Your credit score can impact nearly every aspect of your life. It can control whether you can obtain a mortgage, auto loan, or even a job. With this said, it is vital that you understand how to improve your credit score. Federal law requires that everyone have access to one free credit report per year. The reason this law exists is to allow individuals to verify that their credit reports are accurate. If there is inaccurate information listed on your report, by law you have the right to dispute the inaccuracies; the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate and respond to the disputed items. If the creditor who put the disputed item on your credit report cannot provide proof that you are responsible for the debt, it should be removed. To obtain a copy of your free credit report you can call 877-322-8228, or mail a request to annual credit report request service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
After you have received a copy of your free report and have reviewed it for any inaccuracies; you will need to dispute them directly with all three credit bureaus. The bureaus include TransUnion, Experian, Equifax. Once you have verified the information on your credit report is accurate, you can then use the following suggestions to help you increase your scores.
• Make Your Payments On-Time – The single most important thing you can do to improve your credit score is to pay your bills on time. If you have had late payments in the past because you simply forgot to make the payment, you may want to set up automatic payment arrangements to pay your bills. This will ensure that your bills are paid on time.
• Credit Card Balances – Credit cards (revolving credit) account for 30% of your score. To maximize your score, you should always keep your revolving card balances below 30% of their available limit.
• Credit Availability – Your scores are calculated based on your unused available credit, how much credit is open, and the length of your credit history. The length of your credit history accounts for 15% of your score. Based on this factor, it would be in your best interest to keep your revolving cards open instead of closing them, because closing old revolving cards would significantly shorten the length of your credit history. To keep a revolving card open, you should use the card at least once every six months. This will keep them from being inactivated.
• Lack of Credit – Unfortunately, if you have very little credit because you pay cash for everything; you probably also have a low credit score. Scores are only determined by the activity reported on your credit report; cash purchases have no bearing on your current score. Therefore, you want to have at least one installment loan and two revolving accounts open at all times. If you are having trouble getting credit, you could apply for a secured card from a local bank or credit union, or you could ask a relative or significant other if you could become an authorized user on one of their revolving cards. Becoming an authorized user will give you an instant payment history. Just make sure that the account you are going to become an authorized user on does not have late payments, or has a balance near the accounts limit.
• Judgments and Collections – If you have a judgment or collection that originated years ago, when you pay or satisfy the derogatory item it may temporarily lower your credit score. Keep this in mind if you plan to apply for credit. You may want to delay paying off old collections right before applying for a mortgage or auto loan.
There are many other ways to help increase a credit score; but keeping your payments on time, managing your debt properly, and having a reasonable amount of available credit are the easiest ways to ensure an acceptable score. Just remember, derogatory credit will immediately lower your scores, whereas making your payments on time and keeping your balances low may take as long as six months to recover from one negative item reported on your credit report.