How to Improve Your Credit Score

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Are you looking to boost your credit score? A healthy credit score never hurt anyone, but an unhealthy score can mean you pay higher interest on a loan, get turned down for an apartment rental, and even pay more for auto insurance.

So how can you keep your score up? Here are a few things you can do.

Pay your bills on time:

Payment history is one of the biggest factors that affects your credit score. Make sure to pay all of your bills on time, including credit card bills, loans, and utility bills.

Reduce your credit utilization:

Keep your credit card balances low and try to use no more than 30% of your available credit. High credit utilization can hurt your credit score.

Don’t open too many new accounts at once:

Every time you apply for credit, it generates a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can lower your score. Try to limit new credit applications and only apply for credit when you really need it.

Keep old credit accounts open:

The length of your credit history is another factor that affects your score. Keep your oldest credit accounts open, even if you’re not using them, to maintain a longer credit history.

Check your credit report:

Make sure there are no errors or inaccuracies on your credit report.

If you do find any errors, dispute them with the credit bureaus to have them corrected.

What do I look for when pulling your report? 

Charges you already paid off. These are debts you paid such as an old credit card, a car, or your student loans. 

Debts that are erroneous. There may be an error. A debt may be reported as yours when it isn’t. Or you may have been the victim of ID theft and you didn’t know it. 

Check for things like incorrect personal information. Your name, any names you’ve previously gone under (like a maiden name or maybe you had your name legally changed), your current and former address, your employment, etc. 

Debt that is older than seven years.

Duplicate accounts  It happens; sometimes things get reported twice.

Accounts that you’ve closed that aren’t showing as closed. Maybe you have a credit card you closed that is still showing as open. Get this corrected. 

How do I dispute incorrect info? 

This should be done in writing. You can download a sample letter from FTC.gov. 

Include copies of any documents you have that support your claim. Here’s an excerpt from the FTC:

“In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information and request that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document what the credit reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.”

The credit reporting agency will need to investigate this claim, usually within 30 days. They will give you the results in writing. 

You will also need to follow these same steps and dispute your claims with the company reporting you to the credit agency. (I had to do this with a cellphone company once. It was very easy and quickly corrected.)

Credit reporting agencies: 

Experian-1-888-397-3742

 www.experian.com 

TransUnion-1-800-916-8800

 www.transunion.com

Equifax-1-800-685-1111

 www.equifax.com

Here are some tips for managing credit cards wisely for beginners:

Understand your credit card terms: Read and understand the terms and conditions of your credit card, including interest rates, fees, and payment due dates. This will help you make informed decisions and avoid surprises.

Set a budget: Create a monthly budget and allocate a specific amount for credit card payments. Make sure you can comfortably afford the purchases you make with your card within your budget.

Pay your balance in full: Aim to pay off your credit card balance in full each month to avoid interest charges. If you’re unable to pay the full balance, at least make the minimum payment to avoid late fees and negative impacts on your credit score.

Track your expenses: Keep track of your credit card purchases and review your statements regularly. This will help you stay aware of your spending habits and detect any errors or fraudulent transactions.

Avoid unnecessary debt: Don’t use your credit card for impulse purchases or items you can’t afford. Only charge expenses that you can comfortably pay off within your budget.

Use credit responsibly: Be mindful of your credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of credit you’re using compared to your credit limit. Aim to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30% to maintain a healthy credit score.

Pay on time: Always make your credit card payments on time to avoid late fees and negative impacts on your credit history. Consider setting up automatic payments or reminders to ensure timely payments.

Monitor your credit score: Regularly check your credit score to track your financial progress and identify any potential issues. You can access your credit report for free once a year from each of the major credit bureaus.

By following these tips, you can establish healthy credit card habits and avoid falling into debt. Remember, responsible credit card usage can help you build a positive credit history and financial stability.

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