How to Increase a Credit Score: 7 Key Tips I Learned From My Mistakes
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Ways to Raise Your Credit Score from Bad to Good
How does credit work and what is it?
Find out all about it in this article. Plus, I’ll give you some tips on how to boost a poor score.
Have you ever been denied a loan or credit card and didn’t understand why?
Have you been contacted by lenders that you don’t recognize, and ignored the calls/mail because you didn’t take out a loan?
I’ve been there! ?♀️
It can be confusing, frustrating and even alarming.
When I was in my early 20’s, my FICO score was impacted negatively by a few small mistakes that turned into bad habits.
Mistakes that Gave Me Bad Credit…
I took out student loans to go to college, which by itself isn’t a bad way to pay for college on your own.
When graduation rolled around, I hadn’t thought ahead or actually anticipated repayment. And boy did not being prepared cause me issues!
Another mistake I made in college was getting a bunch of credit cards. I received a lot of applications in the mail (college students are targeted by them actually) and being naive financially, I accept them without hesitation.
I definitely over-extended myself.
Due to those oversights:
I was only making the minimum payments each month and I was never getting ahead.
And when I couldn’t pay on time:
I was scared to call and talk to them – which only made things worse!
If I’d just spoken with them, I would have found out about deferral programs (for student loans) and hardship programs offered by credit card companies.
But one of the simplest things I didn’t do:
Was asking for guidance or assistance from those who knew better.
I could have asked my friends or family for help. I could have even gotten a free consultation from a professional, like Lexington Law Firm, to avoid the embarrassment of having loved ones know about my mistakes.
But instead, I chose to sweep things under the rug and ignore them.
And you know what?
What once started as little errors added up into a big problem. And it affected my life for YEARS after.
It sucked BIG time!
Had I known what I know now, I could have avoided A LOT of financial grief.
In today’s article, I’m going to talk about:
- What is credit?
- Why is a credit score important?
- How does credit work?
- + 7 tips for increasing a credit score.
Knowledge is power!
While the credit repair industry has experienced a ton of growth in recent years, it has also created an abundance of myths along with it.
Educating yourself about credit can help you from making the same mistakes I did, or at least how to fix them before they snowball into a bigger problem.
The purpose of this article is to help you separate fact from fiction.
It’s very important to know how to keep credit in good standing, that errors CAN be corrected and how to repair your FICO score if it has been damaged (on your own or with help).
Now let’s get right to it!
What is credit?
What is credit or a credit score?
A credit or FICO score is a number between 300 and 850.
The number essentially represents the calculated probability to money lenders that you will pay your bills on time.
The higher the number, the better – as it shows creditors that you pose less risk.
Why is a credit score important?
It’s important to start building good credit at an early age. Keeping your credit score in the “good” or, even better, the “excellent” range will only benefit you in life.
But when you’re young, the payoffs for maintaining a high score and the reasons as to why you should do it may not be clear.
Why is a credit score important?
If you ever plan on buying a house, purchasing a newer car, or even just using a credit card – you’re going to need/want a good credit score.
Heck, even your car insurance rate can be affected by your credit score!
A better score can not only help get you approved for a loan but it also typically comes with lower interest rates. Lower interest rates = less money you’ll be paying back.
How does credit work exactly?
How does credit work?
Let’s go into some details here!
When someone extends you a loan or a credit card, they are trusting you to repay the obligation.
And if you don’t pay back what’s owed…
You can face collection fees, being sued, having your wages garnished, and your FICO score being negatively impacted.
Which all, of course, is best to be avoided!
A FICO score uses an algorithm that takes into account one’s credit files across the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
A credit score is calculated on 5 factors:
- Payment history
- Credit utilization (how much of your available credit you’re using – under 30% is optimal)
- Length of credit history
- New credit
- and credit mix.
The algorithm calculates one’s lending risk, so it takes into account anything negative that has been reported.
As an example:
If you are given a credit card and you don’t pay back the money that’s been charged on it, then your FICO score will go down once it’s been reported to a credit bureau.
If you don’t pay back what you owe, your credit score will go down and reflect that you are a HIGHER risk borrower.
Lending companies may charge you a higher interest rate or not extend credit to you altogether. Make sense?
Payment history and credit utilization are the most important factors for calculating a credit score.
65% of your credit score is based on those two components alone!
So if there’s anything from this article that sticks with you:
Do whatever’s in your power to always pay your bills ON time and stay far away from maxing out credit cards.Credit mistakes taught me to do whatever's in your power to always pay your bills ON time and to stay far away from maxing out credit cards.
How to increase a credit score
There are more than a few ways for how to increase a credit score.
When you start out as a young adult you don’t start with a zero or bad FICO score, you simply start with no credit.
The score can’t be calculated until you start using credit, so it won’t start at the top, nor the bottom.
If you’ve just missed a bill here or there due to forgetfulness, it can seem harmless.
It only takes a few negative reports to drag your score down. Plus in some instances, a derogatory statement can stay on your report for up to 7 years.
Thankfully though, it can be fixed with a little patience! There are credit repair options ranging from doing it all yourself to getting help and guidance from a professional.
Just know that working on it sooner rather than later will make the process shorter and much easier.
My credit took a VERY long time to recover, but it wouldn’t have taken nearly as long if I started on the process earlier.
Ways to increase your FICO score & stay out of trouble
How to increase a credit score all begins with making smart choices on future decisions.
1. Know what you’re getting into
I can’t stress this enough:
Read and know the terms of any loan or credit card you accept. Especially with student loans.
Know what you are “paying” to be extended credit and on what time schedule you’re expected to repay it.
The term agreements can be long and tricky to understand. But with the internet, we now have answers for pretty much everything at our fingertips.
If you don’t understand something, use to Google to search for an answer or simply walk away!
2. Avoid instant gratification
Don’t take out credit that you can’t afford to pay back monthly!
When I say afford, I’m not talking about just the minimum payment either.
Whatever you’re wanting – the immediate, short term gratification is not worth the long term effects of damaged credit.
And it’s CERTAINLY not worth the insane amount of interest you’ll end up paying if you only make the minimums, too!
On that note…
3. Go beyond the bare minimum
Avoid late fees and negative reports on your score:
Pay your bills early or at a minimum by the due date. I really advise early, though!
I like to mark the due dates for bills on my calendar at least a day prior to when its due, so if I have a day where I didn’t look at my planner – I can still pay it on time.
I’ve also found that:
Keeping a bill tracker on my fridge is really helpful for reminders and being able to quickly check whether I’ve paid something or not.
Pay more than the minimum payment whenever you can!
Not only will it help to knock out the balance faster, but you’ll also pay SO MUCH less in interest.
This will help lessen the strain of debt on your life, which can feel all-encompassing and suffocating even.
In turn, staying ahead will help prevent future slip-ups.
4. Don’t be afraid to get on the phone
Remember earlier how I said I was too afraid of my debt collectors to just make a phone call?
Please, don’t be like past me!
If you are having a financial hardship, DON’T AVOID YOUR CREDITORS.
Most creditors have special programs for financial hardship, and they are more willing to work with you if they hear from you.
It’s embarrassing to call and tell someone you can’t pay your bill, trust me – I know. But what’s even more embarrassing is being denied a home loan later in life because a small bill that you didn’t pay is still haunting you.
**If you have any debts that have gone to collections:
Often times with a charged-off debt collection agencies will settle for less than the original amount if you make a lump sum payment instead of ongoing payments.
But before you pay anything to such an agency, make sure to educate yourself on ways to successfully negotiate with them.Did you know that often times with a charged-off debt that collection agencies will settle for less than the original debt if you make a lump sum payment? But BEOFRE you pay anything make sure to educate yourself on ways negotiate to with them.
Bite the bullet and pick up the phone for the sake of your future self.
5. Monitor your credit score
The best way to check if your efforts are paying off is to monitor your credit score!
There are many free services available which allow you to see what your credit score is and exactly what’s in your credit file.
Did you know that you have the legal right to receive a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months?
Never pay to see your credit score!
It’s simply, unnecessary.
Monitoring your credit score will allow you to quickly find any false errors that may show up, which you can then swiftly dispute.
My sister actually had a credit error on her report that she had to dispute recently, the mix up happened because her name is so common!
6. Get outside assistance
It’s never a bad idea to turn to a professional for credit repair. Especially if you’re overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to even begin with how to increase a credit score.
There is no shame in getting help!
Lexington Law Firm is one of the oldest players out there when it comes to legal-based solutions in the credit repair industry.
Now, “Law Services” might make it sound like they come with a high lawyer price tag –
Their team of lawyers actually transformed the market by bringing affordable expertise to the average person – packages start just $24.95 a month.
Lexington Law Firm even has an app unique to their services that puts information in the hands of the consumer, it’s a real-time solution that aides you in making decisions.
I know that for me, apps are so handy because my phone is almost always with me.
Lexington Law Firm makes it a priority to take care of their customers on all fronts, and that’s something everyone can appreciate.
7. Make a monthly budget
And stick to it!
I think that paying off student loans faster than the original term should be a goal that every graduate has. The sooner it’s paid off, the fewer interest fees it can collect.
Getting on track to accomplish that goal all starts with a budget.
It’s way easier to keep track of your debts, payment due dates and finances when you have a visual.
Making a budget and writing it out will aid you when you’re trying to figure out how to increase your credit score.
Get on the fast track to budgeting by using a free template. It honestly doesn’t even take very long to set up.
Conclusion on How to Fix Bad Credit:
Wrapping up here:
Remember, it’s easier to keep your credit score up by repaying your obligations, versus having to make amends later.
Repairing credit takes time, as lenders want to see that you have corrected past mistakes.
A credit score will go down much quicker from unpaid loans than it will go back up once you have started the credit repair process.
Repairing credit can include:
- repaying old loans (loans plus collection fees and interest)
- waiting 7 years to take our further loans
- and paying higher interest rates until you have established better standing.
To repair credit, you have to reestablish good credit.
Because my credit score was low from not being to pay debts off or on-time, I had to take higher interest loans (like a car loan), pay off charged-off debt on my credit reports, and take higher interest credit cards.
I paid more for what I was borrowing, sometimes as high as 30% interest – yikes!
So, like I said – do your best to avoid credit blunders and to start handling mistakes as soon as you can.Do your best to avoid credit blunders and to start handling mistakes as soon as you can. A credit score will go down much quicker from unpaid loans than it will go back up once you have started the credit repair process.
Improving your credit score takes patience and diligence, but it can be done. My current score is a testament to that!