Reviving a credit score that’s fallen into fair or poor territory isn’t impossible. Does it take time? Absolutely. But it won’t take forever if you strategize now and put specific measures in place.
Below are some top ways to give your credit score a serious boost. Depending upon how low the score is now, it could improve by 100 points relatively fast. As the score gets higher, the increases will be less dramatic. Nevertheless, an upward-moving trend will give you confidence—and open doors to future financing options.
1. Apply for a credit card.
You might think that the last thing you need when your credit score is inadequate is a credit card. Think again. As long as you’re careful, having a credit card can help you improve your score. You just need the right type of credit card, like a secured credit card.
Secured credit cards require you to put down a cash deposit. The deposit secures your account and usually becomes your upper spending limit. Typically, this means your credit limit will be fairly low. That’s okay. The point of a secured credit card is more to restore bad credit than anything else. As long as you make minimum monthly payments on time, your credit will get a boost.
2. Keep a low credit utilization rate.
Your credit utilization rate is the percentage of available credit that you’re using at any given time. For instance, say you have three credit cards and they amount to $10,000 in available credit. If you max out your credit limit at $10,000, your utilization rate will be 100%. If you keep $2,000 on your cards, your utilization is 20%.
What’s the ideal utilization rate? Most experts recommend that you stick within a 10-30% range. Going above 30% starts to get into questionable territory. At the same time, try to keep a little something on your credit card so you’re not stuck at 0% utilization. Though 0% may sound excellent, it won’t do anything for your score. And that’s the whole point.
3. Pay your bills on time without exceptions.
When your credit score has dipped below 670, you can’t afford to be seen as a terrible money manager. Therefore, pay your bills—all of them—on or before the due date. Remember: U.S. Postal Service delays may affect delivery of mailed checks. Consequently, you may want to choose online methods for faster, more secure paying. Not all creditors will be understanding if your money gets to them late.
As a side note, your hard-and-fast bills should always come before variable expenses. Pay off your mortgage, rent, utilities, and car loan before buying anything unnecessary. Some people like to pay their bills as soon as they get them. As long as you have the money in the bank, go for it. The idea is to avoid becoming delinquent, which will ding your credit score.
4. Avoid too many hard credit inquiries.
Any time a potential creditor asks for a report of your credit history and scores, it’s a “hard inquiry.” Hard inquiries impact your credit score just a few points. However, if you’re eager to rebuild credit, you want to limit doing anything that could bring down the score.
Before you give your permission to allow anyone to check your credit, ask if it’s necessary. This could even include a potential landlord. Sometimes, individuals and companies are willing to forgo credit report checks.
5. Keep older credit card accounts open.
When your credit score has tanked, your first inclination may be to cut your credit cards in half. Before closing any older accounts, think twice. Part of your credit history and score involves looking at how long you’ve had credit. Closing an account takes away years of positive credit history. It’s like erasing major parts of your resume.
You don’t have to use your older credit cards, of course. Or, you can use them occasionally. Just make sure you don’t close everything down. It won’t help your score and it could even make it head farther south.
6. Stay on top of your credit report.
Did you know that your credit report can be wrong? Consumers are often shocked to find out that their credit histories are filled with errors. Don’t let that happen: Order a credit report from TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax. You can get one free score a year from each of those bureaus. Many people mix it up and order new reports every four months.
Will your credit take a hit when you request a report? Not at all. Plus, you’ll be able to identify and begin repairing mistakes. Cleaning up your credit report can really change your score in a few months.
7. Become an authorized borrower on someone else’s account.
A final way to rebuild credit is by becoming an authorized borrower on another person’s credit card account. As an authorized borrower, you will be added to the account information. Just be certain that the person’s account is in good standing.
Who is best suited to add you as an authorized user? Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to pick someone you trust and who trusts you. This could include a spouse, parent, or other close relative or friend.
In a world where bad credit happens to good folks, everyone deserves a second chance. Sure, your credit score might be so-so today, but you have the power to make changes. Just take it slowly and methodically, and you’ll net rewards.