Your mom’s birthday, your anniversary and your social security number are some of the most important digits in your life. But there’s one more number that’s near the top of the list: your credit score.
Your credit score factors in your payment history, the amount of credit available to you and the length of time your credit accounts have been opened. It dictates whether or not you’ll be approved for car loans, mortgages and credit cards, and it determines your interest rates.
But if you miss a bill payment, max out several credit cards or have a credit account or loan go to collections, your credit score may take a dip — or a dive. Here are eight tips that can help you pull your credit score out of a tailspin and send it soaring.
1. Verify information on your credit report.
Every 12 months you can get free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — only at Annualcreditreport.com. Payoff provides free monthly access to FICO® Scores to its Members. But no matter how you acquire your credit report, once you have it, be sure all the information is accurate. Errors could negatively impact your credit score, so review everything from the most basic information like your name and address to more detailed information like balances on accounts.
2. Pay down your credit card balances.
The credit-scoring model rewards those who have used less than 30% of their total credit limit. If you’re maxed out on your credit cards, paying them down below 30% can cause a positive increase in your score.
3. Refinance your home equity line of credit.
Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are revolving lines of credit, and their utilization is factored into your credit score just like a credit card. If you use more than 30% of your HELOC credit limit, you will be penalized. To improve your score, consider refinancing a HELOC into a second or first mortgage.
4. Gain security.
If you have no credit score at all, are new to credit or have a very low score that won’t permit you to open a new credit account, then open a secured credit card that reports to all three of the credit bureaus. Then, spend 10% or less of your credit limit each month, and pay it off in full at the end of the month. In just a few months, you can bump up your score as long as you pay your other credit accounts on time and don’t accumulate any other debt.
5. Don’t use up your credit limit.
Did you know 30% of your credit score is determined by your credit utilization (the amount of all available credit you use)? As a general rule of thumb, never use more than 30% of available credit. For instance, if you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit, you should never carry a balance of more than $300.
6. Don’t unnecessarily close any accounts.
Length of credit history counts for 15% of your score. And the older the account, the more points it tacks on to your credit score because the scoring model assumes the creditor is happy with you as a customer. Additionally, closing an account that’s paid in full will decrease the amount of available credit you have which can negatively impact your credit utilization and lower your credit score.
7. Pay your bills on time.
Payment history makes up to 35% of your score and positive payment history can take up to a year to increase your score. So there’s no time like the present to start paying in a timely fashion.
8. Be patient.
There’s no quick fix or one-size-fits-all way to repair your credit score. Repairing a dented credit score can take several months. Depending on how badly your credit score is damaged, boosting that all-important number could even take a year or two. So stay committed, it’s worth it!