Looking for ways to build your credit score? Want to join the 800 Credit Score Club? Reaching a credit score of 800 or more feels incredibly satisfying. I joined the club shortly after my son was born and was so excited I started dancing. I know a few people who pay for nearly all of their large purchases with cash. Sounds great, right? But I can honestly tell you they were living in or taking extreme measures to make this happen. (i.e. living in grimy, run down rentals or sleeping on a relative's couch for a year or two.)
In a lot of cases, paying for a $100,000 home in cash just isn't realistic. Not in the immediate future anyway!
If you give your credit profile a little TLC you can build up a very attractive credit score. This can help you obtain low APR financing. We made a conscious effort to build our credit score and were able to purchase our last car with a 1% interest rate. Want to know how to increase your score too?
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1. Check Your Report for Errors
It is important to ensure that all of the information on your credit report is accurate. Under the federal Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA), nationwide credit bureaus are required to give you a copy of your report once every 12 months, at your request.
In the digital age, it's alarmingly easy to have your identity stolen. (If you're looking for ways to protect yourself, this is a great book.) My husband had his information stolen when he was a young child and didn't find out until he applied for his first job! To the credit bureaus, it looked like he had taken out and maxed a credit card without paying the bill. This would obviously hurt his credit score but once he proved that his identity had been compromised, the errors were removed.
2. Build a Good History of Credit and Payments
Credit bureaus will calculate your score based on your history of credit applications, credit received, amount of debt, debt payment behavior, and variation of debt type (i.e. car loans, credit card debt, etc.).
Did you apply for 3 credit cards in the same month? Or did you apply for them over the space of a couple of years? Are you consistently short or late on your payments? Or do you make all of them on time and in full?
Good financial habits like paying close attention to due dates, grace periods, and penalties can help you stay on top of your personal finance and build a good credit history. It only takes one instance of collections on your credit file to hurt your score dramatically.
3. Limit Your Credit Inquiries and Applications
Each time you apply for a credit card or loan an inquiry is made on your credit to determine whether or not you are a good candidate. This inquiry is recorded on your report regardless of whether or not you are approved.
Too many inquiries within a short period may hurt your credit score and will definitely make your profile look unappealing. A good rule of thumb is to avoid applying for credit unnecessarily.
I wrote a post about how our dryer was hurting our energy efficiency and in desperate need of being replaced. We took advantage of a promotional discount by opening a credit card and charging the new appliance. As soon as the statement came in the mail we paid the entire thing off. We never paid a cent on interest and proved we were dependable borrowers. It was a win win.
4. Focus on Your Debt to Credit Ratio
Your debt to credit ratio is calculated by taking the total amount of outstanding debt and dividing it by the total available credit from all of your credit accounts. The formula looks like this:
Debt to Credit Ratio = (Debt Used) /(Available Credit)
Your ratio should be no higher than 25-30%. Example: You have a $10,000 credit limit and you charge $3,000 to the account. What is your ratio?
Debt to Credit Ratio = (3,000)/(10,000) = 30%
One of the biggest myths I've read on improving your credit is to close any credit card accounts you are no longer using. The credit history you've accumulated with that card is used to calculate your FICO score. Closing that account will delete the history and lower your Available Credit amount. Yes, it will still show on your credit report but it is no longer used to calculate your credit score.
Remember how we talked about building a good history? The keyword there is history. Don't erase a good reputation if you can avoid it.
Give yourself time and patience if you want to grow your credit score. It take awareness, determination, and focus.
Remember to check your yearly report for errors and take the initiative to have them fixed. Don't be shy about this! It's your credit score at stake.
Lastly, maintain a strong personal finance mentality by spending wisely and within your means. This will help you avoid those excessive credit inquiries and any temptation to buy things you can't afford. Before you know it your score will slowly start to climb and you can do a happy dance just like I did!
What tips do you recommend for improving your credit score?