Improve Your Credit Score With These 4 Tips
The COVID-19 pandemic might have caused you to build up some credit card debt, or maybe your credit score was already suffering before the pandemic hit. Even if you have great credit, it never hurts to check in on your score and work on building it up even more. Your credit score can be important1 for determining things like loan approval and interest rates, insurance coverage and premiums, home ownership and renting, and more.
In order to work on improving your credit score, you must first look at what you score is and what this number really means. Experian2 breaks down your credit score in this way:
• 740 or above: great credit
• 670-739: good credit
• 580-669: fair credit
• 579 or below: bad credit
The average American’s score is around 700, according to Experian. So, if you have at least a 700 score, pat yourself on the back for doing alright and get ready for even more improvement. If you are below 700, however, don’t worry, because with a few steps and habits you can improve your score and work your way up to great credit and even better financial wellbeing.
1. Check your credit report
You are allowed to request one free credit report from all three major credit bureaus3 once a year, so take advantage and request a report. Once you receive it, take a good look to make sure it is completely free of any errors that may be bringing down your credit. If you do find errors, you can fix them following these steps provided by the Federal Trade Commission4.
2. Pay your bills on time
Maybe you’ve missed a credit card or loan payment in the past, but try to focus on where you are at now because it’s never too late to start making every payment on time, even if all you can contribute is the minimum payment. Making payments on time can have a large impact on whether your score rises or falls. You don’t need to be completely debt-free to have good credit, but if you find that you are struggling to make payments, you do have options. Reach out to your creditors and ask if there is anything they can do to help, or try reaching out to a credit counselor. You can also meet with a financial expert at Affinity to help you get started in building your finances back up.
3. Focus on your credit utilization
Credit utilization is how much of your available credit limit you are currently using. If you have a high balance on your credit card, it can cause your credit score to fall. A great rule of thumb is to try and keep your total credit card balances within 30% of the limit on each of your cards. As soon as you bring your balances down to less than 30%, you may find that your score bounces right up. Learning about your credit cards and how to use them wisely can take you far in the long run.
4. Pay attention to how many credit cards you have
Just because you have a lot of credit cards, doesn’t mean you need to close all of them to get your credit in order. In fact, keeping these cards open and maintaining low to no balance on them can help your credit because they increase your credit utilization ratio as well as showing you have a longer credit history. On the other hand, however, if you only have one or two credit cards, don’t feel that you must apply for several more. Every credit card or loan for which you apply requires a hard inquiry on your credit report, and too many can negatively impact your score.
The main theme you’ll find across all these tips is the importance of paying attention. Try not to make any hasty decisions and be sure to keep an eye on factors such as your payment due dates, balances on your cards and what activities might be impacting your credit at the moment. If you work on a few of these key habits and stay informed, you can slowly but surely improve your credit score and gain the confidence to financially thrive.
For additional information and updates from Affinity about COVID-19, please visit https://www.affinityfcu.com/banking/we're-here-for-you.aspx
This information is for informational purposes only and is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition are made.