Do you know what your credit score is? Are you looking to improve it?
I know, talking about credit, credit history, and credit scores doesn’t rank high on most people’s list of fun conversations. And yet, your credit score is something you should be talking about or at least aware of because it’s really important.
Your credit score is the number creditors look at when considering everything from the interest on your car loan to the type of credit card you’re eligible for to whether or not you can get a mortgage. It can even affect your car insurance rate. Different lenders will have different criteria for lending but anytime you want to borrow money, your credit score will be part of the equation.
Even though it’s not the sexiest of money topics, let’s talk about credit scores! So, what is a credit score and, if you have a less than stellar score, how can you improve it?
What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a number used by lenders to determine how likely you are to repay your debts. Credit scores range from 300 up to 850. The lower your score the riskier you are to lenders. Those with lower credit scores pay significantly higher interest rates than those with higher credit scores. A low credit score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over time.
The most widely used credit scores come via the Fair Isaac Corporation and is more commonly referred to as your FICO score.
A FICO score of 800-850 is considered excellent, 740-799 is very good, 670-739 is good, 580-669 is fair, and 579 and below are considered poor.
If you have good or excellent credit, lenders are more likely to loan you money and at better rates. Those with fair or poor credit scores are seen as riskier to lenders, have a harder time borrowing money, and at much higher interest rates.
Your credit score is composed of 5 different categories each with a different weighting:
- Payment history (35%) – do you pay your debts on time or do you have a history of late payments?
- Amount owed (30%) – how much debt do you already have on the books and how much of your existing credit are you using?
- Length of credit history (15%) – those with longer credit histories are viewed as more reliable than those with shorter credit histories. This makes sense. If you have a longer credit history, it gives lenders more data from which to measure behaviors. It’s one thing to pay your bills on time for one year, it’s another to pay your bills on time for twenty years.
- Credit mix (10%) – creditors consider your mix of different types of loans. Mortgage, credit cards, auto loans, etc.
- New credit (10%) – research shows opening multiple credit accounts in a short amount correlates with a higher risk profile
If you’re unhappy with your credit score there are things you can do to improve your number.
Here are some creative ways you can improve your credit score.
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6 creative ways to improve your credit score
1. Do a self-assessment
Before we jump straight into tactics, ask yourself why you have bad credit. Getting to the root of the problem will allow you to avoid making the same mistakes moving forward.
Do you spend too much, forget to pay your bills on time, or do you only make the minimum payments on your credit cards each month?
Are you regularly maxing out your credit cards? Have you opened multiple credit cards in a short amount of time?
All of these things can impact your credit score negatively.
2. Increase your credit awareness
Do you check your credit report regularly? If not, you may want to start. The only way to know if your credit has taken a nosedive is if you are monitoring it. Checking your credit card regularly can help to protect you and your credit score against things like credit card fraud or identity theft. Reviewing your credit report doesn’t impact your score, and there are ways to do it for free, so there’s no excuse not to. If you’re not sure where to start, head over to Credit Karma for your free scores and more.
3. Get a side hustle
While your income doesn’t directly affect your credit score it does affect your ability to pay your bills on time. Having more money can also help you to pay off debts faster or avoid going further into credit card debt. Reducing the amount of outstanding debt is one of the biggest components to your credit score.
4. Automate bill payments
Automating bill payments will help you avoid late or missed payments. It only takes a few minutes to set up and you don’t have to think about it again. Because your payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score, you want to make sure you’re always prompt with your bill payments.
5. Make frequent payments
Rather than making one lump sum payment at the end of the month, making multiple small payments throughout the month can help you to improve your credit score over time. This strategy works because it helps keep your credit utilization low. Credit utilization refers to the amount of credit you’ve used compared to the amount of credit available to you. Low credit utilization shows lenders you aren’t financially maxed out and they see you as less of a risk.
6. Ask for more credit
Okay, let’s start by saying this strategy doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re someone who can’t control their spending and will immediately rack up new debt, don’t do this.
However, if you’re responsible with credit and want to employ another strategy to boost your score, then this can be an effective strategy. When you ask for more credit, your amount of “available credit” goes up and you automatically get a boost to your credit utilization as you’re using a smaller portion of the amount of credit available to you.
If you’re wondering, “wait, I have the ability to rack up even more debt and that’s good for my credit score?” Yep, that’s how it works. You have the opportunity to increase the amount of outstanding debt but are choosing not to. Responsible borrowers don’t use most of the credit available to them.
Are you ready to improve your credit score?
If you currently have a poor credit score, don’t beat yourself up over it. Things happen. If you’re willing to learn from past mistakes, you can rebuild your credit score quickly. Start by figuring out why you have a bad score in the first place and then employ some of these creative strategies to help you improve your standing.