How to Improve Your Credit Score
Your credit score is a picture of your overall financial health. Or at least, that’s how it is used by banks and lenders.
Many factors affect your overall credit score. It tracks how many accounts you have open, when you opened them and how much of the credit in those accounts you’re using. It follows your mortgage payments and your car loans. Your credit score, and the three credit bureaus behind it, monitor your payments and account activity.
But your credit score isn’t entirely out of your control. In fact, it’s completely in your control when you account for the process of reporting. You control your payments and accounts. You control how much you spend and how much you borrow. That means you are in control of your finances and your credit score.
Don’t like where you score is right now? Improve it. Here’s how.
How to Boost Your Credit Score
If you have a low credit score, it’s a reflection of your financial practices up to this point. That might sting a bit, but the good news is that boosting your credit score simply means adopting better money and credit management. Not only will be strong financial management fix your credit score, it will probably improve your lifestyle as well.
Debt is stressful. The more debt you have, the harder it is to get the bills paid every month. When the bills don’t get paid, or they get paid late, your credit score gets knocked down. To resolve the issue, you simply need to work on your debt.
Make payments on time every month. Pay down the debt so that you have less to manage. Free up some room in your credit cards. Eventually you’ll find yourself freed of crushing debts and the stress of trying to meet those obligations. And you’ll have a higher credit score as well.
How to Fix Credit Score
The credit bureaus pay careful attention to specific things when it comes to your credit score. These have various weights in terms of how much they affect your actual score, but they all contribute.
- How many credit accounts do you have open?
- How many of those accounts are secured debt like a mortgage or a car loan?
- How old is your oldest credit account?
- How much of your credit do you currently have open?
- Have you filled up all your credit cards?
- Have you made your payments on time?
- How many old payments do you have?
- How many accounts have you opened recently?
- Do you have any big financial mistakes in your past like bankruptcy or a repossession?
How many accounts you have open and how many accounts you’ve opened recently can ding your credit, but not nearly as much as a big mistake like forgetting to pay a bill for months or filing for bankruptcy. Fortunately, when it comes to fixing a credit score, time and solid financial practices will eventually heal all wounds.
How to Increase Credit Score Quickly
Time is a major component of credit score repair. Major financial issues like declaring bankruptcy or a repossession will stay on your credit report for seven to ten years. You can also count on multiple payments that are more than 90 days late lingering on your credit report for years, although perhaps not as long as a bankruptcy.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements in a shorter term, however. Good financial practices are going to show up on your credit score within the first month that you take control of your money again.
Every month lenders report to the credit bureaus. Some credit card companies report weekly to help borrowers repair their credit score. Every payment you make on time gets reported. Every loan you pay off gets reported. And every time you pay down a balance, it boosts your credit score another few points.
To increase your score quickly, start by take a hard look at your financial scenarios. What debts do you currently have? You can’t start to clean things up until you can see the full picture.
How to Improve Credit Score in 30 Days
To improve your credit score in 30 days, you need a two-pronged approach. The first task is to clean up your biggest messes. Look for the debts that are causing you the most trouble. The credit card you have been paying late, for example. Make it your goal to pay that one on time. If you can, even find the money to pay it off or pay down a large chunk of the balance.
By doing something positive, like paying off a debt or paying it down considerably, that lender will no longer be reporting the negative information to the bureaus – it will be reporting that you’ve done everything right. Get in control of your worst problems first.
A second task is to open new accounts that might help you on your way. The first of these would be a credit card designed to help you repair your credit score. These cards or personal loans are from lenders who make a point of reporting payments and good financial practices to the credit bureaus every week not just every thirty days.
Open the card. Use it to pay for something you need to pay anyway, like your phone bill. Then pay off the credit card balance within a few days. Your dependable payment history and wise use of the card will be reported multiple times to the bureaus showing your wise choices.
Another account that might help you is a debt consolidation loan. If you have multiple small credit accounts, you can consolidate them by getting one loan and using the funds to pay off the other accounts. Then your credit cards are empty, which is excellent when reported to the credit bureaus, and you have a single payment to make every month that will pay off the debt in far less time than you anticipated.
What Is the Average Credit Score
There are many average credit scores out there. According to Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, the average credit score is 703 as of midyear 2019. The average score is constantly changing, of course, as the economy changes.
Things like attractive interest rates, new loans might encourage borrowing, which can affect credit scores. Recessions and widespread layoffs can also affect credit scores as more individuals get behind on payments or take out more loans to help cover household costs.
The average credit score also varies by age group. Again, according to Experian, the average credit score rose along with age.
- Adults aged 20-29 had an average credit score of 662.
- Those aged 30-39 had an average credit score of 673
- Adults between 40 and 49 had an average of 684.
- Those in their 50s had an average score of 706.
- And adults older than 60 had an excellent credit score of 749.
There are many reasons why average credit scores can fluctuate, and it makes sense that average scores rise as adults age. Young adults earn less and are often more heavily reliant on credit to pay bills, buy the things they need, and are paying heavy student loan debts.
The debt load decreases as we age because we begin to earn more, pay off student loans and learn to use credit more wisely. Our peak earning years occur in our fifties, in most cases, when we have risen to the top of our various professions, and by then many adults have mortgages, accounts that are at least twenty, if not forty, years old, and fewer expenses as children have left home and retirement approaches.
What Is a Good Credit Score
Credit scores range from 300-850. Within that range are brackets of scores that signal your credit worthiness to lenders. While the ranges vary according to different sources, it often looks like this;
- A score between 300 and 579 is a “poor” credit score.
- 580-669 is a “fair” credit score.
- 670-739 is a “good” credit score.
- 740-799 is a “very good” credit score.
- Anything over 800 is considered “exceptional.”
You can take out some loans, especially secured loans, with a score of at least 580. A credit score over 670 is usually enough to have you considered for most loans, although you’ll get much more favorable interest rates once your credit score creeps up closer to 704. You will get the best interest rates and be considered for almost every loan out there once your credit score is past the 740 mark.
What Is the Highest Credit Score You Can Have?
A perfect credit score is 850. To get a perfect credit score – or to get as close to it as possible – you will need to be an expert user of credit.
You will need to:
- Use credit very lightly, meaning you only charge on one card a bit per month and pay it all off again every single month.
- Establish a very long credit history. Decades of wise choices build up to the perfect score. It’s not something you can achieve before your middle years, or even your golden ones.
- Never open new accounts. No new credit cards. No car loans. No new accounts or credit inquiries.
- Avoid late payments for at least 10 years.
But even if you have an 850 credit score one month, you’re unlikely to have an 850 again the next month because your credit score is a snapshot of your financial use – not a static number. Every time you apply for a new credit card, even if you never use it, you lower your credit score. Every lender who looks into your credit dings your score.
Use your credit card on a vacation for security reasons and run up the balance a bit? Your credit score will take a hit. Pay it off again next month? Your credit score rises again. Your credit score reflects your activities every month, and unless your activities are consistent every single month, your score won’t be consistent either.
How Often Does Credit Score Update
Your credit score updates on a monthly basis. Lenders, like the bank who holds your car loan or credit cards, report your payment and borrowing activities to the credit bureaus every month. So, every month, your score will change to reflect the latest updates.
The trick is that the credit bureaus don’t require lenders to report their latest data by a specific time every month. Your credit cards and loans can all be reported at different times during the month, which means your score doesn’t necessarily shift on a regular schedule either.
According to Transunion  another of the big three credit bureaus, you can expect your credit score to update about every thirty days, but you should also be prepared to wait up to forty-five days to see updates. Every time the bureaus get new information, your score shifts. Have a card that reports good activity weekly? Your score will update weekly.
Improving your credit score requires smart financial management as well as taking advantage of the way the credit bureaus work. Get ahead of any messy accounts you might have so that they start reporting only positive things.
Pay down balances by using a debt consolidation loan. Open a card or loan that reports more frequently, start spending and paying it off again completely to get an almost immediate boost. Pay your bills on time and pay down debt. You’ll see the payoff in your credit score.
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