Could you tell me what your credit score is right now without looking it up? If not, then we have a problem. The effects of your credit score are far reaching, and a low score can have a negative impact on your financial health. Most people know that their credit score affects their ability to borrow money (e.g. to buy a new car), but did you know that it can also affect your employment eligibility and even your ability to obtain housing?
Maintaining a respectable credit score is more involved than simply avoiding late payments. Here are 10 steps you need to take if you want good credit:
Keep available credit, but don’t use it.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, this is important. Credit utilizations is defined as the amount of money you owe on your credit cards divided by your actual credit limit. Financial experts recommend keeping credit card balances at 25% to 30% of what is available. For example, if you have a $20,000.00 limit on your credit card, you should spend less than $6,000.00 of that. Credit utilization is going to account for almost 30% of your credit score.
Don’t cut up old credit cards.
It’s a common misconception that you need to immediately stop using all forms of credit if you want to improve your credit score. Even if you have overextended yourself, experts recommend consistently paying one bill, like your water bill, with a credit card to show that you are a reliable payer.
Keep old credit accounts open.
Your credit history will account for nearly 15% of your overall credit score. As long as you’re not being milked for annual fees, you should try to keep credit cards open for as long as possible. You can use a free card to pay one or two bills regularly. Having old credit cards open keeps your credit utilization rate low because it increases your overall available credit limit.
Pay your bills on time – every time.
When it comes to determining your credit score, your payment history is the single most important factor. According to FICO, payment history accounts for 35% of your overall credit score. Credit agencies are going to examine how late your payments were, the amount of your payment, how recently the delinquent payments occurred, and how many late payments you have. It can’t be stressed enough – pay your bills on time!
Simply ask for forgiveness.
If it is the first time you’ve accidentally missed a payment on a bill, pay it as soon as possible, and then place a call to your bank. If you politely explain the situation and stress that it is your first time, they will more than likely be willing to help you. This will assist in keeping the late payment off of your credit report. Even if the late payment has already hit your credit report, your bank may be willing to contact the credit agency and correct the situation.
Use your credit card like you would a debit card.
Not only is it important to pay your bills on time, but you also need to avoid carrying a balance. Although your credit card company will offer a minimum payment, this doesn’t mean you should accept it. Your spending should be limited to what you can pay off at the end of the month. This demonstrates that you are using available credit wisely, and it ensures that you avoid making costly interest payments. Individuals with excellent credit scores never use their cards for large purchases they know they cannot pay off in the next 30 days.
Create direct payments.
We’re all busy, and we all have a lot of demands on our time. We get it. Life gets in the way, and you miss a payment on your credit card. Did you know that you can avoid this scenario by setting up automatic monthly payments of your full credit card balance directly from your checking account? Ideally, this should be done as soon as a new account is opened. Because you know that you can only afford to spend as much as is in your checking account, it also keeps your spending habits in check.
Take advantage of what free credit monitoring services have to offer.
There are a plethora of free credit monitoring services available, so make use of their services. Credit Karma is one of the most well-known ones. They will send you free credit reports each week or instantly provide you with your credit score. If something in your credit history seems “off”, they will get in contact with you. For example, if you accidentally miss a loan payment, their notification will allow you to quickly rectify the situation with your loan provider. Credit monitoring services will also allow you to file a dispute for free should you happen to find an error on your credit report.
Don’t be afraid to open a new line of credit.
It’s an old myth that applying for a new line of credit will lower your credit score. It is true that it will lower the average age of your credit, but this is offset by the fact that it also raises the amount of available credit that you have. What you do not want to do is have a high balance spread out over multiple cards. It is an indicator that you have overextended yourself.
Don’t rush to pay off every single loan.
Last, but not least, people with excellent credit are not afraid of student loans, mortgages, or car payments. Rather, experts state that having a healthy mixture of different types of credit, which includes installment loans, will actually raise your credit score. Not only does it help build your credit history, but its serves as an indicator that you are trustworthy. When you use your credit responsibly, you will produce a good credit score.