When it comes to a poor credit rating, there’s no quick fix. It’s kind of like managing weight. It’s so easy to gain weight over a short period of time with poor health habits. Losing the weight is a different story. It takes sometimes 2-3 times longer to lose weight than it took to gain it. Credit scores are similarly difficult to rebuild. There are, however, strategies to help you strengthen your credit score over time.
Ask your credit card company to increase your limit: They may deny you, but if they don’t, it’s one way to improve your credit score over time. The catch is that you can’t max out your card once your limit has been increased. Leave the credit window open and pay down your balance to $0 for the best credit results.
Open numerous accounts: In the short term, this won’t do much to improve your score. Over time, however, it is the amount of credit you aren’t using or can pay down each month that will build your score. Spending on every card you open can lead you down a path of surmounting debt. Be very strategic if you try this method to build your score. Use them intermittently for small purchases to keep your account open, and pay them off immediately. You will also have more cards to track for fraudulent charges. Only open as many accounts as you can reasonably monitor for the best results from this strategy.
Never skip a payment or pay late: Paying your mortgage late or forgetting to pay a credit card bill can cause even good credit scores to plummet if they get listed on your rating. Having a high credit score can mean the difference in thousands of dollars in extra fees and interest over time for large loans and expenditures. If you know you’re going to have difficulty making a payment on time, contact your creditor. You may be able to get the payment date moved temporarily or work out some other arrangement to ensure your credit score does not suffer due to unforeseen circumstances.
Don’t max out your credit card: Having good payment history and owning a credit card are only pieces of the credit score equation. Try not to carry a balance that is over 35% of your credit limit. If you have a high balance on one card and relatively low balances on others, it may make sense to transfer the high balance to several low balance cards to keep the percentage of each card at or under 35%.
Don’t close unused card accounts: Long histories of holding a card positively impacts your credit score. Even if you don’t use a card, you should hold onto and monitor the account. It can be beneficial even if the account is completely inactive.
Use your home equity line to pay down debt: Occasionally, it makes sense to transfer your credit card debt to a new or existing home equity line. If you use this approach, you should only transfer debt if the interest rate on your home equity line is lower than that of your credit card. You should also focus on paying down the debt instead of carrying it on the home equity line. This strategy can improve your score because the scoring formula that FICO uses evaluates your handling of different types of debt.
Individualize your accounts after divorce: Since married couples share debt burdens, what one spouse does will affect the other’s score. Joint accounts should be paid down and closed or transferred into individual accounts. Then, you will have the challenge of rebuilding independent credit with new cards, loans, or a mortgage
Pay off debt as you go: Make extra payments throughout the month to prevent the appearance of debt accumulation over the course of a month. It will leave you without as much money in your bank account through the month but can help build and keep your credit score higher.
Become a joint credit holder on someone else’s account: If you know someone who has great payment history and a good credit score, tying into his or her account can actually help you improve your credit score. You need to be able to trust in whoever’s account you join, however, because his or her poor payments will affect you. Getting removed from a joint account may be difficult, as well.
Review your credit report: Make sure you contact credit reporting companies and get outdated or incorrect information removed from your history. Inaccuracies can take up to a month to correct, but is a short-term solution to boosting your score.
Don’t apply for too many credit cards at once: Inquiry information is reported to credit reporting agencies and will be listed on your report for two years. Multiple inquiries can significantly impact your credit score for up to a year. Mortgages and car loans are exceptions to this strategy. Multiple inquiries will be treated singularly and will not affect your credit score.
Talk with creditors: If you face a difficult financial situation, your credit may work with you to find a viable solution to help you pay off debt without defaulting. Not talking to your creditor and defaulting on a card may mean you will be contacted by a collections agency, and your credit score will certainly be impacted.
Keep your knowledge of your credit score up-to-date so that you know if you need to work on rebuilding or maintaining it. Contacting a credit specialist can also be beneficial in informing you about what is going on with your credit. At National Credit Advisors, we will provide you with a free credit case evaluation and help you build your credit with a number of proven tactics.