If you are like many Americans, you may want to improve your credit score in order to get a mortgage, obtain an auto loan, or just to save money on your insurance premiums. Admittedly, there are ways to improve your credit score quickly; however it generally takes months, if not years, to significantly boost your credit standing. Here are a few quick fixes and some of the keys to improving your credit score for the long haul.
The first step to improving your credit score is to request your free credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com. The quickest way to boost your credit score is to correct any mistakes or address any negative items on your credit report. You will want to address the most recent negative items that you have because they are causing the largest impact to your score.
The easiest to fix are items that have been placed there mistakenly. One example would be that a medical bill was mailed to the wrong address and ends up in collection. Billing errors can frequently be negotiated off of your credit report by contacting the collection agency, explaining the situation, then either paying the bill in full or making suitable arrangements to pay it in a timely manner. Here’s more about disputing an error on your report. Another example is with a federal tax lien. The IRS currently offers the Fresh Start program. which gives taxpayers an opportunity to remove a lien from their credit report.
Either of these accounts, or any negative account on your credit report that is less than one year old, is seriously lowering your credit score. If you have a reason to have it removed, you could see a 100 point jump in a very short time.
Quick fixes aside, boosting your credit score can become tedious and is time consuming. The easiest way to approach it is to lower your credit utilization. The quickest way to do that is to stop using your credit cards and make extra payments and that will require you set goals in stone.
According to FICO, in order to see the biggest boost to your credit score, you will want to lower your credit utilization to thirty percent of the credit limits on all of your credit cards while making all payments on time. There are two ways to approach lowering your credit utilization. The first is to attack the card with the highest interest rate, the other is to focus on the
card with the lowest balance. After finding a focus, you need to set your first goal. You should be sure to write this goal down as a reminder to yourself.
Possible First Goals
The first goal can be the hardest to set because it requires a focus that you may have lacked in the past. It must be a specific goal that includes a deadline. One possible first goal is to pay down the credit card with the lowest balance. This will provide an early sense of accomplishment. Let’s say you have a credit limit of $1,500 on a card, you could start out by writing down:
”I will pay First Bank of Billy Bob down to $450 by Christmas!”
Now, you can plan how to meet that goal. With the same card, if you have a current balance of $1,000 and it is 6 months until Christmas, you need to write down the steps you are going to take to meet your goal. Sample steps could be:
- Put Bank of Billy Bob card away for one year.
- Pay minimum payment plus all interest by due date.
- Make an additional payment of $50 later in the month, but before the billing cycle ends.
Given the balance listed above, and assuming an interest rate of 22.9 percent, your total monthly payments in this scenario will be approximately $130 on this card. That schedule will reduce the balance on this card to the thirty percent threshold mentioned above within six months. After doing this, it is simply a matter of switching your focus to another card and devising a plan of attack for it.
Of course, all of this assumes that you have credit cards with balances or have negative items on your credit report. Where does that leave people who have zero or very little credit? If you are in that situation, the best answer is to obtain a credit card. Once you have one, use it strategically. Start by filling up your gas tank and paying with the card. Wait a few days then pay the balance in full. That will show an on-time payment history and you will still have a low credit utilization ratio. Rinse and repeat for a few months and your score should jump by 50 points or more.
Every credit score is different and these are only general guidelines, but we hop that they will help you achieve or return to good financial health.