain a good credit score and establish a solid credit history.
Stop Putting as Much on Your Card
In order to maintain a healthy credit history, you will still need to make some charges to your card, but try to limit how much you put on it. Remember that decreasing the gap between how much you owe and your credit card’s limit will negatively affect your score, since your credit usage ratio is a major determining factor. Try to only put essentials on your credit card, and pay for everything else with cash, debit card or by check.
Take Out an Installment Loan
How you manage an installment loan, such as an auto title loan, is another way in which credit bureaus will analyze your credit history. If you take out an installment loan and make regular repayments both on time and for the full amounts owed, then your credit score is likely to improve. Proving that you can effectively manage a credit card and an installment loan shows creditors that you are responsible with loans and are a reliable person worthy of being provided with additional credit.
Contact Your Creditors
If all else fails, you may need to contact your creditors to ask them to reduce your debt obligations. If you’re unable to pay off your bills and are worried about how this is affecting your card score, you can contact your creditors directly to see if some kind of arrangement can be made to consolidate your debt or even reduce the amount that you owe.
Sometimes lenders, and especially credit card companies, will suspend interest for a couple of months if they believe that you actually can’t pay them back, while others may offer repayment plans that are more manageable and realistic for your current income levels. Contacting creditors is never fun, but in some tough situations, it does become an absolute necessity.
Major Credit Score Pitfalls to Avoid
To protect your credit score, be sure to avoid some of the following pitfalls. While these aren’t all heavily publicized, nor as damaging as the problems we outlined in the section about what determines your credit score, the following activities all have the potential to damage your credit score:
Treating Your Credit Card as Money
Credit isn’t the same thing as money and it really isn’t supposed to be used in the same way as cold, hard cash. Credit should be paid back as quickly as possible to prove that you are using it responsibly, and to avoid having too much interest tacked on to whatever you’ve spent.
When you use your credit cards, keep in mind that you will have to make repayments for whatever you’ve spent, plus interest. Spend carefully, don’t neglect to pay your bills on time, and monitor your credit card statements like a hawk to prevent your healthy credit score from being damaged.
Applying for another Credit Card, Once You’ve Maxed out Others
It’s true that if you have multiple credit cards this can help boost your credit score, but only if you are using them responsibly. If you pay each of them off regularly, and maintain low balances, then this is definitely a plus for your score, but doing anything other than that could lead to credit score disasters.
If you have maxed out your credit cards, try to avoid the temptation of taking out another one and instead cut back your spending, sell some personal items, and do other things to get out of debt before using any additional credit.
This may not help improve your credit score, but doing otherwise could cause significant damage to it. Creditors (lenders) do not want to give money to people who are borrowing from one group to pay back another, as that risky type of behavior is likely to lead to financial ruin. For your credit score’s sake always try to pay off maxed out cards before opening new ones.
Closing a Credit Card Account if Debt is Owed
If you owe money on a credit card, your debt isn’t going to be erased by simply closing your account. In fact, debt collectors will be hounding you for repayments even more aggressively than ever before. To get rid of your credit card debt, you’ll either have to pay it off or declare bankruptcy. Paying off your credit card will help raise your credit score, but doing anything otherwise (and especially declaring bankruptcy) will almost certainly send your score plummeting.
You can improve your credit score by following the various tips outlined above, but remember that it’s a lengthy process. Demonstrating that you’re a responsible user of credit takes time, determination, and dedication. Pay down your debt, do not open new lines of credit, and do your best to avoid using your credit cards unless you can’t avoid it, and you’ll be on the path to having a proper credit score in no time.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation with your back against the proverbial wall, and no way to come up with the money needed to pay for your bills, then consider taking an option of last resort like calling Car Capital Financial to discuss the possibility of taking out a car title loan. We can provide you with the liquidity you need to get out of a short-term crisis, without causing you long-term financial distress. Title loans are issued based on your ability to repay the loan.
To secure your financial future, call us now at 1-888-500-9887.