Is your credit score holding you back? Are you unable to purchase a new car, or buy a home, because lenders are wary of your credit rating? If so, you’re not alone; nearly one-third of Americans have bad credit.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. You can take charge of your finances, and raise your credit score in 2018. Here are seven steps you can take to start improving your credit score right now.
Do You Even Know Your Credit Score?
The first step in improving your credit score is figuring out where you’re starting from. Most lenders use the FICO credit scoring system, which uses a range from 300 to 850; any credit score below 600 is considered bad. You can purchase a credit report with your score from any one of the three credit agencies for about $10.00. You may be able to get a free credit report from your credit card company, from personal finance apps like Mint, or from organizations like annualcreditreport.com as well.
Make a Plan
Once you have your credit score, look at the information in the report that led to that it. The credit report should show you all of the accounts you have open, and the total amount of debt you are carrying. You should also see your payment history as well. You’ll be able to determine factors which are hurting your credit score, such as high levels of credit card debt, or delinquent payments. Armed with that information, you’ll be able to make a plan of action to start addressing any problem areas with your credit.
You should start a file on your computer, or use a dry erase board, to track all of your major credit score issues; write down the different credit cards and outstanding loans you have in your tracker. You should also record all of your recurring bills you have as well, so it is easier to confirm when you’ve paid them each month. Use your tracker as a reference each month; it will help you ensure you are fixing any of the problems that were holding your credit score down.
Address Report Discrepancies
When you review your credit report, you may find that there are errors on the report, or that you’re the victim of identity theft. You should address any erroneous information on your credit report as soon as possible, especially if it is hurting your credit score.
Dispute the erroneous information in writing to the credit reporting agency that provided you the report, attaching any information to the letter that bolsters your case. If necessary, contact any lending agencies that may have erroneous account information about you as well. Fixing mistakes on your credit report like this can have an immediate effect on your overall credit score.
Start Tackling Debt
A new year is a great time to start paying down your credit card debt. Most of us relied on our credit cards heavily throughout the holiday season; we used them to buy gifts, to pay of dinner, and for our holiday travel. Make a plan to start paying down those credit card balances as much as you can afford to. If you’re able to make real progress on lowering balances, you will see a quick improvement in your credit card score.
Pay on Time!
Late or delinquent payments are another way to sabotage your credit score. In fact, payment history is the most critical factor in determining your credit score. So if you want to improve your score, resolve to pay all of your recurring bills on time. Your credit tracker can help you with this.
You can also use a bill paying service to automate bills like mortgage and car payments, which do not change from month to month. The more bills you automate, the less payments you have to worry about.
Establish New Credit
One of the ways you can improve your credit score is by applying and getting approved for new credit. Securing and maintaining good credit with a new credit card or short-term loan – purchasing items on credit, then paying off the entire balance each month – will be viewed as a positive by the credit agencies, and will help add points to your score.
Your current credit score may make obtaining a standard credit card challenging; if that is the case, you may need to obtain a secured credit card backed by a cash deposit. In any case, building good credit with a new card will help you improve your score.
Throughout 2018, you should take stock of how much progress you are making improving your credit. Every three or four months, check your credit score, or purchase a credit report. This will help you understand what the credit reporting agencies are seeing in terms of your progress. You’ll be able to use this periodic assessment to maintain practices that are helping to improve your credit score, and bolster areas where you have been falling short.
Your credit score is extremely important. A low score will limit your access to lenders, and close the door to you on many opportunities. The steps mentioned here can put you on firm footing to rapidly improve your credit score this year. So what are you waiting for? Make 2018 the year that your credit takes a turn for the better!