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Credit scores are used to determine interest rates on mortgages, car loans and even the amount you pay for insurance premiums. Because of this, it is a good idea to review ways to improve yours. Here are some ideas:
• Look for errors on your credit report. The place to start is a review of your credit reports. You are entitled to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. So get a copy of your report and review it for accuracy. Aggressively follow up to correct any errors using the process outlined by each credit reporting company.
• Pay bills on time. The easiest way to improve your credit is to have a string of on-time payments for all bills reported to the credit agencies. This is the most important part of your credit score equation. So while reviewing your credit report, pay special attention to who is reporting your payments and note if any are delayed. Then gather all your monthly bills, identify the due dates, and take advantage of automated tools to ensure the payments are always on time.
• Get credit card utilization as low as possible. The amount of credit you're using at any given time is called your credit utilization, and is the second-biggest factor in your credit score next to paying on time. For example, if your credit card limit is $5,000 and your balance is $3,000, your credit utilization is 60%. Try to reduce this percentage to no more than 20%. You can do this by spending less, paying off as much of your balance as possible, or increasing your credit limits.
• Sign up for score-boosting programs. A newer way to help improve your credit is to include information on your credit report that normally isn't reported. Programs like Experian Boost and UltraFICO help you add bills such as rent, utility, and cell phone payments to your credit report, and to analyze how you use your checking, savings or money market accounts. Be aware that these program may ask for access to you bank accounts and could easily work against you if the reporting has a negative impact on your credit if there is a billing problem.
• Avoid requests for new credit. Trying to open a new credit or loan account could lower your score by as much as 10 points. The more inquiries made by creditors who are trying to assess your creditworthiness when trying to open a new account, the more impact it has on your credit score. If you notice a number of vendors are making inquiries, you can always turn off this function with credit agencies. Just remember to turn it back on if you are actively refinancing your mortgage or looking for other credit. While in the long-term your score can be maximized by having a diverse mix of different types of credit accounts, in the short-term adding new accounts will negatively affect your score.
How quickly you can raise your credit score obviously depends on your individual situation, but following these tips will lead to a higher credit score sooner rather than later.