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The list of 7 things you can do to improve your credit score


Charley Brindley


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Credit Score Tree showing scores from 584 to 730

Credit Score Tree showing scores from 584 to 730

Photo credit: Personal finance Care

What is a credit score and why does it matter

Your credit score is based on a mathematical equation that evaluates all the information on your credit report. The end result is called your FICO Score. FICO stands for Fair, Isaac, and Company, the organization that developed the scoring mechanism. This score is what will be used by companies to determine whether you are a safe financial risk or not. In order to even have a FICO score, you must have at least one open account on your credit report and that account needs to have been open for at least six months.

Your score is influenced by your financial history. Outstanding debts past 30 days, consistent late payments on monthly bills, and any collection action that has been brought against you will determine what your score will be. Your credit score will influence not only the decision to give you the loan or credit card, but also the amount of interest to attach to the line of credit. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate and vice versa.

Knowing and understanding your credit report is vital to getting a mortgage, car loan, and even renting an apartment or getting a job. If you have never seen your credit report, check it out soon. There is a chance that yours may contain errors and it's critical that you get those errors cleaned up quickly.

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Seven things to do to improve your credit score

Stack of credit cards

Stack of credit cards

Photo credit: Young Money

1. Pay down your credit card balances

Paying off your installment loans (mortgage, auto, student, etc.) can help your scores, but typically not as dramatically as paying down -- or paying off -- revolving accounts such as credit cards.

Lenders like to see a big gap between the amount of credit you're using and your available credit limits. Getting your balances below 30% of the credit limit on each card can really help.

While most debt gurus recommend paying off the highest-rate card first, a better strategy here is to pay down the cards that are closest to their limits.

Story credit: MSN Money

One dollar bills

One dollar bills

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2. Make more than the minimum payment each month

If your credit card balance is high relative to your credit limit, it costs precious credit score points. Minimum payments only decrease your balance a little at a time. You'll typically see a credit score increase when you bring your balance down sooner with higher payments.

Story credit: Credit About dot com

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A little girl being a smart shopper

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3. Open new accounts with high limits but keep the balances low

Get a credit card with a high limit. Keep the balances low, and use the credit card to establish a credit history or boost a low credit score. Remember: the more available credit on a credit card, the better.

Story credit: Approved Loan Today

A very small filing cabinet

A very small filing cabinet. Sells for $13.98

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4. Add accounts to your credit file

Add accounts with years of perfect payment history to your credit file.

While you can certainly add seasoned accounts to your credit file for free, there are companies that claim they can do it for a fee.

The problem is, they charge between $2,000 and $2,500 per account. If you want a 700+ credit score you’ll need 3 to 4 of these accounts. That equates to a cost of $6,000 to $10,000. (You can conduct a search on your favorite search engine for companies that offer this service.)

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Queen Elizabeth II with friends

Queen Elizabeth II with friends

Photo credit: Nobel Pig

5. Ask someone special to add you to one of their credit cards

Ask a trusted friend or family member to add you to one of their old cards as an authorized user, maybe one that hasn't been used in awhile. The older your credit history, the better.

If your mother agrees to put you as an authorized user on a card that she's had for 20 years, you could see your score increase dramatically. And with the authorized user plan, you don't even have to have the card in your possession if "Mom" feels better about this plan. (You'll have to work things out with her on this).

Story credit: Credit Info Center

Man cutting a credit card in two

Man cutting up his credit card

Photo credit: ABC News

6. Do not close unused credit card account

Keep all credit accounts open. Because length of credit influences scoring, closing an old account reduces credit history, and decreases credit score. It's better to charge a little each month and then pay it off promply. That way you will improve your credit score. Closing unused accounts, or letting the credit card company close them because you haven't used then, could hurt your credit score.

Boy using a credit card online

Boy using his dad's credit card online

Photo credit: Safety Clicks

7. Do not max out your credit cards

One of the ways the credit scoring algorithm looks at your balance speaks about an individual card. If you are maxed on one credit card then that is one kind of negative. Depending on when the credit card company reports to the bureaus even balances that you proposed to pay off at the end of the month are susceptible and your limit will appear as being maxed out.

Story credit: Active Rain

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