How to Optimize Your Credit Score
Your credit score is a numerical measure of your potential default risk on a loan. When shopping for a loan, insurance, an apartment, or even a new job, you’ll likely be asked for your credit score. Regardless of what your current credit score is, it can always be better, and the better it is, the easier it will be for you to obtain additional credit, and at more favorable terms.
- Make sure the information on your credit report is accurate (get a free report at annualcreditreport.com), and ask creditors to remove anything questionable.
- Manage your finances well by paying your bills and debts on time.
- Reduce discretionary spending and apply the savings toward reducing your debts.
- Don’t carry a balance on your credit cards, or pay as much as you can each month.
- Open new credit accounts sparingly.
- Don’t use more than 30% of your available credit limit.
- Don’t close existing credit accounts.
- If you are having trouble making payments, contact your creditors to request forbearance assistance.
- Be sure to make payments before the credit bureau ‘reporting date’, which is usually (but not always) 45 days after the payment due date.
- To avoid paying bills and debts late, set up electronic auto-pay through your online banking program.
- Ask creditors for a higher limit (provided they don’t do a ‘hard pull’ of your credit).
- Ask creditors for a lower interest rate, and use the savings to pay down your debt sooner.
- If your credit score isn’t strong enough on a standalone basis to get a loan, see if you can get someone to co-sign or guarantee the loan for you.
- Subscribe to self-reporting credit enhancement services (ex: Experian Boost).
- Get a secured credit card.
- Take out a ‘credit-builder’ loan.
- Beware of identity theft by proactively monitoring changes in your credit score.
If you need help improving your credit score, free resources are available from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/credit-reports-and-scores/