Poor credit could be costing you thousands of dollars each year in finance charges and high interest rates. If you’ve suffered from a ‘so-so’, poor or even bad credit score for most of your life, make a commitment to yourself to increase your credit score in 2017. Here are five ways to start improving your credit score:
1. Know Your Credit History and Scores.
Like many things in life, the first step is to admit you have a problem and face it head-on. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and order a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. This takes five minutes and you can receive your credit reports instantly to download and save. Get your credit score for free by signing up for accounts such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Discover Credit Scorecard. Sign-up for alerts so you can track any changes to your credit reports and/or scores.
2. Report Errors to the Credit Bureaus.
Studies show that more than half of credit reports have errors. Most of these errors won’t affect your score, but some will. Make sure everything on your report belongs to you and is being reported correctly and timely. Be sure to report any inaccuracies, including demographic information.
3. Bill Pay Problems? There’s an app for that!
If you have a spotty on time payment history, 2017 is the time to change that. Remember, on time payments make up the largest percentage (35%) of your credit score. Now you can choose from dozens of bill pay apps that will track your budget, send you bill pay reminders and even pay your bills for you! It’s like having a personal bookkeeper for you working 24/7. Check out Mint by INTUIT for your personal budget and Cashflow Manager from myEcon for personal and business needs.
4. Pay Down Debt.
Having too much debt can hurt your credit score. Calculate how much debt do you have and how quickly you can pay it off, then divide the total by 12. This will let you know whether or not you can pay your debt off in a year. If not, you get a free financial check-up from an NFCC nonprofit credit counseling agency in order to develop a debt repayment program. Depending on the type of debt you owe, you may even qualify for reduced interest rates that will help you pay it down even faster.
5. Utilize Less of Your Available Credit and Keep a Legacy Card.
Credit scoring is a strange thing. The less credit you use relative to how much you have, the better your credit score. Once you have outstanding debt under control, try to using 30% or less of your available. That card you’ve had since college you were thinking about closing? Keep it open as your ‘legacy card,’ as long as it doesn’t have an annual fee (and if it does, call and ask to have it removed) and continue making on time payments. Creditors like to see a nice long credit history when they check your credit report.
Remember, you are in control of your credit status. 2017 is the year to kick bad credit habits to the curb. Say good bye to high interest rates and credit denials, and hello to lower insurance premiums, auto and mortgage rates. Prepare yourself to have more money in your pocket for saving, investing and pursuing your dreams.