5 Effective Ways to Improve Your Credit Score Fast

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

If you want to improve your credit score here are 5 ways to get the job done fast. This is important because your score can help you in a variety of ways. A higher credit score will help you get lower rates when you need to borrow money…and much more. It can help you get a good job too because smart employers want responsible staff and a high credit score signals stability. With so much at stake,  let’s get to work.

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1. Check your credit report

In order to maintain a high credit score, you have to first know what it is and know if there are any errors.  The best way to do that is to get a credit report. You can get a free report every four months with no trouble at all. You see, the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) must provide a free report to you every year if you request one. If you simply make your request to one of the companies every four months, you’ll be up-to-date. You can write to these companies and they will send you the reports for free. If you make your requests online, you’ll probably have to provide a credit card number even though you won’t have to pay for it.

You should get your credit report because that’s the only way to know if there are any errors on your record. But once you get your report you can keep tabs on your credit score online without paying for it or signing up for free trials.  However you do it, just make sure to be on top of this. Know your credit score by checking on it once every few months.  This is also a good way to protect yourself against identify theft.  Bonus!

Once you get your report, be smart about correcting errors. Many people tell you to write to the credit bureau if you have a dispute but that’s likely to be ineffective and give you high blood pressure.  Don’t bother.  If there is a mistake on your credit report you need the creditor to acknowledge the mistake and fix it at the bureau.  If the creditor won’t play nice, take off the gloves and take them to small claims court.  This will cost you less than $100 and it’s highly effective.  Creditors aren’t set up to go to small claims and if you can prove your case, they’ll probably wise up and play ball.

2. Pay your bills

Besides keeping the lights on and the water running, you should pay your bills (all of them) on time because it lifts your credit score. Lenders fear (rightfully so) that if you flake on one debt, you’ll flake on others.

Paying on time also helps you avoid paying penalties and late charges. It’s also good Karma.

3. Get more credit cards

Of course you have to be smart about this. You shouldn’t use those cards…just get them. And make sure you pay your balance in full every month. This adds points to your credit score.

4. Don’t spend more than 30% of the available credit limit

Part of your credit score is calculated by the amount of credit you’re using compared to the total available credit. For example, you might have $2,000 in credit card debt. If you have total available credit of $10,000, you’re only using 20% of your available credit. Creditors like this. But if you have $2,000 on your cards and your total available credit is only $2,000, you’re using 100% of your available credit. Creditors don’t really like this at all.

That’s why it’s important to keep as much credit available as possible. Don’t close old accounts. Leave them open, use them a little (no more than 30%) and make sure you pay your bill in full every month.

If you want to really leverage this idea, run up less than 10% of your available credit. You’ll rack up extra points.

5. Use a secured credit card

If you can’t get typical credit cards or if you spend more money than you should, get a secured credit card. These are pre-loaded cards. That means you put the money into the account and then use the secured credit card to draw the account down. Using a card like this will help you rebuild your credit and keep you from overspending. A double whammy. Nice.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

JG Larvan November 27, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Excellent points. Bottom line is that you have to show the creditors that you are in control of your expenses and you pay on time. It’s like building a good reputation for yourself in your work, only this time, with your credit/expenses.

Reply

Kelly Stone August 18, 2010 at 8:45 AM

Some excellent points.

Thank you.
Kelly

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Global Forex Signals August 12, 2010 at 1:29 AM

You know, having a lot of credit card never end well. One of my friends have checked it on his own skin. It’s better to get rid of them at all, if you want not to share your money with all these bank scammers.

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Tracy August 11, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Those are some really good tips. One other that I think people can really improve their credit is by getting a credit card and using it for small amounts and pay the minimum payment and it will build your credit score

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Michael November 6, 2010 at 6:59 AM

Tracy, Tracy, Tracy. Using your credit card for small purchases is okay, but YOU must pay it off at the end of the month. TOTALLY! Do not make the minimum payment. Wherever you learned that, run away from them!

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