You’re not powerless if you’re currently in the “fair” credit score range. Some negative items, like collections accounts, judgments and bankruptcies, stay on your credit report for seven to 10 years, but you can learn how to raise your credit score more quickly by focusing on the things that affect it most. Here’s how to improve your credit score in just three steps:
1. Make On-Time Bill Payments a Priority
Nothing hurts good credit more than late payments, so make every payment by the due date and pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards when possible. This improves your credit score by reducing your total debt and overall balances as compared to your available credit.
Accomplish this by adding reminders to your calendar and setting up automatic payments. Catch up as quickly as possible on bills that are already in arrears — they’re reflected on your credit report for seven years, but your 600 credit score, or even a 500 credit score or below, will climb as time passes and your positive payment history lessens the impact of old delinquencies.
2. Stop Using Credit for a While
Give your credit cards a break, and don’t open any new ones unnecessarily, to move up to a better credit score range. Your credit score goes down if you use too much of your available credit, so it’s difficult to move to a 700 credit score or above if your credit cards are all maxed out — especially if you’re also losing points for hard inquiries triggered by new applications.
Pay down your cards and loans to improve your credit utilization rate and reduce your overall debt, which is another important factor for good credit.
3. Check and Correct Your Credit Report
Your financial activities affect your credit score, but sometimes having a 600 credit score, or even a 500 credit score or below, isn’t entirely your fault. Check your credit report to see if mistakes are dragging you down. A 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission revealed that 26 percent of consumer credit reports had errors, and 12 percent of those who disputed the incorrect information had a credit score increase. Five percent actually moved into a higher risk tier based on the changes.
You’re entitled to an annual free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Order them via AnnualCreditReport.com, by calling 877-322-8228 or by filling out a request form on the FTC website, and then dispute any mistakes in writing. This is how to raise your credit score fast since the bureaus must investigate and fix errors within 30 days.
What Is a Good Credit Score?
Once you achieve a 700 credit score or higher after following these steps, you’re in the “good” credit range, which runs between 670 and 739. A score of 740 to 799 is “very good,” qualifying you for better than average terms and interest rates. An 800 credit score or above is considered “exceptional,” qualifying you for the best available terms, like interest-free auto loans or top-tier rewards credit cards.
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More on Credit Scores
- FICO Score vs. Credit Score: What the Difference Means for You
- 8 Ways to Get an 800 Credit Score
- How to Check Your Credit Score
- Watch: How to Improve Your FICO Credit Score… Explained in 90 Seconds
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