The moment you begin borrowing money in any form, from a credit card to a car payment, you start to earn a credit score, which is essentially a summary of your credit history. The industry standard is the FICO score — and it’s a snapshot of just how reliable you’ve been at paying back your debts for any lender to use when considering loaning you money or issuing you a credit card. Your FICO score will determine how likely you will be able to buy a car, take out a mortgage, open a new credit card or get any other loan.
If your credit score is low, you may have a hard time doing any of those things or have to pay a higher interest rate. However, even if your score is lower than you’d like, here are some simple tips on how to improve your credit score quickly.
Last updated: May 7, 2021
Chisel Away at Your Balance ASAP
Because 30% of your FICO score is determined by the amount you owe, it’s better to have a lower balance, particularly if you have a high credit utilization rate. Your credit utilization rate is the ratio of how much you owe compared with how much credit you have. So, if your credit limit is low but you’ve maxed it out, that doesn’t look good for your score. Paying down your balance will instantly improve your score.
For example, a $10,000 credit limit with a $5,000 balance gives you a credit utilization of 50%. Experian suggests it’s best to have a rate of less than 30%.
Make More Frequent Payments
Paying your credit card bill twice a month can help reduce your running balance, limiting the amount on the card within that 30-day period and improving your credit score. This is especially helpful if you’re in the process of seeking some sort of loan, as the lender has no way of knowing how much you intend to pay off at the end of the month; they only see your score, determined by that balance.
Increase Your Credit Limit
If you can’t yet get your credit balance paid down fast enough to improve your credit score, you may be able to get your creditor to increase your credit limit. If, for example, you have maxed out a $1,000 credit limit, which puts your credit utilization rate at 100%, simply doubling that credit limit to $2,000 would cut that rate to 50%. However, you will need to have an average of six to 12 months of good payment history, without missed or late payments, in most cases, to achieve a limit increase.
Open a New Credit Account
If for any reason you aren’t able to get a credit limit increase on your credit card, you can try opening a new account. Your credit utilization rate applies to all of your open lines of credit, not per card. So if you have $10,000 of credit spread across two or three cards, and only $5,000 in debt on them, your credit utilization rate is only 50%.
However, don’t open too many new cards; this can make lenders suspicious that you’re planning to spend more than you can afford to pay down.
Negotiate Down a Balance
If you find yourself with a balance you just can’t pay off soon enough to improve your credit score, you can attempt to negotiate your balance down with your creditor. While this won’t erase any past errors, such as missed or late payments on your credit score, the sooner your debt is paid off, the sooner your credit score can rebound.
Become an Authorized User
If none of these other solutions have worked for you, there’s one last tip to try. You can become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. Now, the obvious first: You need to have a close, trusting relationship with this person, on both sides. By adding you to their account, you benefit from their credit score without incurring any liability. Ideally, you would just be added but would not make any additional charges. You want to seek someone who has either good credit (670 to 799) or excellent credit (800 to 850). Some credit cards may charge a fee to add you, as well.
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